Armenia & Poland & Russia & The Middle East

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.

The issue of millions of refugees

Peter Gatrell is a professor of economic history at the University of Manchester. In his work Introduction: World Wars and Population Displacement In Europe in the Twentieth Century, he speaks about the World Wars as well as the Russian Revolution. He spends much of the work talking about how there millions of refugees after the Russian Revolution, World War I, and World War II. While the number of people who were displaced after the wars is not agreed upon, all of the potential numbers were in the millions. [1] Gatrell mentions that after some time, sociologist Edward Shils wrote about “a widespread psychological regression, i.e. a collapse of adult norms and standards in speech, behavior and attitude, and a reversion to less mature patterns.”[2] He says that this was due to a loss of “original community and family connections.”[3] Gatrell talks about how in postwar Europe, relief workers thought that showing compassion towards the refugees was critical in restoring “moral order” for the displaced people.

We see a large number of refugees today due to events like the war in Syria, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are still millions of refugees and displaced people all over the world. While the problem was more obvious after the World Wars and the Russian Revolution, it is still a major problem in the world today. Do you agree that a loss of community and family connections could cause the phenomenon that Edward Shils wrote about? Do you believe that the relief workers had the right idea when thinking that compassion is the key to restoring “moral order” for refugees? Or do you think that they were wrong in thinking this?

[1] “Introduction: World Wars and Population Displacement in Europe in the Twentieth Century,” Peter Gatrell, 419.

[2] Ibid, 421.

[3] Ibid.

Comparing Armenian and Polish Refugees

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.[1] 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.’”[2] 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.nw_polish_refugees_01          (Image of Polish refugees:

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.”[3] 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.[4] 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?

[1] “Displacing and Re-placing Population in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Poland Compared,” Peter Gatrell, 514.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 520.

[4] Ibid, 521.

Instinctual Scapegoat

The turn of the twentieth century saw the end of the Victorian Era in Europe, and the disciplines of literature, natural science, philosophy, and psychology spearheaded a backlash against formerly dominant middle class ideals. The psychologists Ivan Pavlov and Sigmund Freud studied conditioned reflexes and human instinct, bringing into question mans’ own agency, and thus his ability to marshal infinite progress. Freud’s “Civilization and Die Weltanschauung” was written in the waning days of World War I in 1918. The piece, much like the world at that time, sought peaceful rationality in the wake of violent chaos. According to Freud, the biggest threat to man’s intellect was religion, which both inhibited thought and threatened the objectivity of science. Religion seeks control over the “sensory world,” just as science does, but religion employs the “wish-world” within each person to harness this control. ((Freud, Civilization & Die Weltanschauung, 1918)) Man should remain faithful to reason rather than religion, Freud asserted, because “reason—is among the forces which may be expected to exert a unifying influence upon men” ((Freud, Civilization & Die Weltanschauung, 1918)) —an attractive prospect for those who had witnessed four years of bloody war.

The influence of World War I is further seen in Freud’s work through his discussion of human aggression. Freud claimed that man is naturally aggressive and that this aggression is the biggest impediment to the evolution of civilization. His emphasis on instinct is not surprising given the context of his writing; attributing the horrors of World War I to an instinctual element of man was easier than blaming moral failings and poor decisions. Freud ends his piece with the statement: “evolution of civilization may therefore be simply described as the struggle for life of the human species.” ((Freud, Civilization & Die Weltanschauung, 1918)) Freud himself had just witnessed conflict that feasibly could have actualized the extinction of the human species and his explanation for this conflict was the inescapable aggression of man.


Keynes and The Treaty of Versaille

John Maynard Keynes was an economist in Great Britain during World War I. Keynes also served as a representative of the Treasury of Great Britain and was an outspoken member at Versailles. Since Keynes was an economist he saw the consequences that the sanctions on Germany would do not only to their economy but what it would do to the rest of the world economy. He saw that since Germany would have to pay large sums of money they would not be able to provide for their people and Germany was already facing food shortages because of the Allied blockade. The food shortages and debt sanctions would not allow Germany to import goods, most of Germany’s economy is industrial, and cause the other surrounding economies to suffer the consequences of peace. Keynes stated that instituting this treaty, which would not only force Germany to take drastic measures but would result in the endangering of millions of German people. We can look at Keynes’ argument and know it is strong because of our hindsight that tells us what kind of state Germany becomes in the future.

Spengler’s “Decline of the West”, 1922

Spengler was born in 1880, the first born child of a German mining family. When he was ten, he was trained in the Greco-Roman tradition, learning Greek, Latin, mathematics and art. However, he was also heavily influenced by Nietzche and Goethe’s writings. When he later entered college for a teaching degree, he continued his pursuits of the classics. Spengler was notorious for not including sources in his papers and essays and was heavily criticized for it during his time.

It is no surprise then that his work, “The Decline of the West” is steeped in Greco-Roman references and terms. He parallels the events leading to the end of Roman democracy to the coming end (so he says) of European democracy. It is understandable why Spengler takes a negative tone in his work. In the settlements of the Treaty of Versailles, it is safe to say that Germany got the short end of the stick, so to speak. So Spengler, a born-and-raised German must have felt disenfranchised when he saw his country humiliated and his investments lost. He became very poor before he eventually got his work published.

His message is prophetic and critical, the era of endless progress and materialism is over. The Industrial Revolution is over. A time of Caesars, so he says, is coming. The principles of enlightenment and education will end up hurting Europe in the end.

Question: Do you think that Spengler may have predicted the coming of Adolf Hitler, and Communism in Europe?

