Rethinking Eastern Europe


Empires – structures that link and incorporate peoples and territories in unequal relationships of power and which rely on subjugation — have shaped much of human history from the ancient world to the present. Studying empires can help reveal how imperialist ideology and practices developed over time and how they impacted the subjects of imperial rule. Empires produced complex political, cultural, and economic infrastructure, and East-Central European nations often evolved within, or contrary to, empires’ structure. Our Educational Platform offers materials that help to characterize imperialism in the region and the peculiarity of power, including its political, economic, cultural, and social facets. The collection presents a variety of lived experiences that were brought on by these imperial structures. We focus on relations between metropolises and colonies, nations and nationalism, imperial cities, colonialism, and postcolonial heritage.

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Primary Sources

Documents (7)

Image for Excerpt from “Lists of Settlements. Kherson Governorate” of 1868
Excerpt from “Lists of Settlements. Kherson Governorate” of 1868
The Lists of Settlements were published by the Central Statistical Committee of the Russian Empire in the 1860-1880s. Each issue was dedicated to a separate governorate. It contained information about the region’s geographical and natural situation and its history. A complete list of settlements in the province was submitted according to the alphabetical principle, according to the staff distribution with statistical materials about each place. The “Lists” contained information about the number of inhabitants; their distribution by social and national aspects; the number of houses; the number of churches and educational institutions; bazaars and markets; factories, plants and manufactories; post offices, etc. The illustration provided here is a collection dedicated to the Kherson...
Image for Sejm Discussion about the Role of Ukrainians in the General Regional Exhibition in Galicia in 1894
Sejm Discussion about the Role of Ukrainians in the General Regional Exhibition in Galicia in 1894
The document presents a discussion between Ukrainian and Polish deputies in the Galician Sejm taking place in Lviv on May, 15, 1893. One of the issues during that day session was about the report of the budget commission requested by the executive committee of the 1894 Regional Exhibition on allocating a subvention the exhibition’s implementation. Despite the financial component of the matter, the discussion went beyond to a broader political dimension and showed Polish-Ukrainian relations in Galicia in the end of the 19th century. The first rapporteur among the Ukrainian deputies was Yaroslav Kulachkovskyi, director of the Dnister insurance company. He spoke about the goal of the future exhibition presented by the executive...
Excerpt of Lesya Ukrainka’s letter to Mykhailo Kryvyniuk about “fraternal peoples” 1903
A writer Larysa Kosach [Lesya Ukrainka], in a letter to a friend, an ideological and political like-minded member of the Ukrainian Social Democratic Party, at that time a forced emigrant from the Russian Empire settled in Lviv, Mykhailo Kryvyniuk, writes his impressions of the publishing discussions that took place during those times in Russian liberal circles on the matter of non-Russian languages and the general language policy of Russian “oppositionists” of the early twentieth century.
The echo of the Russian revolutionary events of 1905 in Lviv in the interpretations of the local press
