Forum Lecture in Munich with Mark von Hagen: The Entangled Eastern Front in World War I and the Making of the Ukrainian State

01.07.2014 (18:00 - 20:00)

Abstract for Munich talk - Mark von Hagen

The Entangled Eastern Front in World War I and the Making of the Ukrainian State

I propose extending my earlier outline of an entangled history of the Eastern Front in World War I that focused on the extensive and long-term occupation regimes, the large-scale and long-term captivity of prisoners-of-war, and analogous experiences for refugees; I add for this paper a consideration of the making of the Ukrainian state during wartime as a joint project of Ukrainian elites (in the Russian, German,  and Habsburg empires), and the diplomats, military commanders, and other political actors of Germany, Austria-Hungary in the first place, followed by France and Britain, and including, in unexpected ways, the Provisional Government and the new Soviet Bolshevik government in Petrograd.  (Even this is a partial list of those who contributed to the making of the Ukrainian state; the Czecho-Slovak and Polish national movements, the Don and Kuban Cossacks, the Crimean Tatars, Jews in both parts of Ukraine, and more.)

This approach also echoes the recent attempt by Christopher Clark in The Sleepwalkers to ask how the war started, but looking at the other end and asking how the war ended and consider that policy was not always being made at the “top” of the political system.  By revisiting the negotiations leading up to the treaty that recognized the Ukrainian National Republic, I argue that all the parties at the negotiations found themselves meeting together out of different degrees of weakness, each operating with tremendous constraints and pressures from both other belligerent powers and domestic demands, and none of them having made any advance plans before coming together in Brest-Litovsk, let alone presenting consistent or unambiguous desired outcomes.  This paper concludes with the further unintended consequences of the treaty in the occupation of Ukraine by Germany and Austria-Hungary through November 1918.  As does Clark, I see this episode as very modern and our current age as living with the legacies of a century ago.

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