(Forced) Migration and large-scale settlement in modern European history. State-building, ethnic conflict and the economy in the 19th and 20th Century

Tim Buchen

At the end of the Second World War, Europe was – as Eugene Kulischer observed – a continent “on the move”. Millions were embarking on their way home after having been uprooted by Nazi Germany for standing in the way of their dystopian living space fantasies and/or deported as forced labourers to the industrial centres of the Reich. Many more were to be made homeless after the war, stranded on the wrong side of newly drawn borders and victims of yet another large-scale ethnic homogenisation project. A considerable number left Europe altogether. Some like the survivors of the Holocaust, could no longer imagine rebuilding a Jewish future in countries where almost the entire Jewish community had been murdered. Others, often expellees from other parts of Europe or returnees from the colonies, found it difficult to adapt to a country they did not know, threatening to become what the Allies quickly termed the European “surplus population”. It was not least in an attempt to forestall further ethnic conflict or the political radicalisation of an impoverished under class, that the Allies facilitated large-scale emigration – to Palestine for example or, via the newly established Intergovernmental Committee for European Migration, to the rest of the world.

Seen in a larger historical context, the population upheavals during the 1940s appear less of a tragic aberration in European history and more like the catastrophic climax of a development that was gathering steam at least since the Congress of Vienna in 1815. It was then that, for the first time, protection from forced assimilation was extended not just to religious but national minorities. Soon after, with the London Conference of 1830, the focus shifted to the Balkans where the intersection of imperial, religious and soon also national fault-lines was to destabilise the entire continent. The quickening pace of national liberation struggles, wars and the subsequent re-drawing of borders was accompanied by an increasing concern about populations. Territorial changes forced governments to find new settlements for ethnic kin refugees fleeing their former homeland while generating ever more distrust of those minorities still residing within their own territory.
Not that this dynamic was confined to the Balkans. The Tsarist Empire deported tenth of thousands of allegedly disloyal and troublesome subjects to Siberia, connecting the ethnic reorganisation of its western borders with colonizing practices on the Eastern frontier. In a similar vein, Prussia expelled thousands of Jews and Poles from its Eastern provinces, launched the settlement commission to replace Poles with Germans and, during the First World War, drawing up plans for a massive population transfer by replacing the local Polish population with ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe to demographically secure the German border lands. It was imperial “shatterzones” (Donald Bloxham) in the Balkans and the Caucasus, however, where this dynamic did lead to massive population displacement and the genocide of the Armenian and other Christian minorities.
In 1919, when it came to building a new post-war world, in any case, national homogeneity as a precondition for stability in Europe was high up on the agenda. The principle of national self-determination could make its international debut precisely because it seemed to point the way to a new European order that promised to eliminate ethnic strife as a source of international conflict. And where the situation on the ground did not allow for a neat separation of nationalities, the new states were forced to sign minority treaties to tame nationalistic passions. When the Paris order was finally brought down in the 1930s by an expansionist Nazi Germany, the Evian Conference and the establishment of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees in 1938 gave credence to the notion that political crises could be solved by removing minorities. Only one year later, Hitler justified the invasion of Poland with the alleged threat multi-ethnic Eastern Europe posed to peace on the continent. The “pacification of the entire region”, he proclaimed, could only be achieved by “a new ethnographic order, i.e. the resettlement of nationalities”. While German policies quickly radicalised from large-scale deportations and mass expulsions to mass murder, the Roosevelt administration initiated the so-called M(igration)-Project that planned for the re-settlement of minorities and surplus populations across the world as a precondition for political stability and economic prosperity in Europe. Tragically, too, large-scale deportations and mass expulsions did not stop with the defeat of the Nazis.

This conference seeks to bring together scholars from various fields of the Humanities and Social Sciences to discuss small- and large-scale projects and politics of (re-)moving people and reordering space in the context of economic transformation, state building and ethnic conflict. Examples from a broad spatial and chronological spectrum from European history across the nineteenth and twentieth Century shall deepen our understanding of the ways in which political and socio-economic crises were perceived as demographical issues that could be solved by organized migration and settlement. The aim of the conference is to identify dynamics of “demographisation” by looking on mutual interferences between political, scientific, and economic discourses and state politics as well as cross regional circulation of ideas and practices of population management.

In particular we are interested in contributions studying attempts of
- Managing perceived over- or underpopulation in areas of crucial economic or strategic importance
- Strengthening or developing industrial and agrarian economies through (forced) migration and settlement
- Migration and settlement programmes in the context of land reforms and the reorganization of property as a means to solve economic, social, or ethnic “questions”
- Settlement schemes as a tool of “inner colonization” and empire-building as well as decolonization
- Circulation of ideas and practices from colonial oversea territories to Europe and/or from warfare-contexts to peacetime
- Knowledge exchange and knowledge transfer between various lobby groups, economists, scientists, the military and politics
- Channelling streams of migration, be it rural-urban migration or mass migration as a consequence of wars, ethnic conflicts, shifting borders or economic crises
- Soldier settlement schemes and other state-run practices aimed at securing borderlands/erecting buffer zones against the migration of people and ideologies
- Population transfer and ethnic cleansing

Please send a short CV including publications and a proposal of no more than 500 words by 1 September 2019 to Gerhard Wolf (University of Sussex, g.wolf@sussex.ac.uk) or Tim Buchen (University of Dresden, tim.buchen@tu-dresden.de).
- Deadline for application: 1 September 2019, deadline for pre-circulation of papers: 1 March 2020.
- Accommodation will be covered, we also aim for a full travel refund.
- Publication of papers in an edited volume is planned.