A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet by Kate Brown

By Kate Brown

This can be a biography of a borderland among Russia and Poland, a zone the place, in 1925, humans pointed out as Poles, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians lived aspect by means of aspect. Over the following 3 a long time, this mosaic of cultures used to be modernized and homogenized out of life through the ruling may of the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, and at last, Polish and Ukrainian nationalism. via the Fifties, this "no position" emerged as a Ukrainian heartland, and the fertile mixture of peoples that outlined the quarter used to be destroyed. Brown's research is grounded within the lifetime of the village and shtetl, within the personalities and small histories of daily life during this quarter. In notable aspect, she records how those regimes, bureaucratically after which violently, separated, named, and regimented this elaborate group into exact ethnic teams. Drawing on lately opened information, ethnography, and oral interviews that have been unavailable a decade in the past, A Biography of No position finds Stalinist and Nazi historical past from the point of view of the distant borderlands, hence bringing the outer edge to the heart of historical past. we're given, in brief, an intimate portrait of the ethnic purification that has marked all of Europe, in addition to a glimpse on the margins of twentieth-century "progress."

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Extra resources for A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet Heartland

Sample text

There is absolutely no existing building for a regional administration. . ”18 He went on to report that forty percent of the territory of the proposed region was marshy, sandy soil and thin pine forests, soil not suitable for farming. The region was situated one hundred and twenty kilometers from the Polish-Soviet border and half that distance from the largest city, Zhytomyr. 19 In 1925, three thousand people lived in Dovbysh. The majority were Polish and Ukrainian workers in the porcelain factory, who kept small farms on the side.

Because Soviet communists saw nationality as inevitable and real— 32 A Biography of No Place having historical roots and existing in some concrete cultural and physical form implanted in bodies, dwellings, clothing, and language—Saulevich needed to embody the national minorities of Ukraine. He needed to locate, for instance, Polish culture in the Ukrainian hinterland and give it a physical and cultural shape—boundaries, territory, and governing bodies. In order to divide up the borderlands by nationality, Saulevich first needed to know what and who was out there.

Not surprisingly, I found that the closer the reporting official was to the subject, the more sympathetic and descriptive he (rarely she) was. Local officials who grew up in the villages or towns of the borderlands often communicate a sense of the incongruities between the simplifying class and national taxonomies emanating from Moscow and Kiev and the complexities of the actual communities on the ground. By following the paper trail from the village to Moscow, one sees more clearly how abstract 16 A Biography of No Place national borders could be drawn dividing communities of people related by common family and cultural ties, as well as how much easier it is to make enemies from afar.

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