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The Economic Consequences of Peace

The Economic Consequences of Peace addresses the effects of the Versailles treaty on the already fragile German system. It described provisions of the Versailles treaty and then illustrates the tragic effects. Keynes explained how before the war the population was living “without much margin of surplus” (Keynes), and in the aftermath people had to restore this system before starvation became a huge issue. Keynes also issued the warning that “men will not always die quietly”, directing this at politicians and men in power and saying that the negative temperaments brought on by starvation/desperation could be fuel for future issues. Another issue with the treaty was that it limited Germany’s ability to import raw materials, which in turn would cause the industries to collapse. If the industry of Germany were to collapse, it would be another factor in mass starvation and discontent in the population. Essentially Keynes issued a warning to not be rash in the direct aftermath of WWI, saying “some of the catastrophes of past history….have been due to the reactions following [war]”. If a population were to grow beyond what it is able provide food for while the economy is still in a fragile state, there is a higher likelihood of it causing future conflicts. Keynes showed a great understanding of predicting the economic side of the German situation, and approached it from this view instead of becoming personally invested in the political aspects of the war.

Freud: Civilization & Die Weltanschauung

Sigmund Freud was a controversial Austrian neurologist who is largely considered the founder of the psychoanalysis field of psychology. For this piece, Civilization & Die Weltanschauung, Freud diverts from the field of abnormal psych and the study of sexuality to write about the relationship between economics, civilization, philosophy, religion and science. Freud writes in 1918, around the end of the first World War.

It is clear that Freud is addressing an audience for this lecture, as he uses phrases such as “In an earlier lecture we have emphasized…”, beyond that Freud utilizes rhetoric skillfully to make his point, starting with the first sentence of the lecture in which he defines Weltanschauung,

 I mean an intellectual construction which gives a unified solution of all the problems of our existence in virtue of a comprehensive hypothesis, a construction, therefore, in which no question is left open and in which everything in which we are interested finds a place.

This definition can be applied to all of the topics on which he speaks. He, however, does not think that everything Weltanschauung applies to is created equal. Religion, he says, creates disastrous results by inhibiting thought, whereas he believes that reason/intellect are the human race’s best hope for the future. All of this culminates in Freud’s understanding of civilization and its evolution,  the struggle between death and the force that brings individuals together.

As an earlier poster pointed out, it is clear from Freud’s conclusion that he writes under the influence of war. In 1918 the Great War was coming to a close and Freud’s homeland of Austria was suffering massive losses. He was certainly not alone in seeking the meaning of the struggle between men.

Freud’s Weltanschauung

Sigmund Freud, known to college students everywhere for his ability to trace all human activity back to sex, published “Civilization and Die Weltanschauung” in 1918, near the end of World War I. While Freud never explicitly mentioned WWI in the excerpt discussed here, he did state that man’s natural inclination to aggression is one of the greatest impediments to civilization. The struggle between a number of contrasting factors, including the struggle between the instinct for life and the instinct for destruction (aggression) forms the evolution of human civilization, according to Freud.

Considering the time in which Freud wrote, and his references to Marxism, it seems impossible that Freud could have written on the topic of aggression without WWI influencing his thinking and writing to some extent. WWI provided a perfect example of the instinct for aggression (an unnecessary war and unnecessary loss of life) alongside an instinct for life (soldiers fighting to preserve their own lives and those of their countrymen and women). Freud also stated that the superiority of reason and intellect over other cultural forces, especially religion, provided the best hope for the future of civilization. He compared religion to neuroticism of the mind and saw it as an irrational, dangerous force. Whereas religion is divisive, in Freud’s mind, reason is unifying.

The early twentieth century was a time of great change, crisis, and rivalry in Europe. Religion and reason, life and aggression–these dichotomies explained die Weltanschauung of the time for Sigmund Freud.

Abdication of Nikolai II

By 1917, Russia’s populace faced a combination of very severe acute food shortages caused by the unorganized and uncontrolled war effort, and social disorder subsequent of several Liberal and revolutionary groups split in their ideas and desires but all dissatisfied with the minimal (or even lack of) reform afforded to them by the Dumas. Nikolai was therefore advised to abdicate, whereupon he drew up a manifesto abdicating his position and naming his brother, Grand Duke Michael, as the next Emperor. Nikolai had not genuinely tried to make any reforms to advance the lives of the general public, with the justification that he did not fathom the outlook or everyday condition of the people and consequently resorted to the Russo-Japanese War and the publication of the October Manifesto as endeavors to maintain the people’s allegiance to him and the autocracy. From Nikolai’s contracted abdication document we are able to see that even at the culmination of the Romanov dynasty, Nikolai had an idealistically optimistic vision of the future. He wrote in his abdication letter, “We call upon all faithful sons of our native land to fulfill their sacred and patriotic duty of obeying the Tsar… and to aid them, together with the representatives of the nation, to conduct the Russian State in the way of prosperity and glory.” This primary source is further evidence that Nikolai did not have a complete awareness of what the underlying problem was and what had gone wrong – the state was not only in chaos because of World War I but a massive social revolution was breaking out. The legislative institution had broken away from the government, more revolutionary tensions and activisms were arising, and the crushed army was motivated by the peasants’ aspiration to obtain land. In a time of anarchy within his State, Nikolai was speaking of an “organized” and “victorious conclusion” of the war. Nikolai’s inability to make decisions is also reflected by carefully worded explanation for not handing his “heritage” to his son (as he had in first abdication letter favored of his hemophilic son Alexei for the “Throne of the Russian State,” over his brother).