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War

Once Heraclitus said that war is “the father of all,” claiming this destructive practice of humans to be a creative endeavor, though many of his contemporaries found this notion controversial. However, we also understand that the great wars of the 20th century profoundly changed East-Central Europe and the course of global history. The Ukrainian state, for instance, came into being between the two European wars of the twentieth century, and already in the 1950s, this state was among the biggest on the continent. War, and the horrors and tragedies that follow it, will always be with us, along with its unavoidable suffering, cruelty, and unexpected political outcomes, and thus studying it is profoundly important for history. This theme focuses on various urban dimensions of war, such as ruins that follow cities’ destruction, urban reconstruction, life during occupation, and problematic issues that arise from collaboration with enemy forces. We are also interested in the historical circumstances surrounding violence in urban areas within the region, the role and fate of veterans, and war commemorations.

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Primary Sources

Documents (13)

Image for “The sorrowful 14th year has come”, Ukrainian song about the First World War
“The sorrowful 14th year has come”, Ukrainian song about the First World War
This source is a folklore text representing the developments of the First World War. Katria Hrynevycheva (1875-1947), a writer, public activist, head of the Ukrainian Women's Union (Soiuz Ukrainok), recorded a variation of the song in the city of Gmünd (Lower Austria), during her stay in the war refugees displacement camp. The recording was found in the archives of Volodymyr Hnatiuk. It is probably that Hrynevycheva was motivated by Hnatiuk’s call to document war-inspired pieces (see below the entry on “War and Folk Poetry”) and her personal story as a mother of two volunteer combatants from the Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (USR, Ukrainian National Military Formation within the Austro-Hungarian Army). The camp...
Image for Excerpt from a 2013 interview with Lviv Puppet Theater actress: War, Gulag, Space Race
Excerpt from a 2013 interview with Lviv Puppet Theater actress: War, Gulag, Space Race
This is an excerpt from an interview with an actress in Lviv made in 2013. This actress talks about her wartime experience under German occupation and touches on the various cultural institutions she attended during the war. She went to the Lviv Opera Theater, run 1941-1944 by famous actor and director Volodymyr Blavatsky, who had worked with Kurbas’ Berezil and created a name for himself in avant-garde theater in Poland. He left for the west in 1944. She notes Lesia Kryvytska, an actress who worked in interwar Poland, Nazi-occupied Lviv, and then settled at the Maria Zankovetska Theater in postwar Lviv. She also mentions studying ballet at the Opera’s dance studio. Her mention...
Image for Excerpt from a 2013 interview with an actress, in Lviv: War, Power, Gender
Excerpt from a 2013 interview with an actress, in Lviv: War, Power, Gender
This is an interview with an actress in Lviv who narrates her experience of World War II serving in the Red Army and her start in professional theater in Lviv. First, she tells us about her experience in the war: she served in Stalingrad as a communications operator and was deaf for 10 days from shelling. Her unit served with the First Ukrainian Front all the way to Lviv, where she ends up staying for the rest of her life. Note she never returns to any mention of her family again, so we can presume they did not survive the war. Her description of the war reveals the role that women played in...
Image for “War and Folk Poetry” by Volodymyr Hnatiuk, 1916, еxcerpt from the article
“War and Folk Poetry” by Volodymyr Hnatiuk, 1916, еxcerpt from the article
Volodymyr Hnatiuk is a public and cultural activist, the first professional Ukrainian studies scholar in Halychyna during the First World War. He published a seminal article that included three parts: and then analytical introduction, an appendix with the text of different genres, and a questionnaire illustrated below. The experienced ethnographer and the folklore researcher raised an issue about the pertinent need to record war related folklore. He believed that oral speech actively responds to every critical historic social phenomenon, and the new creativity from the war is also a crucial information and propaganda source. Hnatiuk emphasized that the key task is to identify the popular view on the war, the attitudes to the...
Image for Zinaida Mirna, Women in Central Council of Ukraine, 1928
Zinaida Mirna, Women in Central Council of Ukraine, 1928
Memories of Zinaida Mirna about women in Central Council of Ukraine. Zinaida Mirna (1878-1950) was a civic and political leader. She was active in the Ukrainian women's movement and women's education movement, played an important role during Ukraine’s struggle for independence (1917–20) as a member of the Central Council (Tsentralna Rada) and the Little Council (Mala Rada). In 1919 Zinaida Mirna helped found the National Council of Ukrainian Women in Kamianets-Podilskyi, and served as its vice-president. Later she headed its Berlin branch. After settling in Prague in 1924, she served as the longtime president of the Ukrainian Women's Union in Czechoslovakia and gave much of her time to the Museum of Ukraine's Struggle...
Image for Vira Szot’s rehabilitation request, Warsaw-Czẹstochowa, 1994
Vira Szot’s rehabilitation request, Warsaw-Czẹstochowa, 1994
Vira Szot was a Ukrainian woman and UPA liaison. After World War II, she arrived in southern Poland, where she set up transfer points for UPA members trying to reach Western Europe. Her arrest came on June 7, 1947. She was imprisoned at Jaworzno, Mokotów, and Fordon. She received a death sentence that was commuted to fifteen years, perhaps because she agreed to collaborate. She was released in 1956. She stayed in Poland after her release and in the 1990s, after the fall of Communism, applied for rehabilitation. In a letter from 1960 or 1961, which she called a confession and which is still in her IPN (Institute of National Remembrance) file, she...
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Audio (1)

