Sovietisation of Western Belarus as acculturisation of rural migrants
Dr. Felix AckermannInstitute for Applied History, Frankfurt
September,30 2009 / 5.00 pm
Center for Urban History, Lviv
In his speech, Dr. Felix Ackerman focused on the acculturation of rural migrants from the outskirts to the town. At the core, he answers the question, why Grodno today is a Russophone city, and the West of Belarus is no so similar to the West of 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 medieval 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. Similarly, 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.