Martin Dorn: Managing Diversity in a Multiethnic Space: Governance and Parliamentary Practices in the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918-1919)

My research focuses on the Western Ukrainian Peoples Republic as an example of an ephemeral (short-lived) state in Central Eastern Europe. Taking the multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural environment of Eastern Galicia into account, the analysis addresses the question of how a project of Ukrainian nation building could be realized and how far the formation of a state provoked ethnical tensions and confrontation between the different communities. One of the key issues will be to research the forms of exchange, integration and interaction between the different ethnic groups in the framework of a newly established statehood and after a devastating war.

In his book “The paradox of Ukrainian Lviv” Tarik Cyril Amar emphasizes the paradoxical borderland situation of the city, pointing out that the city was “geographically and or culturally distant from the seat of power”, while at the same time, the various imperial governments made considerable efforts to integrate the city into their sphere of influence. Thus, looking at the city and the region from a long-term historical perspective, it is shown that the formation of a small-scale nation state in this multi-ethnic borderland territory is a historical exception. For a very limited period of time after the war, East Galicia falls out of the imperial sphere and is administered by bureaucrats who were part of the former imperial elite themselves. My work therefore ties in with the thoughts of Tarik Cyril Amar and analyses the specific social, economic and political condition in the aftermath of WWI that allowed the formation of an independent nation state.

I examine the Ukrainian National Rada as a central institution of the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic. Prior studies considered the National Rada and State Secretary as predominantly “Ukrainian” institutions, focusing only on the element of ethnicity. I argue that the National Rada and the Secretary were beyond that recognized by marginalized groups of the society and therefore can be seen as a representative body of diversity in a transforming space. The analysis of grievances and correspondences with the National Rada show, that minor and marginalized groups, such as the Jews and the rural population, recognized the National Rada as governmental institution responsible for social conditions and problems. Even though they refused to send delegates to National Rada (in case of the Jews) or were represented only to a very limited extend (such as the peasants), they address the State Secretary with numerous letters of complaints. Numerous correspondences and petitions, which for example deal with the topic of anti-Semitism and the plight of the Jewish population, have been preserved. They can shed light on the possibilities for Jews to influence government action and also provide a nuanced picture of the situation of Jews in the various regions of the young state.

The objective of my project will be to present a more inclusive perspective on the Western Ukrainian People’s Republic, that not only pictures various ethnic and social groups, but also analyses their relationships, entanglements and mutual dependence on each other.

Martin Dorn is member of the research group “Entangled Parliamentarisms: Constitutional Practices in Russia, Ukraine, China and Mongolia, 1905–2005,” sponsored by the European Research Council (ERC) at the University of Heidelberg. His research focuses on the transitional period during the immediate aftermath of the First World War and draws particular attention to the Western Ukrainian Peoples Republic, a short-lived state in Central Eastern Europe between 1918 and 1919. In this respect, he traces the transition from an Empire to a National State and seeks to outline the establishment and transformation of representative institutions into a multi-ethnic and heterogeneous borderland region.

Prior to his employment at the University of Heidelberg, Martin Dorn studied Geography, History and Eastern European History at the Universities of Bochum and Göttingen, including stays abroad in Moscow (RSUH -Russian State University of Humanities) and Valencia (UV – University of Valencia). His research interests include Ukrainian and Jewish history in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the history of Antisemitism and pogroms.

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