Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands

Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands

Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands

Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands

Synopsis

Shatterzone of Empires is a comprehensive analysis of interethnic relations, coexistence, and violence in Europe's eastern borderlands over the past two centuries. In this vast territory, extending from the Baltic to the Black Sea, four major empires with ethnically and religiously diverse populations encountered each other along often changing and contested borders. Examining this geographically widespread, multicultural region at several levels--local, national, transnational, and empire--and through multiple approaches--social, cultural, political, and economic--this volume offers informed and dispassionate analyses of how the many populations of these borderlands managed to coexist in a previous era and how and why the areas eventually descended into violence. An understanding of this specific region will help readers grasp the preconditions of interethnic coexistence and the causes of ethnic violence and war in many of the world's other borderlands both past and present.

Excerpt

Omer Bartov and Eric D. Weitz

Borderlands are places of interaction. They are regions intersected by frontiers that separate states, where crossing from one side to the other means switching the sovereign political authority under which one lives. But borderlands are frontiers in another sense as well. They are spaces-in-between, where identities are often malleable and control of the territory and the population is subject to dispute. Most often, borderlands are geographically or culturally distant from the seat of power, and states expend great energy trying to subsume and integrate them. Borderlands are therefore also constructs of the political imaginary and products of ideological fantasies. As such they become sites for all sorts of political, military, and economic projects, as well as scholarly pursuits and literary representations. the main protagonists constitute a diverse lot: states and social movements, political parties and nationalist activists, entrepreneurs and colonizers, intellectuals and ideologues, locals and newcomers. in the borderlands, diverse populations may coexist for long stretches of time, only to have the harmony ruptured by episodes of violence. Living side-by-side, diverse populations learn how to live with one another, but they may also come to perceive the other as essentially different and naturally hostile. in the borderlands, groups become both objects and generators of intense violence.

The borderlands with which we are concerned was a vast swath of territory running from the Baltic to the Black Sea, Lithuania to Anatolia, where four great powers encountered each other in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries along a variety of often changing and contested borders. Prussia (later transformed into the German Empire), along with the Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Empires, did not all share borders, nor were all of these borders disputed. Each of the empires had, of course, its distinctive characteristics. But a . . .

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