The Economic History of Eastern Europe, 1919-1975 - Vol. 1

By M. C. Kaser; E. A. Radice | Go to book overview

Chapter 2 Human Resources

M. HAUNER


Ethnic and religious diversity

The radical boundary alterations which followed the First World War were on an unprecedented scale. Not only did the new boundaries become economic barriers but, more importantly, they helped to encourage national chauvinism and irredentism. The attempt to create unitary nations by grouping together territories inhabited by those nationalities which had sided with the Entente Powers, such as the Poles, the Romanians, the Czechs and Slovaks, and the Southern Slavs, led inevitably to the inclusion of a considerable proportion of alien minorities. One of the results was the division of east European nationalities and minorities into privileged and non-privileged classes of citizens, which in turn determined to a large extent their economic position for many years ahead and was reflected in social and occupational structure (including access to administrative posts), education and health. These vast disparities prevailed after 1919, though the order of priorities might have been reversed in favour of the hitherto underprivileged over those who had so far enjoyed cultural and economic advantages.

National minorities in interwar east Europe can also be classified according to geographical criteria into roughly three distinct categories.1 The first group are border minorities retained or incorporated for historical reasons (Germans in Bohemia and Moravia, Ukrainians in eastern Galicia, Albanians in the Kosovo Polje); for strategic reasons (Hungarians in southern Slovakia, in western Romania and Transylvania, in the Subotica and Baranja district, which became part of Yugoslavia); for economic considerations (Poles in Czech Silesia, Germans in Polish Silesia); and for political reasons or as a result of a diplomatic force majeure (Byelorussians and Lithuanians in Poland, Ukrainians in Ruthenia in Czechoslovakia). The second group comprises isolated minorities separated by great distances from their ethnic countries of origin. Of these the Jews constitute a separate case for historical reasons; the others are minorities, above all of Germans, forming linguistic islands of varying size and significance (German settlements along

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1
See also Hugh Seton-Watson, Eastern Europe between the Wars 1918-1941, Cambridge, 1945, p. 269.

-66-

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