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Additional resources for Communism, Nationalism and Ethnicity in Poland, 1944-50 (BASEES Routledge Series on Russian and East European Studies)

Sample text

These included the nationalization of large industry, mines and banks and the breaking up of large estates to benefit the landless and peasants. It offered national self-determination to inhabitants in the eastern border areas – in line with Soviet plans, and congruent with the desire to create a homogeneous nation-state. The document is also of note for what it did not include – for example, it did not mention workers’ control of the means of production and the nationalization of land. What are we fighting for?

For, whereas in the early 1920s nationality was seen as being less important than class, and understood as a contingent identity resulting from varied historical experiences, by the late 1930s and early 1940s this view had changed to one which emphasized an essentialized and largely ahistoric notion of nationality. Theoretically, these contrasting positions resonate with different conceptions of nationality and national identity: a modernist conception and a perennialist conception on the one hand, and a civic identity and an ethnic-based identity on the other.

Both words are problematic, given the actual history of the population transfers and the way that history has been narrated and memorialized in subsequent decades. Any language employed to describe and explain the shifting of millions of people in east-central Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War is not neutral and is weighted with assumptions and ideological baggage. Furthermore, the terminology utilized is often 20 Introduction delimited as to the population in question. Thus, almost immediately, the notion of ‘German expellees’ was accepted into Western thinking, whereas the history of expellees from Belarus and the Ukraine barely registered in the Western imagination.

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