“Cities and regions in flux after border change: Reconfiguring the frontier, reshaping memory and visualizing change in twentieth century Europe”

International Conference

Rijeka, Croatia, 10-12 July 2019

Venue: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka

Address: Sveučilišna avenija 4, 51000 Rijeka (Room 230, 2nd Floor)

Since the end of the First World War, cities and regions in Europe, particularly in the eastern half of the continent, witnessed frequent changes in borders. Previous research on border change and territorial transfers has focused on the actions of nationalizing regimes after the 1919 Paris conference, as well as the post-1945 transfer of territories in East-Central Europe and ensuing flight, expulsions and repopulation programs (Rieber 2000, Ther and Siljak 2001, Ballinger 2003, Crainz Pupo and Salvatici 2008, Snyder 2010, Ferrara 2011, Thum 2011, Reinisch, and White 2011, Ferrara and Pianciola 2012, Service 2013, Sezneva 2013). Recent research has analysed how states appropriated cities and regions they gained from neighbours (Karch 2018), and, in the case of socialist states, used urban remodelling as an opportunity to showcase socialist modernization projects, as occurred in Lviv, Ukraine (Amar 2015) and in Yugoslavia (Kulić and Mrduljaš 2012, Le Normand 2014). While research on transferred cities and territories has tended to see border changes primarily as ruptures tearing people from their old lives and cutting cities off from their previous national frameworks, this emphasis is called into question by scholarship by geographers and sociologists who comprehend cities not as discrete entities but as nodes within regional, national and global networks. From this perspective, cities are spaces in which flows of different types (goods, labour, capital, information) enter, converge, and exit, connecting these cities with other circuits and points across the globe (Massey 1991, Castells 2002, Harvey 2003).

This conference seeks contributions that showcase research on history, memory, and mapping tools in the context of European border changes in the twentieth century. We are interested in highlighting research on the experience of cities and regions that have undergone border changes in the twentieth century in order to showcase histories of transition, to examine the reshaping of local and regional memory practices, and to explore the variety of research methods that might be used to conceptualize and visualize change.

Keynote speakers:

Dominique Kirchner Reill, Associate Professor, University of Miami, author of Nationalists Who Feared the Nation: Adriatic Multi-Nationalism in Habsburg Dalmatia, Trieste, and Venice (Stanford University Press, 2012.) presenting her new book The Fiume Crisis: Life in the Wake of the Habsburg Empire.    

Anne Kelly Knowles, McBride Professor of History at the University of Maine, editor of Placing History: How Maps, Spatial Data, and GIS Are Changing Historical Scholarship (2008) and Geographies of the Holocaust (2014), Guggenheim fellow (2015).

Brendan Karch, Assistant Professor of History at Louisiana State University, author of Nation and Loyalty in a German-Polish Borderland: Upper Silesia, 1848–1960 (Cambridge University Press, 2018)

Olga Sezneva, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Amsterdam, whose work has examined the connection between the urban built environment and social memory (particularly in the case of Kaliningrad/Königsberg), human mobility, and digital technologies; part of the artistic collective Moving Matters Traveling Workshop.

Organisers: The conference is organized by the Univeristy of Rijeka, Centre for Advanced Studies – South East Europe, with the support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada-funded project Rijeka in Flux: Borders and Urban Change after World War II, the Memoryscapes project’s Seasons of Power flagship programme for Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture, and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Research Group, “Empires of Memory: The Cultural Politics of Historicity in Former Habsburg and Ottoman Cities”.





From the crisis to a “Third Yugoslavia”. The political project of Ante Marković and the Alliance of Reformist Forces

In the extensive literature on the crisis and the dissolution of the Second Yugoslavia, the role of the so-called “alternatives”, grounding on a democratic and progressive view of the Yugoslav state, has been understudied. My research project aims to explore the actor who most prominently embodied this option within institutions and the political system: Ante Marković, the federal Prime Minister from march 1989 to December 1991, and the Alliance of Reformist Forces of Yugoslavia (Savez Reformskih Snaga Jugoslavije, hereafter SRSJ), a party established by the same Marković in 1990. Through analysing public narratives, strategies and interactions of the Federal Government and of the party, the talk examines how a proposal explicitly grounded on “rational” and “negotiating” principles emerged and immediately faced structural or deliberate obstacles, as well as its own limits and faults, in a political arena increasingly polarized along ethno-national lines, within a context of extreme socio-economic crisis. In particular, the talk explores the Marković’s project in terms of its intrinsically political dimension and quest for social legitimacy, focusing on the following points: first, the attempt to reform the institutional framework through reshaping the federal jurisdictions and establishing a proper multi-party system at the state level, in order to set the bases for a “Third Yugoslavia”; second, the effort to convert into mobilized support the high political capital earned by its economic programme, inspired to an integration between market reforms and socialist elements (“new socialism”) rather than a fully neoliberal model, which had some correspondences with other 1989 transition paths in Central-Eastern Europe; third, the re-elaboration and re-animation of the founding historical and cultural principles of Yugoslav supranational unity.


“Za dom spremni!” Transnationalism, Diaspora Politics and Croatian Separatist Terrorism.

Of the myriad terrorist organizations that emerged in the late 1960s and 1970s, those supporting the destruction of socialist Yugoslavia and the establishment of an independent Croatia were among the most active.  In one ten year period, Croatian separatists committed no fewer than 52 noteworthy incidents of violence in Australia. Elsewhere—including West Germany, the United States, and within Yugoslavia itself—émigré Croat radicals were responsible for more than fifty assassinations or assassination attempts, forty bombings of public buildings and monuments, and two airplane hijackings during the same time. This talk examines how transnational structures and frames stimulated émigré political actors to first imagine, then develop and finally justify the decision to incorporate violence into their repertoires of political engagement. The talk focuses on how difficulties arising from the fact that the Croatian diaspora existed in ‘landscapes’ as much as ‘lands’ helped define and delimit the repertoires of political action taken up by radicals.  The internal and external pressures of being forced to operate in transnational space led Croatian radicals to cultivate a culture of abandonment, betrayal, and persecution, in which the Croats were portrayed as a nation of victims without allies.  This helped precipitate a radicalization of the separatist movement, as many within the Croatia diaspora increasingly became convinced that only “self-initiated action”—i.e. political violence and terrorism—could hasten the establishment of an independent Croatian state.

Marco Bresciani

In the Shadow of the Habsburg Empire. Postwar crisis, National Conflicts and New Fascist Order.

In the last two decades an increasing bibliography has focused on fascism in new ways, by shifting from a typological to a conceptual perspective and at the same time by developing transnational comparative approaches. However, the historical accounts of the Italian fascist movement and regime – the pioneering experiment and the first model of fascism – are still embedded within persistent national frameworks. Particularly striking in this respect is the growing gap between the common narratives of the ascent of Mussolini’s fascist movement and the new historiography on the global and European post-WWI crisis. What can we learn from the new researches on the imperial 1917-1923 crises and post-imperial legacies in the “Eurasian” area, in order the reframe the understanding of the early Italian fascism and its radical nationalism? In what sense, and to what extent, is it possible to compare the “squadrismo” with other synchronic phenomena of paramilitary violence in East Central Europe? A case in point will be provided by the post-Habsburg borderland of Venezia Giulia, in which the formation and success of the “squadrismo” took place as early as in 1920 and accordingly became a model for the whole Italian fascism.