In Peter Gatrell’s article, Displacing and Re-Placing Population in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Russia, he argues that the two ethnic groups sought protection both Post-World War I and II in order to establish the legitimacy of their state; however, the Armenians supported Russian “protection” while the Poles chose to abandon their homeland because of ideological differences. Gatrell is a Professor of Economic History at the University of Manchester in the U.K. His specialty is analyzing the economic influence of refugees and their movement after both World Wars.
What Gatrell keyed in on in the article but did not specifically mention is larger state’s influence on the movement of refugee and migrant groups based on ethnicity. The Soviet influence on both states is critical to understanding how well each ethnic group functioned within its own nation-state: Poland dealing with a complex egalitarian relationship, while Armenia relied on Russia for the creation and establishment of their “republic”. The implications that Gatrell’s piece has for modern day politics is astonishing to me. How do we deal with the refugee crisis in regards to international politics, because like the article states, while each group had their “state”, there were many issues that they struggled with because of their benefactor’s own political agendas.
Peter Gatrell is a Professor of Economic History at the University of Manchester. He has demonstrated a great interest European cultural history. His publications focus on population displacement and state-building following World War I and World War II. When considering his extensive experience studying European history, it is evident that his projects correlate with his interests.
While reading Gatrell’s work, “Displacing and Re-placing Populations in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Poland Compared,” I was captivated by his comparison between these two ethnic groups’ histories. Although I have been exposed to the histories of World War I and II, I have not had the chance to learn about the many ethnic groups that were left stranded after these wars. Many Armenians chose to live in “Soviet Armenia” following World War I because it was seen as one of the best options for resettlement. Although this was one of their better options, the Soviets worked to “’keep [them] for the Armenian nation’ to develop ‘loyal citizens of Red Armenia.’” Rather than supporting their cultural differences, Armenians were expected to adopt Soviet values following World War I. Although these sentiments were stressed, Armenians established repatriation following World War II during the 1940s. They were focused on maintaining their cultural differences from the Soviet Union while establishing this state. The Armenians’ desires for separation from the Soviets were quite strong due to the homogeneity among the population. (Image of Polish refugees:http://www.firstworldwar.com/photos/refugees.htm)
Although the Poles were also refugees following these wars, they went through a different experience than the Armenians. After World War I, Poles were very focused on returning back to Poland. However, after returning home, they discovered that “’home’ looked very different.” This negative viewpoint showcased that their desire to reestablish a strong Poland was less desirable compared to the nationalistic Armenians. Additionally, establishing a stable Poland during the interwar period proved more difficult for Poland because of the tumultuous relations compared between Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. The Armenians and Poles certainly shared the desire to find a country for establishment; however, it appears that the Armenians’ desire was more unified than the Poles.
What are your thoughts on these displacements? What other differences and similarities between these two ethnic groups’ reestablishments do you find interesting?
 “Displacing and Re-placing Population in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Poland Compared,” Peter Gatrell, 514.
In response to Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin in Moscow, as well as to the growing discontent at home, citizens of Poland, Hungary and eventually Czechoslovakia.
Poland: June 1956
Workers broke out in protest against the unpopular Communist regime and demanded better pay and treatment at the hands of the government. The demonstrations eventually fizzled out thanks to the reformist Wladyslaw Gomulka, who worked with Soviet leaders and the Polish Communist Party to appease the workers and avoid a revolution.
Hungary: October 1956
A year prior, Hungarian’s liberal leader Imre Nagy was removed from power by supporters of his previous opponent Matyas Rakosi (who had run Hungary up until 1953, when Nagy took power). Discontent continued to grow until October of 1956 when students who had followed the protests in Hungary staged a demonstration that turned violent. The violence soon grew out of hand with rebels arming themselves and forming councils to take over factories. Soviet forces were a part of the initial struggle but it wasn’t until October 31st that Khrushchev decided that a full invasion was necessary to control the situation. Nagy, who had been restored as Prime Minister on the 24th, frantically declared Hungary’s withdrawal from the Warsaw Pact in an attempt to place himself at the center of the revolutionaries resistance. Nagy was eventually captured, tried and executed by the Soviets, along with other insurgent leaders.
Alexander Dubcek became First Secretary of Czechoslovakia in January 1968 and brought with him the promise of “socialism with a human face.” His grand vision of reform was most unwelcome to the Soviets, who not only feared what could happen in Czechoslovakia, but also what would happen if the wave of reform spread to the Union itself. Soviet officials tried to force Dubcek to abandon his reform plans but he argued that it was too late–the people had too much momentum to accept a return to old ways. In late August the Politburo launched a joint-Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia to contain the situation.
This invasion translated into the new Brezhnev Doctrine, which asserted the rights of “the right and responsibility of Communist parties of fraternal socialist countries to intervene against anti-socialist degeneration.” (www.soviethistory.org) Although the invasion was relatively violent-free, the reform movement was squashed and would not regain momentum for quite a while.