A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building

Minorities in Europe between democracies and dictatorships: 20th century perspectives

Event Details

  • Date

    Saturday, 27 June - 8:30–10:30

    Saturday, 27 June - 11:00 – 13:00

  • Venue
    tba
  • Theme
    A – Minorities, national belonging, and state-building
Convenor
  • Dina Gusejnova (London School of Economics)
Chair
  • Magdalena Kmak (Åbo Akademi University)
Commentator
  • Dina Gusejnova (London School of Economics)
Panelists
  • Tim Buchen (Technical University of Dresden)
  • Georgios Giannakopoulos (Academy of Athens/King’s College London)
  • Dina Gusejnova (London School of Economics)
  • Friedrich Pollack (Sorbian Institute, Bautzen)
  • Magdalena Kmak (Åbo Akademi University)
  • Constantin Buchet (Romanian Academy, National Institute for Totalitarianism Studies / National University of Political Studies and Public Administration)

Papers

  • Tim Buchen
    Between Imperial Elite and National minority. Baltic German Nationality Entrepreneurs 1905-1939

    Between Imperial Elite and National minority. Baltic German Nationality Entrepreneurs 1905-1939

    Since the Middle Ages, Baltic Germans had formed the elite in the territories of today´s Estonia and Latvia. Becoming part of the Russian Empire in the late 18th Century, many individuals and families became important part of the imperial elite as well. Challenged by Russian, as well as Latvian and Estonian aspirations to govern the Baltic provinces, the economic and political position eroded rapidly in the revolutions of 1905 and 1917 and the formation of new nation states. This paper looks on networks of Baltic Germans, who conceptualised the position of Baltic Germans in a number different ways between nation states and the growing and fading soft and hard power of the German Empire(s), the League of Nation and the Russian/Soviet Empire. Understanding individuals like Paul Schiemann, Werner Hasselblatt, Silvio Broedrich, and Paul Ammende as Nationality Entrepreneurs, I want shed new light on the making and breaking of minorities in the first half of the 20th Century.
  • Dina Gusejnova
    The impact of the Second World War on the status of minorities in Europe: towards a comparison

    The impact of the Second World War on the status of minorities in Europe: towards a comparison

    In the wake of the First World War, a new international regime demanding the protection of minority rights had emerged within the framework of the League of Nations. While it was certainly not observed uniformly, the framework had become an entrenched norm by the time of the Second World War. This paper will examine the impact of the war on the legal definition and status of minorities in Europe by comparing, on the one hand, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, and on the other hand, wartime Britain and France. One key distinction is that between recognised and non-recognised minorities, such as, at the most extreme, the Poles vs. the Jews and Sinti and Roma in Germany, and the changing relationship between these groups. Another important differentiation is between minorities of colonial and of European origin, such as, for instance, North Africans vs. Occitans in France. Secondly, the paper will then raise the question to what extent the fortunes of minorities depended on their supposed allegiance in the war, and how significant the differences were between authoritarian or dictatorial regimes, democratic regimes such as Britain, or mixed/divided regimes such as France. Finally, it will use the above frameworks to contextualise the status and experience of Jews under different political regimes during the Second World War.
  • Friedrich Pollack
    Imagined minorities? Politics towards non-recognized minorities in the interwar period: the case of the Sorbs

    Imagined minorities? Politics towards non-recognized minorities in the interwar period: the case of the Sorbs

    Reflecting on Benedict Anderson’s famous conceptualisation of nations, this paper will examine the case of the Sorbs, a West Slavic group inhabiting a region divided between Germany and Poland. I will be looking at their changing status and fortunes between three regimes, Weimar Germany, interwar Poland, and Germany under National Socialism. While the Sorbs had established a range of cultural institutions which reflected on their own sense of cohesion and cultural autonomy, in terms of their relationship to several governments, they belong to the category of ‘non-recognized’ minorities. They thus provide an interesting case for understanding the continuities and changes between different political regimes.
  • Georgios Giannakopoulos
    The “minority question” in British and international politics, 1870s-1945

    The “minority question” in British and international politics, 1870s-1945

    This paper charts the emergence of the “minority question” in British thought and scholarship in a period of nationalist agitation and imperial transformation across Eastern Europe, and the wider world. The study of British international thought customarily focuses on debates about the state and inter-state relations. The shifting of the emphasis on national and minority questions allows us to fully capture the contribution of nationalism in debates on international affairs, and to reconsider Britain’s role in the international system. More specifically, the paper has a twofold aim: First, it recovers the thought and practice of a cohort of British intellectuals and experts dealing with national questions in the region during the Great War. Second, it considers how the new minority protection regime set up in Paris impacted their thinking on nationalism, imperialism and international order in Europe.
  • Magdalena Kmak
    Alternative narratives of minorityness and refugeeness – exiled scholars on refugee definition

    Alternative narratives of minorityness and refugeeness – exiled scholars on refugee definition

