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A Whole Empire Walking

Refugees in Russia during World War I

Peter Gatrell

Publication Year: 2005

"... a signal contribution to a growing literature on a phenomenon that has become tragically pervasive in the 20th century.... This highly original account combines exemplary empirical research with the judicious application of diverse methods to explore the far-reaching ramifications of 'a whole empire walking.'" -- Vucinich Prize citation

"An important contribution not only to modern Russian history but also to an ongoing repositioning of Russia in broader European and world historical processes.... elegantly written... highly innovative." -- Europe-Asia Studies

Drawing on previously unused archival material in Russia, Latvia, and Armenia and on insights from social and critical theory, Peter Gatrell considers the origins of displacement and its political implications and provides a close analysis of humanitarian initiatives and the relationships between refugees and the communities in which they settled.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The story of how this book came to be written is one of friendship, scholarly cooperation, and generous institutional support. John Breuilly, Bob Davies, Yoram Gorlizki, Edmund Herzig, John Klier, Billie Melman, Boris Mironov, Hilary Pilkington, Alfred Rieber, Teodor Shanin, Charles Timberlake, and David Turton all offered encouragement and advice at an early stage of the project. ...

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Introduction: Humanity Uprooted

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pp. 1-14

Most informed observers expected the war that began in Europe in July 1914 to be over in a matter of weeks. The prevailing expectation of a short war was closely tied to conceptions of a war of movement, of brief and decisive military maneuvers that would bring one army to a speedy victory over another. ...

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1.War and the Origins of Involuntary Displacement

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pp. 15-32

Events on Russia’s western front gave rise to acute anxieties almost immediately, as it became clear early in the war that Russia had been forced to yield territory to the enemy.1 Defeat on the battlefield did not spare civilians, who were confronted with a stark choice: whether to remain behind under enemy occupation or to flee eastward. ...

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2.The Politics of Refugeedom

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pp. 33-48

The events of summer 1915 demonstrated to critics of the old regime that Russia’s rulers exercised no control over the Russian high command. The truth of the matter was that the government tried and failed to curb the arbitrary behavior of the generals. At private meetings and in the corridors of power, furious exchanges bore witness to the fraught relationship ...

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3.Resettlement and Relief of Refugees

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pp. 49-72

By the autumn of 1915, the magnitude of the refugee movement could be neither doubted nor disguised. In Petrograd, the center of the country’s political life, the public had become accustomed to the presence of countless refugees. Government ministers, officials, and public activists had begun to consider the likely consequences of refugeedom ...

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4.Consolidating Refugeedom

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pp. 73-114

The tsarist government and the public organizations competed for the right to assume overall administrative responsibility for the fate of refugees, a struggle in which the bureaucratic forces emerged victorious by virtue of their tight grip on financial resources. Yet, as we have seen, the familiar state–society antagonism does not do full justice to the realities of refugee relief. ...

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5.Refugees and Gender

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pp. 115-127

The constitution of refugeedom entailed several implications for notions of gender in late imperial Russia. Although the fact attracted scarcely any comment, relatively few refugees were able-bodied men, many of whom had already been conscripted into the Russian army.1 By implication, patriarchal forms of authority were called into question ...

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6.Refugees and the Labor Market

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pp. 128-140

None of Russia’s refugee population were “immortal” in the sense in which John Berger characterizes the status of migrant workers in western Europe. Refugees were not “continually interchangeable,” and they certainly aged, fell sick, and (in some cases) died before they were able to go “home.” ...

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7.Refugees and the Construction of “National” Identity

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pp. 141-170

The enforced resettlement of population during the First World War from areas threatened by the enemy was termed a “national migration” by eyewitness accounts. Slavic peoples—Ukrainians, Poles, and Belorussians, as well as “Great Russians”— made up the majority, but a substantial proportion of the refugee population were Jews, Latvians, Lithuanians, and Armenians, ...

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8.Revolution and Refugeedom

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pp. 171-196

The marginal position occupied by refugees made them invisible guests at the festival of the Russian revolution. Class affiliation came increasingly to dominate political loyalties and social behavior, leaving refugees ever more in limbo. Refugees lacked any defined corporate representation. They thus did not occupy center stage during the tumultuous events of 1917. ...

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Conclusion: The Meanings of Refugeedom

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pp. 197-210

In this book I have been concerned with a social group that appeared in the public arena virtually overnight. Refugees in wartime Russia posed a clear challenge to social convention. They tested the validity of the officially sanctioned categories of soslovie, whereby each individual was ascribed to a specific estate. ...

Appendix 1. Refugee Population Statistics

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pp. 211-215

Appendix 2. Questionnaire Issued by the Tatiana Committee, January 1917

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pp. 216-218


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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-292


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pp. 293-308


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pp. 309-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780253003027
E-ISBN-10: 0253003024
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253213464

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 19 b&w photos, 3 maps, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Indiana-Michigan Series in Russian and East European Studies