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By Kate Brown

This can be a biography of a borderland among Russia and Poland, a sector the place, in 1925, humans pointed out as Poles, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians lived part by way of part. Over the following 3 a long time, this mosaic of cultures used to be modernized and homogenized out of lifestyles by way of the ruling may perhaps of the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, and eventually, Polish and Ukrainian nationalism. by way of the Fifties, this "no position" emerged as a Ukrainian heartland, and the fertile mixture of peoples that outlined the zone was once destroyed. Brown's research is grounded within the lifetime of the village and shtetl, within the personalities and small histories of lifestyle during this sector. In remarkable element, she files how those regimes, bureaucratically after which violently, separated, named, and regimented this complicated neighborhood into targeted ethnic teams. Drawing on lately opened data, 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 viewpoint of the distant borderlands, therefore bringing the outer edge to the guts of heritage. we're given, briefly, 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

I talked to dozens of people informally and recorded over two dozen oral interviews. Yet in becoming ethnographer, I too became part of the scholarly attempts to map the cultural and geographic margins through statistical and generalized knowledge—work which the state used to understand, manage, and control. Notebook in hand, I followed a score of scholars and reformers who set out to describe and explain the kresy in order to fix and renovate it. As one who has come to comment on the modernizing failures of the twentieth century, I am yet another reformer with judgments and prescriptions, arriving to arrange the memory of the borderlands into a summarizing narrative.

They counted people “of the former classes” who were deprived of civil rights, such as former White Guard officers, former tsarist officials, gendarmes, and traders. And when they had finished counting, generating great charts decorated lavishly with percentages, they started all over again numbering people anew, this time by nationality. Jews were relatively easy to count. They were marked distinctly by religion and tsarist laws which had governed their movement and professions, restricting them to towns within the Pale of Settlement and barring them from government service.

They were categorized as mostly peasants, mostly illiterate, mostly poor. Marchlevsk, the regional center of Polish autonomy, was no place, yet it would become a world unto itself, a microcosm of the Revolution in Polish form. But what was Marchlevsk? What constituted Soviet Polishdom on the margins of the first socialist state? Although this question would puzzle me for months as I searched through the old documents, Soviet communists simplified the complexities of the borderland terrain by quantifying them.

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