On Monday, January 31, 1905, the Polish Social Democratic Party of Galicia and Silesia (PPSD) initiated a meeting at the People's Theater on Shainokha Street in Lviv to discuss the revolutionary situation in Russia. Four Lviv newspapers (Gazeta Lwowska, Dilo, Kurjer Lwowski, Słowo Polskie) covered this event differently, depending on their ideological positions, political agenda, and target audiences. These publications reflect the ideological palette of the leading newspapers of the then Galicia about one historical event. This source allows us to analyze the algorithms of the design and functioning of information policies and the impact of the press.
Letter of Lesya Ukrainka to Mykhailo Pavlyk about Ukrainian subordination to two different empires, 1903
An author Larysa Kosach [Lesya Ukrainka], in her letter to the Ukrainian politician, a subject of the Austrian Empire, Mykhaylo Pavlyk, writes about the plan for her emigration from Russia. The letter was written in 1903 from San Remo, where the writer was undergoing medical treatment. That is why the author could afford writing quite frankly, without hiding in front of the then Russian imperial censorship. Otherwise, in case of getting the letter, they would only let it pass sometimes. At least the Soviet censorship had not missed the most interesting fragment of the Ukrainka' message. They deleted it from the publication in the 12-volume edition of the writer's works compiled in 1979....
Image for The Case of Maria Shutek on Infanticide, Lviv, 1870-1871
The Case of Maria Shutek on Infanticide, Lviv, 1870-1871
It is a fragment of the interrogation of Maria Shutek on the case of infanticide, where the woman was accused by the Lviv Regional Court in 1870. There, she explains her version of the crime and the background preceding the act. Detailed autobiographical evidence required from the defendants, taking into account the needs of the investigation, help us draw a picture of the Maria's crime and her life. Although they are written contrary rather than due to the will, autobiographical narratives of criminal stories (paradoxically) can claim a much more balanced representation than classical autobiographies since in their creation, they were directly corrected by the testimonies of others. Given the need for legal...
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Image for For the Family Hearth, a 1970 film
For the Family Hearth, a 1970 film
The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Ivan Franko, written in 1892. In his story, the problem of sexual slavery (or “white slavery” in the terms of those times) and women’s engagement as its victims and enablers. The author’s choice of topic must have been influenced by the lawsuits against human traffickers that were actively taking place in Galicia at this time. One of the most high-profile cases was the Lviv trial in 1892 against 27 traffickers (men and women) accused of organizing sexual traffic abroad. The investigation confirmed 29 cases of selling girls from Galicia to brothels in Constantinople, Egypt, and India. The “white slavery” usually...
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In the 19th century, the gender pact dividing public and private spheres, as man-owned and women-inhabited, found its most solid reasoning. The separation of the private and the public was accelerated by the Industrial Revolution when it fixed a role of the key “bread-winner” for the man. The gender-divided lines of responsibility have certainly existed before the 19th century, but the role of women in family economy before the Industrial Revolution was much more visible. Since the Enlightenment era, the idea of the private and the public (as female and male, respectively) has been included into legal codes of most European states. This way, the new economic order was enshrined in the law...

