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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Inner-Polish Politics in Kresy during the Interwar Period: An Example of Inner-European Colonialism?

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Introduction to the Module

As a consequence of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 Poland reappeared in the maps of Europe. However, the “newborn” state struggled with a number of difficulties. Its territories which now belong to Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine were commonly known as “Kresy” which can be translated as “borderlands”. The political and social situation of the country was very complex because of the large number of different national, ethnic and religious groups living in its territory. Peasants were usually of Ruthenian origin. They were members of the Russian Orthodox Church, sometimes the Greek Catholic Church. However, the dominant political and cultural factor was the Polish nobility, a minority if we compare their number to that of Ruthenians in Kresy.

Poland had historical claims since the 18th century when it governed much of the Belarusian and Ukrainian territory until the partitions at the end of the century. The complexity of the situation becomes more noticeable if we realise that Polish cultural policy towards Ukrainians and especially Belarusians was similar to that of the Russians towards the Poles before World War I. The desire to regain power and secure independence was stronger than justice. Besides, achieving dominance was facilitated by the Belarusian national consciousness not yet having been shaped. However, increasing nationalist feelings among Poles and Ukrainians caused an escalating conflict of interests.

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