    The aim of this talk is to go beyond legal discourses on refugees rooted in victimization-securitization narrative, that currently dominate in the European Union, and bring up to light alternative relationship between refugeeness and law. Instead of the state-centred law’s discourse and its impact on development of refugee subjectivities the paper turns to explore an refugees’ discourse on law. It analyses alternative narratives on migrants and refugees, in particular the narrative of generativity, taking it beyond the constraints of methodological nationalism and eurocentrism. In particular, the article discusses the impact of exile experience on refugee law by analysing academic writing of refugee scholars on the topic of refugee protection. Such focus is often considered as stemming from scholars’ own experience of being forced to leave their home countries. Even though many scholars in their writing engage with the conceptual and practical aspects of the protection of Jewish refugees from the Nazi Germany and other European countries, often the scientific analysis of the refugee protection constitutes the only account of their experience. The paper focuses on the work of Hannah Arendt, Louise Holborn and Otto Kirchheimer. Arendt remains one of the few scholars who directly reflects on their exile, understanding at the same time the importance of life histories and biographies for creation of meaning, sharing ideas and undertaking action. In case of others, the impact of personal history is visible in the scope of their academic or policy-related work.
  • Constantin Buchet
    Minorities, the Contemporary topic issue after the Great War. From image de l’autre to integration

    Minorities, the Contemporary topic issue after the Great War. From image de l’autre to integration

    Only, in the Contemporary World, a few states on geopolitical world’s map are ethnic homogenous from the ethnic level of approach. The historical fact is, per a contrario, the existence on the territory of the large scale of states, of numerous ethnic groups different from the majority of the population. More than this view, the proliferation of minorities seems to be an important political file of our times according to the great process of rethinking the World Affairs, such as Exitium imperii after World War I, decolonization and collapse of the USSR and its totalitarian blocus of homo sovieticus. One can evaluate that are presently in the world thousands of minority groups, as identity Gemeinschaft, different from the majorities and among them by race, colour, ethnic origin,language, culture or religion, numbering hundreds of milion of people.Various recent international documents prepared by OSCE and Council of Europe mention more than 60 minorities, in a broad legal sense. The number of minority populations, of linguistic or tribal communities with distinct ethnic characteristics is much extended in the countries of Africa and Asia, as well as their weight in the population of the respective states. It is a distinct composant of plurality, for instance,that there would be not less than 250 linguistic distinct communities in Nigeria, according to profile of New Man of post – colonial elites, in many cases a new burden of Reactionary Man of the imperial ,,leopoldian” or ,,victorian” past. In a structured representation a ,,World Guide of Ethnic Minorities and Indigineous Peoples” was elaborated under auspices of University of United Nations, an international organization with universal vocation, presenting analysis of the various minorities existing on all continents. The roots of identity conflicts, as branch of a new generation of conflicts, could be placed in dynamics of ,,Old Interwar Europe” under exercising and influence of mentalities of pure ethnocentrism, xenophobia, extremism and psychological separation, very often illusive, of the space between ,,us” and ,,them”. After the end of World War I a number of new nation states formed themselves based on principle of nationalities and the democratic right of peoples to self-determination. New minorities appeared in this strategic context of remapping Europe after Imperial collapse, and the Allied Powers found it objective necessity for maintaining civil peace versus civil war to Europe and to create the mechanism of protection conceived by the founders of the League of Nations, provisions concerning minorities included in peace treaties with four defeated states of Central Powers, system of individual declarations formulated by other states, as a condition for admitting in the League of Nations (Albania, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia).

Abstract

This panel will compare the differences between and the status of minorities in different political regimes in the twentieth century, with a focus on Europe in transnational perspective. The end of the First World War brought with it a changing understanding of the cultural role and political significance of minorities worldwide. In the interwar period, states old and new, international and non-state actors competed in defining the legal status of minorities among other groups. At the same time, artists, intellectuals and political activists discussed their understanding of minority cultures in a wider range of texts, visuals and other media, often with significant political implications. Many of these competing understandings of group identities led to radical population policies especially in the Second World War and in settings such as POW and internment camps as well as population displacement. The effects continued to have an effect on the postwar world and the Cold War in ways which cross the distinction between democratic and authoritarian regimes. In a liberal democracy, the idea of a ‘minority’ is generally a quantitative rather than a qualitative notion, and yet in the twentieth century, ‘minorities’ increasingly acquired characteristics which implied the existence of collectives with special rights within the demos. Conversely, some authoritarian regimes constructed minorities variously as internal ‘others’ or as discriminated ‘insiders’ whose rights epitomised the future greatness of a submerged demos. This search for a new understanding of ‘minority’ took place against the backdrop of memories of imperial understandings of minorities along the lines of religion. The goal of the panel is to explore how the interwar policies on minorities were affected and transformed by the Second World War, and to examine to what extent the experience of minorities provides continuities between changing political regimes in the twentieth century.