Transformation and Totalization: Intimate Violence in the Polish-Ukrainian Borderlands, 1918-19, 1939, and 1941
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“Transformation and Totalization: Intimate Violence in the Polish-Ukrainian Borderlands, 1918-19, 1939, and 1941” examines the transformation of intimate violence—violence between and among neighbors—before and after communities in the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands were exposed to totalitarianism. I structure my comparison around the methods, motives, and scale of intimate violence during the Polish-Ukrainian Civil War (1918-19), the Soviet invasion of Poland (1939), and the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (1941). However unlike many scholars before me, I go beyond the traditional focus on anti-Jewish violence. The Polish-Ukrainian borderlands were multi-ethnic and all three ethno-linguistic groups (Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews) must be examined equally in order to present a neutral narrative of inter-ethnic violence. In my two chapters I present primary source evidence of violence not only against Jews, but against Poles and Ukrainians as well, with most attacks being initiated by locals against their neighbors. The shift in intimate violence that occurred after the establishment of totalitarian rule in the region is extraordinary. In 1918-19, the most brutal methods of violence (e.g. rape, torture, and murder) were monopolized by militias and the armed forces. The Soviet invasion of 1939 destroyed all existing social hierarchies—including those present in the military—providing civilians the ability to engage in methods of violence previously restricted to them. It was not until 1941, however, that civilians employed rape, torture, and murder on a large scale; unlike Soviet authorities, Nazi commanders gave many Poles and Ukrainians a “free hand” with regard to the initiation of violence against their neighbors.