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The Reconstruction of Nations

The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999

Timothy Snyder
Copyright Date: 2003
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    The Reconstruction of Nations
    Book Description:

    Modern nationalism in northeastern Europe has often led to violence and then reconciliation between nations with bloody pasts. In this fascinating book, Timothy Snyder traces the emergence of Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belarusian nationhood over four centuries, discusses various atrocities (including the first account of the massive Ukrainian-Polish ethnic cleansings of the 1940s), and examines Poland's recent successful negotiations with its newly independent Eastern neighbors, as it has channeled national interest toward peace.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12841-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Names and Sources
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    When do nations arise, what brings ethnic cleansing, how can states reconcile?

    This study traces one passage to modern nationhood. It begins with the foundation of the largest realm of early modern Europe, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, in the sixteenth century. The nation of this Commonwealth was its nobility, Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. United by common political and civil rights, nobles of Polish, Lithuanian, and East Slavic origin alike described themselves, in Latin or Polish, as “of the Polish nation.” They took for granted that, in the natural order of things, the languages of state, speech, literature, and liturgy would vary....

  7. Part I The Contested Lithuanian-Belarusian Fatherland

    • Chapter 1 The Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1569–1863)
      (pp. 15-30)

      Once upon a time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania dominated medieval Eastern Europe. Since 1991, the Republic of Lithuania has been a small country on the Baltic Sea. Vilnius, once the capital of the Grand Duchy, is today the capital of the Republic. The apparent continuity conceals tremendous change. For half a millennium before 1991, Lithuanian was neither the language of power in Vilnius nor the language spoken by most of its inhabitants. Before the Second World War, the language spoken in a third of its homes was Yiddish; the language of its streets, churches, and schools was Polish; and...

    • Chapter 2 Lithuania! My Fatherland! (1863–1914)
      (pp. 31-51)

      Modern politics after 1863 meant shrugging off the Commonwealth as a burden and embracing the peasant and his language as the nation. This first became clear in the extreme northwest of the old Grand Duchy of Lithuania, where the failure of the 1863 uprising hastened a modern, linguistic Lithuanian nationalism. The drastic nature of peasant emancipation accelerated the modernization of agriculture, and eventually created a new class of prosperous Lithuanian peasants.¹ The Russian imperial decision to draw Lithuanian students to St. Petersburg rather than Warsaw created a new secular elite. The uneven de-Polonization of schools had a similar unintended nation-building...

    • Chapter 3 The First World War and the Wilno Question (1914–1939)
      (pp. 52-72)

      By 1914, the old capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a desired political capital to Lithuanians, Belarusians, and Poles wishing to lead nations; a spiritual capital to the Jews who were the city’s most distinctive group; and an ancient Russian city to the officials who exercised power. Most of the city’s schools taught in Russian, most of its churches were Roman Catholic, more than a third of its inhabitants were Jews. The population of the Vil’na province of the Russian empire had more than doubled since 1863; the percentage of city dwellers within the province nearly tripled; the...

    • Chapter 4 The Second World War and the Vilnius Question (1939–1945)
      (pp. 73-89)

      In September 1939, when Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland, Wilno was in a profound sense a Jewish city: Vilne. Vilne Jews were characterized by many of the traits local Christian patriots wished their groups to manifest. They were more distinguishable as a group than Belarusians, Lithuanians, or even Poles. Although outnumbered by Poles in Vilne, Jews were reckoned a third of the city’s population. They also counted generations of settlement in the city itself, and centuries of recorded history in the region. Older Jews spoke Russian rather than Polish, a legacy of the Russian empire. Yet in...

    • Chapter 5 Epilogue: Soviet Lithuanian Vilnius (1945–1991)
      (pp. 90-102)

      This part of the book was introduced by the opening lines of Mickiewicz’s 1834 masterpiece,Pan Tadeusz.In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the meaning of its opening line—“Lithuania! My fatherland!”—underwent three transformations, which we can recapitulate in terms of those three very words. The first transformation had to do with how nineteenth-century activists defined themselves and their nations: with what the first word of the poem—“Lithuania”—was to mean. We observed the shift from nostalgic reverence for the political nationality of the old Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the anticipation of national states. The last third...

  8. Part II The Embattled Ukrainian Borderland

    • Chapter 6 Early Modern Ukraine (1569–1914)
      (pp. 105-132)

      The Lublin Union of 1569 defined early modern Ukraine by transferring East Slavic lands from Lithuania to Poland. Most of the lands of Kyivan Rus’ had been acquired by Lithuania in the fourteenth century, Kyiv city coming under Lithuanian dominion in 1363. Polish King Kazimierz (the Great) had seized Galicia and L’viv in 1349. For about two hundred years, most of the patrimony of Kyivan Rus’, including the lands we now call Ukraine, was divided between Lithuania and Poland.¹ Before 1569, Lithuania had the lion’s share of the old Kyivan principalities, but Poland’s Galicia (the Rus’ Palatinate) was the most...

