June 9, 2002
6:52 PM   Subscribe

Kashmir...Palestine...Sudetenland?? If you've been suspecting that old territorial squabbles never go away, you're probably right.
posted by gimonca (4 comments total)
Interesting, interesting. Thanks for the link. I hadn't realized that this particular sore was still open.
After the Second World War, the Sudeten Germans - many of whom had greeted the Nazi invasion in 1938 with alacrity - were unceremoniously bundled out of Czechoslovakia. The legal basis for the mass expulsion was formed by the decrees drawn up in wartime London by the Czech government-in-exile under president Edvard BeneŇ°.
'Unceremoniously bundled out'. Oh, I just love spin. This is how ethnic cleansing is described 50 years later, when the winners write the history books.

Admittedly, it's difficult to be sympathetic with a bunch of Nazi collaborators; but somewhat easier to be sympathetic with their children, who are guiltless. OTOH, do their children, having grown up outside of Czechoslovakia, really have any 'right of return'? Do the sins of their fathers, or the injustices visited upon their fathers, really have any traction on them? Shouldn't they be trying to make their lives where they find themselves, as everyone else does? [Do the American descendants of the Pilgrims have any 'right of return' to England?]

This is really the I/P situation seen in a funhouse mirror, isn't it?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 7:37 PM on June 9, 2002

This only happened 55 years ago. Only a decade or so older then the current Israeli/Palistinian conflict. I'd hardly call that "forever".

Besides all these people are doing is bitching and moaning, hardly the idiotic bloodshed of I/P.
posted by delmoi at 9:24 PM on June 9, 2002

Slithy, care to ratchet up the rhetoric any higher? True, forcible displacement is one of the original meanings of "ethnic cleansing" but it sounds like you're trying to equate it with rather less benign forms. I would recommend avoiding that term because of those associations.

The fact is that during the first 3/4 of the 20th century, it was considered a useful (i.e. rather than ideal) solution to redraw borders and displace whole populations by encouragement or expulsion. Today there is great use of exceptionalism on the part of both sides in the I/P conflict, but the list of populations who had to move after wars ended is really very, very long:

Peoples resettled between WWI and WWII:
20,000 Germans from former colonies to Germany
100,000 Russian refugees from Bolsheviks to Poland and Germany
200,000 ethnic Lativans, Estonians, and Lithuanians from Russia to the new Baltic nations
1,000,000 Poles from Russia to the new, more western Poland
350,000 Germans from East Prussia (Danzig, Kaliningrad) to Germany
90,000 Germans from Ukraine and southern Poland to Germany
40,000 Germans from Czechoslovakia to Germany
650,000 Ukrainians from Ukraine to W Europe
120,000 Hungarians from Czechoslovakia
120,000 Germans from Alsace-Lorraine to Germany
80,000 Hungarians from Yugoslavia to Hungary
200,000 Hungarians from Rumania to Hungary
80,000 Turks from Rumania to Turkey
20,000 Turks from Yugoslavia to Turkey
30,000 Bulgarians from Yugoslavia to Bulgaria
120,000 Bulgarians from Greece to Bulgaria
70,000 Bulgarians from Turkey to Bulgaria
60,000 Greeks from Volgan Russia to Greece
350,000 Armenians from Turkey to W Europe
1,300,000 Greeks from Turkey (Izmir/Smyrna coastal settlements) to Greece
350,000 Turks from Greece to Turkey

The list following the Second World War is almost as long, and the numbers are greater:

Peoples resettled following WWII:
1.00M Germans to W Europe and America
1.95M Germans from E Prussia to Germany
1.90M Germans from Poland to Germany (both Polish borders moved west again)
1.85M Germans left E Germany for W Germany
2.90M Germans from Czechoslovakia to Germany
200K Germans from Hungary to Germany
50K Germans from Rumania to Germany
250K Germans from Yugoslavia to Germany
1.50M Poles from Russia to Poland (borders again)
3.00M Poles from interior Poland to new western Polish regions
410K Finns from Russia to Finland
2.30M Russians to new Russian W territory
1.95M Czechs from Poland, Russia, Hungary to Czechoslovaia
5.5M Russians repatriated from former German territory to Russia

And that's just Europe; and those are just the numbers on a couple of maps in a WWII history I have, which doesn't claim to be a thorough accounting. The point here is not to minimize the hurt of displacement or excuse it by saying it's common; the point here is that opening this old wound and establishing a newfound right of return for anyone, anywhere is an enormously large problem for many countries. If you are not prepared to take on the grand scale of this task, one must be careful how far one goes with promoting the right of return as a means of righting wrongs.

As it happens, Europe chose to settle its own territorial disputes by redrawing boundaries. It would be simplistic to assume those are "victors' boundaries" because in fact, despite the lack of a UN, many of them were drawn by international commissions who took their work very seriously and took many years to arbitrate. Many of these resettlements reversed immigration that had taken place not years, decades, or generations ago, but centuries in the past, such as the Germans to E Prussia, or the ethnic Greeks in what is now Turkey. These displacements were sometimes, but definitely not always, accompanied by international assistance agencies and often, monetary reparations. Even so, to this day many of the resettlements do fester. There are tensions between the groups that came later, between the groups that left, and the groups that felt affinity with the resettled but were nevertheless left behind. Today there are ethnic Russians in Ukraine who speak Ukrainian, ethnic Russians who speak Russian, and ethnic Ukrainians who speak Russian -- all mixed in with ethnic Ukies who speak their own dialect. Deciding who goes where is never easy, whether you are following an idealized Platonic form of dividing by language, ethnic group, religion, or some other factor. Deciding who has a right of return is an even thornier problem, particularly since it essentially implies yet another round of resettlement.
posted by dhartung at 9:47 PM on June 9, 2002 [1 favorite]

I'm confused about a couple of points, Dhartung.

200,000 Hungarians from Rumania to Hungary

I assume this should read "200,000 from Hungary to Rumania" when Romania annexed Hungarian Transylvania. This happened in 1920 from the Trianon Treaty.

It would be simplistic to assume those are "victors' boundaries"

I think many Hungarians would question that assertion.

At least these days in that part of the world, the only people really raising a fuss are loudmouthed politicians.
posted by MJoachim at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2002

« Older An Urgent Call   |   The ugly side of football: man dies in Moscow... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments