Olena Palko: Contested Minorities
Contested Minorities: A Transnational History of the Polish-Soviet Borderlands, 1918-1939
The end of the First World War saw the defeat of three major empires in Central and Eastern Europe. The successor nation-states, established on the ruins of the Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires, inherited various national and religious minorities, whose rights thereafter were recognised and protected by the League of Nations (1919-1939). The Soviet Union, however, was not a member of the League of Nations until 1934, so that its diverse minorities effectively became subject to its domestic and foreign policy considerations. Despite this geopolitically uncertain status, existing historical studies of national minorities in the region largely remains embedded in state and nation-centred master narratives. Instead, this project aims to examine the complex interplay between encouraging ethnic diversity (ethnic particularism) and foreign considerations of the Polish and Soviet governments. In the study, the contested status of the Polish minority in Soviet Ukraine and Belarus is compared with that of the Ukrainian/Belorussian minority in Poland. The project case studies help to develop a better understanding of how the Soviet and Polish governments effectively used the interests and aspirations of national minorities in this ethnically diverse region to achieve their strategic goals. The study explores the ways in which contested issues of language, religion and local political activism were successfully manipulated by each government to secure the loyalties of the border minorities. The examination of minority policies in the region aims also to improve our understanding of the current conflicts in the area and provide for better understanding of the Polish-Ukrainian relationship nowadays.
Olena Palko is a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at Birkbeck college, University of London. She received her PhD in History from the University of East Anglia. Her research interest lies in the field of early Soviet history and the interwar history of Eastern Europe. Olena was a visiting fellow at the University of Basel, the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Vienna) and Centre Marc Bloch (Berlin). She also holds a degree of Candidate of Political Science (kandydat nauk) from the Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (2013). Olena Palko authored a number of publications on Ukraine’s history and culture of the 1920s.