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Legend about the “disguised emperor” during the First World War
This source is the audio recording of the legend about the events of the First World War. The storyline describes an “emperor” who was incognito inspecting his army and its provisions. The prototype for the protagonist is Franz Josef I (1830–1916), the emperor of the Austrian Hungarian Empire. This artistic image shows the elements of naive monarchism. The type of “just and kind” ruler is based on his favorable attitude to Galician Ukrainians, who he took as loyal to the Habsburgs. This social myth about the “loyal troops” consisting of Ukrainians was reflected in the prose but also in songs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Our emperor is getting old...
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Texts (1)

Image for Archive and the War: Interview with historian Oleksandr Cheremisin
Archive and the War: Interview with historian Oleksandr Cheremisin
This is an interview with Professor of history at Kherson State University Oleksandr Cheremisin about his experience of research work in the archives of the South and East of Ukraine right before the beginning of Russian aggression and the occupation of Crimea in 2014.
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Syllabi (14)

East-Central Europe played a vital role in the global history of mass migration and experienced an enormous variety of mobility processes in the long 19th and short 20th centuries. For instance, mass emigration from the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires and the Soviet Union, human trafficking, labor migration, forced migration during WWI and WWII, refugee crises and asylum, travel, and professional mobility. The voluminous scholarship on this chapter of migration history has lots of gaps and, notably, is almost absent from history curricula. This introductory course broadens our lens to examine the role of migration and mobility for the places where it occurred as well as the experiences of migrants, displaced persons, refugees, and...
This lecture course comparatively and transnationally investigates twentieth-century communism as a modern civilization with a global outreach. It looks at the global spread of communism as an ideology, an everyday experience, and a form of statehood in the Soviet Union, Europe, Asia (i.e.Mao’s China), and post-colonial Africa. With the exception of North America and Australia, communist regimes were established on all continents of the world. The course will examine this historical process from the October Revolution (1917) to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster (1986), which marked the demise of the communist state. The emphasis is not just on state-building processes or Cold War politics but primarily on the social, gender, cultural and economic policies that...
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.
The course aims to discuss the major military conflicts of the twentieth century from a gender perspective. In doing so, the course covers the history of global and local wars in a wide variety of regions, including Europe, Africa, and Asia. However, rather than surveying a vast number of military conflicts, we will use a case study approach to conduct in-depth analyses of external and internal dynamics of military encounters and the role of gendered violence during them.
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.
When the well-known German author Alfred Döblin visited Lviv in 1924 he wrote: “Lviv is a lively, medium-sized, western, modern town; its streets are peaceful and bustling with life. But suddenly something strange confronts me. This city lies in the arms of two enemies, each of whom wants to dominate it. Subterranean enmity and violence are fermenting in the background”. Döblin, the son of assimilated German Jews from Stettin, also commented on the undercurrent of antiSemitism and voiced his fears, especially for the many poor Jews living in the city. (Alfred Döblin, ReisenachPolen).
This seminar explores ideas and practices of heritage in Eastern and Central Europe between 1945 and now. The course is designed as a set of five meetings, which will include short lecture introductions, seminar discussions, and at the end – practical workshop. Our meetings will be about discussing the texts, addressing cases you will read about or already know. Thіs the seminar will be our common effort in reading, asking questions and searching for answers. Therefore it is crucial that you will read assigned parts of selected texts and also consult texts from the recommended reading list. While reading assigned texts, please keep a short track of your ideas and formulate several questions...
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.
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...
Ukraine’s twentieth century was tragically marked by much politically motivated violence and authoritarian regimes as well as movements, from the radical left and the radical right. These forces and events did not only do great harm in the past but left memories and legacies that are still challenging to contemporary Ukraine. In this class, we will focus on several key issues of history, memory, and politics. The readings cannot be exhaustive. Instead, our aim is to read and discuss a sample of important short texts that allow us to reflect more broadly on the underlying questions.
This course was a part of Jewish History, Multiethnic Past, and Common Heritage: Urban Experience in Eastern Europe summer school (July 13 – August 7, 2015. Center for Urban History. Lviv, Ukraine).
This course is devoted to the analysis of representations of Ukrainian territory as a multicultural space during the "long" revolutionary period of 1917-30. We will examine different types of representations (scholarly papers, memoirs, plays, films, stories) and the features of the coexistence of ethnic communities in different parts of Ukraine and at different stages of the revolutionary period. Our overall aim will be to try to forget the familiar narrative of the "Ukrainian Revolution" and "national liberation struggle" and explore the diversity of historical materials and representations, which are not included in the narrative. By studying the events from nearly a century ago, we can better understand the events of 2014.
In 1939, on the eve of the Holocaust, east European Jewry constituted the most important and culturally influential Jewish community in the world. As a result of half a century of mass migration, up to 90% of world Jewry either lived in Eastern Europe or were children of immigrants from there. Jews were particularly prominent in East European cities. In Galicia, for example, Jews constituted a plurality or majority of nearly every major city. (L’viv was an exception, where they made up “only” a quarter of the population.) This course will survey the modern history of this once vital community – social, economic, political, religious and cultural – from the Polish partitions until...