Cleansing the Czechoslovak Borderlands (Paperback)
Migration, Environment, and Health in the Former Sudetenland (Russian and East European Studies)
University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822964261, 288pp.
Publication Date: November 18, 2016
Prior to their expulsion in 1945, ethnic Germans had inhabited the Sudeten borderlands for hundreds of years, with deeply rooted local cultures and close, if sometimes tense, ties with Bohemia’s Czech majority. Cynically, if largely willingly, harnessed by Hitler in 1938 to his pursuit of a Greater Germany, the Sudetenland’s three million Germans became the focus of Czech authorities in their retributive efforts to remove an alien ethnic element from the body politic—and claim the spoils of this coal-rich, industrialized area. Yet, as Glassheim reveals, socialist efforts to create a modern utopia in the newly resettled “frontier” territories proved exceedingly difficult. Many borderland regions remained sparsely populated, peppered with dilapidated and abandoned houses, and hobbled by decaying infrastructure. In the more densely populated northern districts, coalmines, chemical works, and power plants scarred the land and spewed toxic gases into the air. What once was a diverse religious, cultural, economic, and linguistic “contact zone,” became, according to many observers, a scarred wasteland, both physically and psychologically.
Glassheim offers new perspectives on the struggles of reclaiming ethnically cleansed lands in light of utopian dreams and dystopian realities—brought on by the uprooting of cultures, the loss of communities, and the industrial degradation of a once-thriving region. To Glassheim, the lessons drawn from the Sudetenland speak to the deep social traumas and environmental pathologies wrought by both ethnic cleansing and state-sponsored modernization processes that accelerated across Europe as a result of the great wars of the twentieth century.
About the Author
Praise For Cleansing the Czechoslovak Borderlands: Migration, Environment, and Health in the Former Sudetenland (Russian and East European Studies)…
—European History Quarterly
—Pieter M. Judson, European University Institute
—Tara Zahra, author of The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World
"How can historians find a "usable past," beyond a cautionary tale of the price of national conflict, of the post-war ethnic cleansing of Central Europe? By reckoning the cost of this project, Glassheim seeks to provide us with a different narrative--one that calls into question the destructive nation-building and modernizing romanticism of the last century, and one that bridges divisions between Czechs, Germans, and others damaged by efforts to create a cleansed, modernized nation-state."
—American Historical Review
—Environment and History
—Central European History