Digital stories (2)

At the time of autonomy, the General Regional Exhibition was the third attempt by Galician elites to show their achievements in the industrial, economic, and cultural development of the region. The first such attempt took place in Lviv in 1877, the second in Krakow in 1887. In turn, the next one was to open its gates to visitors in 10 years in Lviv. The official countdown to the beginning of its opening began in June 1892, when the Main Exhibition Committee was formed. The monetary fund of the exhibition was filled with donations from county communities, government subventions and the Provincial Office, the City Council of Lviv, individuals, and organizations. Most of the...
On Sunday, September 10, 1893, at about 11 p.m., in the vicinity of ul. Rappaporta, Maria Kopańska, a maid, was attacked by four men — Stanisław Julian Starzewski, Michał Bendyk, Antoni Równy and Emil Bilo. The company was returning from a restaurant on ul. Szpitalna. As they later admitted, they "had been drinking vodka and beer" there. On ul. Rappaporta they saw Maria, who was walking home alone from a wedding. For the woman, the encounter ended in a gang rape. The court proceedings, which soon began on the victim's claim, although confirming the fact of violence, released three defendants from criminal liability. The fourth one, Emil Bilo, was never brought to trial,...


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Syllabi (11)

The course explores the history of Russia as an empire from Peter I up to now in the methodological perspective of the new imperial history. What are the historical preconditions and sources of Russian imperialism and militarism? How did the small principality of North-Eastern Europe manage to create the largest empire in the world? To what extent the Russian Empire of the 18th and 19th centuries differed from European colonial empires as well as eastern imperial polities such as Ottoman Empire and China? How did the imperial nationalities policies emerge and evolve? What role did the competition between "great powers" play in turning Russia into an empire? The course attempts to answer these...
This course was a part of Jewish History and Culture of East Central Europe in the 19th-20th Centuries summer school. The syllabus is written in Polish.
In our mini-course we will explore cultural interaction between Jews and non-Jews (Ukrainians, Poles, Russians) in the borderlands of the Habsburg and Romanov empires. This is interaction that may have been conscious or unconscious, and may have involved encounter, appropriation, negotiation, exchange and destruction.
This short course looks at Jewish history in the context of two multinational empires: the Russian and the Habsburg. Both of these states must be understood as fundamentally pre-modern, non-national (even anti-national) political structures, a fact that is crucial for understanding Jewish history here. In the mid-19th century, the great majority of world Jewry made its home in this region and even at the end of the First World War, after the great wave of emigration to the Americas, western Europe, Erets Israel / Palestine, and South Africa, the Jewish presence here was considerable. In 1918 even antisemites could hardly imagine a Warsaw, Wilno, Lwów, Odesa (etc.) without Jews.
Our main focus in this class will consist in Jewish experiences with cities in the twentieth century. Geographically, our center of attention will be Central and Eastern Europe (with our main – but not exclusive – emphasis on territories that, at one point or the other, came under Soviet rule); chronologically, we will concentrate (unevenly) on the period between the end of the First World War and the end of the Soviet Union. In particular, the Holocaust and the Second World War were events of central and terrible importance for this period and area. Accordingly, we will pay special attention to them.
This course covers the period from the partitions of Poland through the Russian and Habsburg Empires, the Soviet Union and interwar Poland. Students will familiarize with the geopolitical results of Russia’s westward and Austria’s eastward expansions and will focus among other overarching themes on the shtetl, the unique East European Jewish habitat; on Hasidism, a Ukraine-born popular movement of religious enthusiasm; on the interaction between Zionists and Ukrainian nationalists in Galicia; on the development of Ukrainization and Yiddishization (or Ukrainian and Jewish korenizatsiia) in the 1920s and the situation of Jews in Poland in the 1920s; on the Holocaust and its aftermath; on Ukrainians and Jews in the dissident movement; and on Jewish-Ukrainian...
This course was a part of Jewish History, Multiethnic Past, and Common Heritage: Urban Experience in Eastern Europe summer school.
At the end of the eighteenth century the Russian Empire acquired the largest Jewish population in the world. Although Jews and Christians had lived side by side with one another for over three hundred years in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, their life-worlds were distinct. The Great War, the Russian Revolution, and the Holocaust radically transformed the Jews of Russia, however, and the distinct culture of Russian-Jewry remains a crucial part of Jewish heritage today.
The course will cover the major development of the East European Jewry from the mid-eighteenth century till the present. More specifically, it will focus on the apparently largest category of modern Jewish history, i.e. modernity itself. The course will start with the discussion of what modernity means in contemporary scholarly discourse, and—more specifically—how it is applied today in historiography of East European Jewry. This introduction will provide a frame for the focus of the course: the analysis of the changing life patters and differing strategies of adopting, rejecting, or negotiating modernity in every-day lives of East European Jews.
This intensive 5-lecture mini-course (12 academic hours) introduces key broad themes that explore modernization and anti-modernization, urbanization and migration, secularization and acculturation and a new stratification of the Jewish society in East Europe. While it looks at the Russian empire and its western borderlands and Austrian Empire and its eastern borderlands, it focuses on Ukraine in its to-date geographical boundaries that include Galicia and Bukovina. The course does not have any prerequisites and provides broad contextualization of the selfimposed and empire-orchestrated reforms within the Jewish society against the backdrop of the Late Imperial Russia and the "long nineteenth century."
This mini-course introduces you to a field: cultural history. Cultural historians question how to analyze, articulate, and define how people ascribe meaning to various ideas, objects, and practices. You’ll acquire a “toolbox” of analytic frames useful for research in any field of study or cultural practice. For our “case study” of cultural history, we will delve into the history of the arts in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union from the late Imperial to the Stalinist period. This is not a comprehensive course on the arts in Russia or the Soviet Union, by any means. Rather, we will focus on the world of the arts by examining social, political and economic structures as...