    • Chapter 7 Galicia and Volhynia at the Margin (1914–1939)
      (pp. 133-153)

      Before the First World War, it appeared that the Ukrainian cause in Austrian Galicia had greater hope for success than the Lithuanian cause in the Russian empire. Whereas there were fewer than two million speakers of Lithuanian, the Ukrainian “ethnic group” was counted in the tens of millions. Unlike Lithuanians in the Northwest Territory of the Russian empire, Ukrainians in Austrian Galicia voted in parliamentary elections, formed legal political associations, and published legally in their native language. Democratic politics crystallized modern national identifications within the Habsburg domains, and manhood suffrage placed a powerful tool in the hands of advocates of...

    • Chapter 8 The Ethnic Cleansing of Western Ukraine (1939–1945)
      (pp. 154-178)

      Everything changed when the Polish state was destroyed by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939. For two years Poland’s territory and citizens were divided between Hitler and Stalin. Between 1939 and 1941, while the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact held, most of Poland’s Ukrainians fell under Soviet rule, while most Poles were ruled by the Nazis. In June 1941 Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, occupying Galicia, Volhynia, and Soviet Ukraine along the way. For the next three years all of Poland’s territory and citizens were at the mercy of Hitler. Nazi Germany established theReichskommissariat Ukraine...

    • Chapter 9 The Ethnic Cleansing of Southeastern Poland (1945–1947)
      (pp. 179-201)

      In interwar Poland, most nationalists treated Poland’s Slavic minorities as assimilable ethnic raw material. After Józef Piłsudski’s death in 1935, Roman Dmowski’s integral nationalism triumphed in political and social discourse, and was shared by the collective dictatorship of Piłsudski’s lieutenants. German and Soviet occupation brought extreme solutions of national problems to the center of attention. Even before the mass killings of Poles by Ukrainians began in 1943, some nationalists in the tradition of Dmowski’s National Democrats dreamed of expelling every Ukrainian from Poland. After 1943, politicians of other orientations also concluded that expulsions were the only alternative to granting the...

    • Chapter 10 Epilogue: Communism and Cleansed Memories (1947–1981)
      (pp. 202-214)

      The Poland that emerged in 1945 covered a very different part of Europe than the Poland that was destroyed in 1939. Half of Poland’s prewar territory was lost to the Soviet Union in 1939, and a third of its postwar territory was gained from Germany in 1945. Gone were Wilno and Lwów, gained were Gdańsk and Wrocław. Postwar Poland was crushingly Polish: perhaps 97 percent of its citizens would have self-identified as Poles. Yet if we impose Poland’s postwar borders on prewar Europe, we find that its postwar territories were home to four groups in 1939: Poles, Germans, Jews, and...

  9. Part III The Reconstructed Polish Homeland

    • Chapter 11 Patriotic Oppositions and State Interests (1945–1989)
      (pp. 217-231)

      After the negotiated revolution of 1989, Solidarity formed a noncommunist government, which moved quickly to establish an eastern policy. After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, Poland’s relations with independent Lithuania and Ukraine quickly improved. Lithuanian politicians came to see their western neighbor as the key to European integration, while Ukrainian presidents traveled to Warsaw to seek historical reconciliation. Disputes with Lithuanians about Vilnius, or with Ukrainians about Galicia and Volhynia, were so well managed as to be nearly invisible. As we have seen, the Second World War and its aftermath broke some of Poland’s links with the...

    • Chapter 12 The Normative Nation-State (1989–1991)
      (pp. 232-255)

      The Second World War killed one in five citizens of Poland. Under the Potsdam Agreement, Poland received vast German territories and expelled millions of Germans. In the 1950s, fear of German revanchism generated support for the Polish communist regime and its alliance with the Soviet Union. In the 1960s, the Polish regime condemned as treason social initiatives such as the Polish bishops’ message of reconciliation to the German bishops. Although public attitudes toward Germany improved after the West German-Polish treaty of 1970, Poles continued to believe that Germans would reclaim territory if given the opportunity. These fears were maintained by...

    • Chapter 13 European Standards and Polish Interests (1992–1993)
      (pp. 256-276)

      Opening a chapter ofPan Tadeuszentitled “Hunting and Diplomacy,” Mickiewicz hailed the great Lithuanian forest of Białowieża, ancient hunting ground of the grand dukes. On 8 December 1991, in a hunting lodge in the Belarusian forest of Belovezha, Stanislau Shushkevich, Boris Yeltsin, and Leonid Kravchuk put an end to the sixtynine-year history of the Soviet Union. The three republican leaders, representing founding members of the Soviet Union, announced that it was no longer a subject of international law. The dissolution of the Soviet Union established nation-states across the entire territory of the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Russian Federation, the...

    • Chapter 14 Envoi: Returns to Europe
      (pp. 277-293)

      Along with Poland’s geographical position, reconciliation with Germany, and domestic reforms, its eastern policy prepared the way for integration with European and Atlantic institutions. The first clear signal that NATO would admit new members was provided by U.S. President Bill Clinton’s visit to Prague in January 1994. The Clinton Administration began to campaign for enlargement in autumn 1994. The European Union openly considered an eastward enlargement at the Essen Summit of the European Council in December 1994. In both cases it was understood that Poland would be among the first states considered for accession. This redefinition of Poland’s international position...

  10. Abbreviations
    (pp. 294-294)
  11. Archives
    (pp. 295-295)
  12. Document Collections
    (pp. 296-298)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 299-349)
  14. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 350-354)
  15. Index
    (pp. 355-367)