Migration and Mobility in Belarus: Moving People, Setting Borders

Migration and Mobility in Belarus: Moving
People, Setting Borders
Conference proposal and call for papers
Despite barely mentioned by name, Belarus is and has been in the midst of a variety of historical
works, ranging from classical histories on Russian Western provinces, the Jewish Pale of Settlement to,
more controversial, Timothy Snyder's “Bloodlands”. Most of these stress Belarus' character as a
transitional zone of its own kind. More detailed studies than the bestselling master narratives
emphasize the quest for a better understanding of the character of historical life, culture, statehood and
regional entanglements. It is rather surprising that in this setting mobility and migration are little
acknowledged and hardly ever specifically analyzed.
We argue that migration to, from, and through Belarus as well as mobility within it essentially shaped
and continue to determine the region's identity. Furthermore Belarus was central to movement in
Eastern Europe and, because of the increase of intra-European traffic connections, a hub for European
migration in general. Through migration and mobility peasants became workers, occupying elites
became empire builders, and emigrants became cultural brokers between the old home town and the
emigrant countries. Social statuses changed, violence in- and decreased, new networks and new
languages emerged.
In other words, Belarus' history calls for an approach beyond methodological nationalism or
generalizations within grand narratives. Belarus needs to be put in the center of an entangled history
without being reduced to a “Bloodland”. Migration and mobility are major keys to unlock this broader
This is the starting point for our venture which aims to bring together scholars of general migration
history with specialists on Belarusian history and Russian studies. Discussion is open for all aspects of
migration and mobility connected to Belarus in the late 19th and 20th centuries. We consider mutual
exchange as the beginning of an increasing appreciation of the region's relevance for future
perspectives on European or global history. Also migration research offers valuable contributions to
relevant area studies with regard to their growing interest in transregional connections.
In order to engage in this exchange between researchers from Belarus, Germany and other countries we
propose a conference to be held in Minsk, presumably in 2015. We hope to attract contributions with a
broadly defined historical interest from various disciplines.
To develop a program and to apply for funding we especially welcome suggestions looking at
 historical long- and short term developments of regional entanglement through migration and
 the impact of mobility and migration on structural, demographical and cultural changes in
certain regions, cities, town and villages,
 the relationship between mobility/ migration and violence, esp. under occupation,
 the role of migration and mobility through and from Belarus on emigration countries and
respective exchange,
 the relationship between moving people and moving borders,
 biographical perspectives on the presence of mobility and migration in individual lives as well
as in collective experiences.
A subsequently published collection of the contributions will pioneer the dialogue between Migration
Research and Belarusian History. The conference will likely be hosted by the Geschichtswerkstatt
Belarus in Minsk (Dr. Kuzma Kozak). It will be organized in cooperation with the Institute for
Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) at Osnabrueck University (PD Dr. Christoph Rass,
Dr. des. Frank Wolff) and the Gießen Center for Eastern Europe (GiZo) at Gießen University (Prof. Dr.
Thomas Bohn, Dr. Aliaksandr Dalhouski).
Conference languages are Russian and English; simultaneous translation will be provided.
Interested authors are asked to submit proposals of about 250 words and a concise CV by March 31,
2014. Please send your proposal under the header „Migration History/ Belarus“ to Petra Lehmeyer,
[email protected]
Please direct any questions to Christoph Rass ([email protected]) and Frank Wolff ([email protected],com)
Osnabrueck University
Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS)
PD Dr. Christoph A. Rass / Dr. des. Frank Wolff
Neuer Graben 19/21
49074 Osnabrueck