Chronicle

Iz Vioski u Harodniu
September 30, 2009

On 30 September 2009 at 5 pm at the Center for Urban History, Dr. Felix Ackerman, presented his work on the topic "Iz vioski u Harodniu. Sovietisation of Western Belarus as acculturisation of rural migrants."

In his speech Felix Ackermann focused on the acculturation of rural migrants from the outskirts to the town. At the core he цфі answering the question, why Grodno today is a russophone city, and the West of Belarus is no so similar to the West of the Ukraine, as it sometimes is perceived by its inhabitants.

Grodno  was used to periods of war and postwar. With its location on the bank of Nieman river at the medival frontier between influence zones of the Teutonic order, the very western outposts of Kievan Rus' and later right at the conflict line between Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth and Russian Empire conflict in a historical perspective was inevitable. Even throughout the 20th century the double presence of German occupation regimes during WWI and WWII local inhabitants linked both quiet different wars with each other. And this was right to the extent, that also postwar Poland with its newly independent state had firstly to integrate Grodno into a quiet differentiated territory and statehood. Similiarly after 1944 had to become part of a larger state. In Dr. Felix Ackerman's doctoral thesis he compared both strategies of cultural acculturation after legal, administrative, and economic incorporation. He found out, that at the core of both policies ethnicity played a major role. A state run process of Nationalizing ethnic identities reshaped the inter-ethnic relations both under Polish and Soviet rule. WW II in this regard became a climax of inter-ethnic cleavage and paved the way to both Soviet and German "Passportisation." The administration's fixing of national identities. Those became the basis of the cities self-esteemed "multiculturalness" and was the basis, of the making of a Belarusian city – a process, which is still ongoing. In this regard post-catastrophic Grodno is the story about the making of a modern Soviet-Belarusian town on the ground of a destroyed Polish-Jewish town.

Dr. Felix Ackermann worked for Memorial in St. Petersburg as a volunteer with victims of the GULag. Afterwards he studied Cultural Analysis at the Viadrina and Russian Studies at the London School of Economics, where he did his Msc-degree. In 2008 he finished his PhD about the ethnic relations in XXth century Grodno at the European University Viadrina. Recently he runs the project funding of the programme www.geschichtswerkstatt-europa.org, at the Institute for Applied History based in Frankfurt (Oder): www.instytut.net His journalistic work for German, Polish and Belarusian newspapers is documented at www.ewropa.net and www.slubice.de