A Biography of No Place: From Ethnic Borderland to Soviet by Kate Brown

By Kate Brown

This is a biography of a borderland among Russia and Poland, a area the place, in 1925, humans pointed out as Poles, Germans, Jews, Ukrainians, and Russians lived part by way of facet. Over the subsequent 3 many years, this mosaic of cultures was once modernized and homogenized out of lifestyles through the ruling may well of the Soviet Union, then Nazi Germany, and at last, Polish and Ukrainian nationalism. by way of the Fifties, this "no position" emerged as a Ukrainian heartland, and the fertile mixture of peoples that outlined the quarter was once destroyed.

Brown's research is grounded within the lifetime of the village and shtetl, within the personalities and small histories of way of life during this sector. In striking aspect, she records how those regimes, bureaucratically after which violently, separated, named, and regimented this complicated group into particular ethnic teams.

Drawing on lately opened documents, ethnography, and oral interviews that have been unavailable a decade in the past, A Biography of No Place finds Stalinist and Nazi heritage from the viewpoint of the distant borderlands, therefore bringing the outer edge to the heart of heritage.

We are given, in brief, an intimate portrait of the ethnic purification that has marked all of Europe, in addition to a glimpse on the margins of twentieth-century "progress."

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Ethnographers recorded many details of material culture and also a sense of the rift between educated urbanites and the people of the towns and cities. I read local Polish newspapers to gain a sense of the minutia of daily life. Finally, seeking to see beyond the written sources, I became ethnographer-journalist myself. I traveled to villages and towns of the former kresy trying to perceive the landscape and material culture that made up the past. But since the people in whom I was most interested had been scattered I had to travel farther, to Kazakhstan, Poland, and the United States to talk to survivors of the deportations and the Holocaust in the kresy.

A more grounded memory of Marchlevsk, one full of the banalities of the everyday, must be recorded somewhere, and I went to Zhytomyr in central Ukraine to look for imprints of it. My path to Zhytomyr was not direct. I left Moscow in early spring of 1997, bought a train ticket, and rambled west across the flat, frozen fields of European Russia and eastern Ukraine, riding and listening to an old woman, my companion in the couchette, narrate her long life in extended monologues punctuated by heavy sighs.

The book reflects these changes in perception by shifting the spotlight from one national group to another in time. As well, the problem with writing a history of people who slip from one margin to another lies in the invisibility of the periphery. ” They could not hear them; they found it too dark to see them. Seventy years later, it is therefore difficult to make sense of the cloudy image of the kresy that emerges from the written sources. The periphery is thus not only geographical, but figurative.

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