One hundred years of ‘homogenization’ in Southeast Europe
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 7 November 2012
Experts will reflect upon a hundred years of attempts to ethnically ‘homogenize’ nations, through ethnic cleansing, engineering, expulsion and assimilation, at an international conference in Vienna.
The annual international conference of the University of Leicester Stanley Burton Centre for Holocaust and Genocide Studies will take place from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 November, entitled ‘Homogenizing Southeastern Europe: Balkan Wars, Ethnic Cleansing and Postwar Ethnic Engineering since 1912’.
Jointly organised by Dr Alex Korb from the University of Leicester and Professor Philipp Ther from the Institute for Eastern European History at the University of Vienna, experts from ten countries will discuss the differences between ethnic cleansing pursued in times of war, large scale resettlement programmes (which were often overseen by international organisations) and between policies of ethnic engineering and forced assimilation in times of peace.
One hundred years ago, in October 1912, Europe witnessed the eruption of a war which ushered the continent into a new period. The First Balkan War was not only a prelude to the Great War, it also marked an end to the century-long presence of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe, and the beginning of a culmination of ethnic cleansing and engineering in modern European history.
Southeast Europe was to be reshaped in the decades to come: ethnic and religious minorities were to be resettled, expelled or assimilated. Nations came into existence, territories contested, and borders shifted. In the Balkans alone, more than 12 million people had to emigrate, were expelled or resettled during the Twentieth Century. The negative utopia of ethnic purity did not only affect millions of people, but also their culture, as those involved in ethnic cleansing also tried to erase the memory of those who were expelled.
Case studies at the conference will include the Balkan Wars, Word Wars I and II including the Holocaust, the interwar years with the attempts to create homogenised nation states, and the functioning and the failure of the largest supra-ethnic state in the region: Yugoslavia.
Dr Korb, of the University’s Stanley Burton Centre, said: “Whilst Europe is growing together and is far from being an ‘ethnically homogenic’ entity, there are still vast parts of Europe that suffer from the forceful attempts of nationalists to ethnically homogenise their nations. We need to study why this idea of an ethnically pure society has been so powerful, as it has caused so much violence during the Twentieth Century. Such a focus translates perfectly to the recent strategy of the Stanley Burton Centre to study the Holocaust in relation to other mass crimes in Twentieth Century Europe.”
“The Austrian Chancellor von Metternich is alleged to have said that the Balkans begin in Vienna. But not only does the city’s location make it a perfect conference site for bringing together scholars from the Southeast and the West; the city herself played a crucial role for the policies of ethnic homogenisation, not at least through the infamous Vienna Awards in 1940.”
The keynote lecture will be delivered by the award-winning historian Theodora Dragostinova from the Ohio State University. She will discuss the multi-facetted ways in which minorities reacted to state pressure to assimilate.
‘Homogenizing Southeastern Europe: Balkan Wars, Ethnic Cleansing and Postwar Ethnic Engineering since 1912’ takes place from Thursday 8 to Saturday 10 November at the University of Vienna.
Notes to editors:
Dr. Alexander Korb,
For further queries:
Mag. Alexandra Frey
Press Office, University of Vienna