Subproject A06 — Securitisation and Discourses on the Rights of Minorities
in Central Europe during the in 19th and 20th century
Image: Book Cover, M. Bartha, V zemi Chazarů
Since the advent of competing national movements in the mid-19 th century, multinational border areas in the empires of Central Europe have been increasingly regarded as areas of insecurity. Depending on the actor’s perspective (authorities, political activists, expert groups), such territories were conceptualised and imagined as torn apart by conflict, inadequately administered, and threatened by irredentism. In the context of the World Wars and their sequelae, they ultimately came to be seen as a security risk in the new conceptualisations of (inter-)national relations. Particularly during the first half of the 20th century, these peripheral national zones in Central Europe were repeatedly subjected to shifting frontiers. As frontiers shifted and frameworks changed, new state structures were created to integrate these territories into the respective state, and in their security planning, state actors were forced to consider the perceived allegiances of the local population.
The subproject developed during the first funding phase (2014-2017) consists of two substudies, each of which compares a part of the Eastern Territories of the Second Polish Republic with the Czech Carpathian Ukraine during the inter-war period. Attempts at resolving security problems in potential conflict zones included police/military strategies directed at control and security, but since the turn of the century, there were also progressive attempts to legally regulate conflicts and to negotiate trade-offs. The subproject explores how such attempts at legal regulation proceeding from the central state level intersected with previously established and traditional customary law procedures and practices for balancing interests at the local level. These local procedures and practices were equally attuned to ideas of the law and to legal realities. The negotiation, generation, and legal implementation of security ideas is conceptualised as an overall communicative process that took place at different levels (national, regional, local), and was carried forward by specific groups and constellations of actors. Thus, a focus is placed on interconnections between notions of security on the part of government institutions, majority and minority representatives, parties, the media, expert groups, and various local actors. In addition, the studies will examine the conditions and processes whereby external concepts of rights (that is, from national government administrations and parties, political and societal forces in neighbouring states, and solutions proposed by international bodies) were received, negotiated, or rejected in local contexts.
Source: Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR, Archiv ÚTGM,
Subproject 1: Foreign Periphery – Conflicted Periphery? Carpathian Ukraine and East Poland as regions of insecurity in the perspectives and behaviour patterns of central state actors in Prague and Warsaw during the interwar period
The first project proposal in subproject A06 “Securitisation and Discourses on the Rights of Minorities in Central Europe during the 19th and 20th Century” in the SFB-TRR 138 “Dynamics of Security” will investigate how state and non-state actors and groups of actors in the interwar Second Polish Republic and Czechoslovakia dealt discursively with national concepts of security in relation to the eastern peripheries of each state, and the ways that these discourses were interconnected. These territories had been acquired during military conflicts after the First World War by the Polish and Czech states, and their internal and external political circumstances were considered somewhat precarious. Seen from the centre as underdeveloped border territories, they were viewed as potential conflict areas. The central governments regarded a significant part of the local population (especially Ukrainians in East Poland and Hungarians in Carpathian Ukraine) as disloyal. Moreover, these territories were the object of irredentist and revisionist movements, which posed an existential security problem to the national state. National actors and groups of actors met this set of problems with a range of different action concepts, whereby the Polish state behaved more rigidly than the Prague central government with its efforts at balance and inclusion. The intended aim of this sub-project is to uncover and analyse how this security problematic was perceived, discussed, and managed from the perspective of the central state through political action. To achieve this aim, researchers will examine the notions of the security elites (historians, jurists, ethnologists, etc.), their repercussions for government policies in Prague and Warsaw, as well as the impact on media discourse. In their analyses, the scholars will hypothesise an interconnection between debates in the media and among academics and an overlap between actors and groups of actors. These processes will be understood as being generally discursive and experientially open-minded in relation to security, and analysed through the methodological approach to securitisation used in the SFB “Dynamics of Security”.
Subproject 2: Securitisation and Discourses on the Rights of Minorities and Majorities: Stanisławów, Pińsk and Užhorod 1919–1938
The subproject examines securitisation discourses in relation to their practical implementation, including local repercussions. This regional study is focused on mid-sized cities in the eastern border areas of the Second Polish Republic and Carpathian Ukraine, which took on varying central regional functions through their administrative roles and thus were also the sites of (sub)regional jurisdiction, political organisation and administration. During the period under investigation, these cities were part of the eastern peripheries of Poland and Czechoslovakia.
The overall objective of the subproject is to analyse the interconnections between discourses on the legal status of “minorities” and practices of securitisation and desecuritisation. The legal implementation of notions of security is understood in the subproject as an overall communicative process that encompasses different groups of actors at different levels (national, regional, local). Against this backdrop, the sub-project investigates the notions of security and threat associated with local constellations of groups and the corresponding discourses and practices of legal regulation. In addition, the researchers will analyse in which local constellations traditional practices of balancing interests were maintained and under what conditions and in what ways external concepts of rights were received. Thus, the project is particularly concerned with local actors and local state representatives. The working hypothesis is that it was this level, rather than the “abstract” level of the central government, that proved critical to the success or failure of state securitisation practices and “civilising” missions.
In Poland – especially in East Galicia and in relation to Jews in the 1930s – the legislative state also acted repressively against minorities, at times with considerable violence. This scenario, with which we are familiar from earlier research and from the literature of remembrance, will be reviewed and possibly re-evaluated using bottom-up processes. At the local level, beyond the major areas of conflict and discourse, the working hypothesis is that one should anticipate differential findings and grammars of negotiation.
Drawing on case studies and other examples, the researchers will examine the food market as the physical place of interaction and communication, while focusing on relevant processes of negotiation, conflicts, legal regulations, and securitisation discourses and practices. In this context, the researchers will specifically address questions related to tax collection, hygiene, violence, and denominational differences (e.g. Sunday rest, regulations for Jews, shechita/religious slaughter).