On 23 August 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union concluded an agreement on non-aggression and cooperation called the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that greatly contributed to the outbreak of WWII and the division of Eastern Europe into the German and Soviet sphere of influence. It resulted in both ... (Show more)
On 23 August 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union concluded an agreement on non-aggression and cooperation called the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact that greatly contributed to the outbreak of WWII and the division of Eastern Europe into the German and Soviet sphere of influence. It resulted in both German and Soviet aggression on Poland on September 1 and 17 1939 respectively followed by an almost 2-year-period of brutal Soviet occupation of Poland, then in 1940 the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia) and also parts of Romania (Bukovina and Bessarabia) which brought about sweeping socio-political transformations.
That occupation constituted not only successful restoration of the old Russian and Soviet imperial projects but also construction of political, social, economic and cultural life on the rubble of the old regimes and socio-cultural traditions. That transition was carried out along the lines of the communist ideology in a Stalinist version mainly by means of ruthless violence, extermination and mass repressions.
The reactions of the inhabitants of the areas to those policies were mainly growing anti-Soviet moods and interethnic tensions that turned into profound animosities and sharp conflicts. They came to the fore in summer 1941 when – after the outbreak of the German-Soviet war on June 22 1941 – a wave of ethnic, mainly anti-Jewish, violence occured leading to hundreds of pogroms, massacres and lynches. The question on reasons for those atrocities has remained unanswered.
To explain this phenomenon at least two working hypothesis can be proposed:
1. That ethnic clash was the result of popularity of nationalist ideology among most of the nations inhabiting this region of Europe (Byelarussians, Jews, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Romanians, Ukrainians and others) which pursued their own interests to the detriment of others. Besides, strong traditions of antisemitism led them to perceiving all actions of Jews aimed at obtaining an equal social status under Soviet rule as acts of treachery.
2. Social life under Soviet occupation was rebuilt under conditions of a totalitarian dictatorship in which all citizens were left alone vis a vis the totalitarian state, deprived of any human or civic rights. Their attitudes and survival strategies - based mostly upon accommodation to the socio-political system imposed by the Soviets - can be explained by the concept of totalitarian deprivation in terms of bitter rivalry among members of various social groups for resources and social prestige. In this struggle ethnic or national bonds were the only type of identification that ensured social cohesiveness at the grass-root level.
The latter theory based upon the output of social history seems to propose most convincing explanation to those processes. To prove it social science’s theories should be used namely those of totalitarian state, ethnicity and social deprivation. Moreover, the use of comparative analysis, as well as the perspective of everyday life and microhistorical approach seems to be necessary. Thus, we may escape from excessive focus on ethnicity and ideological issues that always encourage nationalist interpretations. (Show less)