Divide and Rule: Daniel Fedorowycz on Ukrainians in Interwar Poland

Daniel FedorowyczOn Monday, March 27, HURI’s Seminar in Ukrainian Studies features Daniel Fedorowycz, Eugene and Daymel Shklar Research Fellow. A graduate of Oxford University, Fedorowycz studies inter-communal ethnic violence. During the seminar, he’ll present his research on the experience of the Ukrainian minority in interwar Poland, the prelude to his current project as a fellow at HURI. 

Although his presentation focuses on Ukrainians in Poland, the talk may be of interest to social scientists, historians, and others interested in ethnic politics in multinational states in general. 

"By combining political science research methods with extensive archival work, I seek to cross disciplinary boundaries and encourage discussion between social scientists and historians, who, though often sharing similar research topics, tend to work in isolation from one another," he said.

We asked Fedorowycz a few questions about his talk and research projects. All are welcome to attend the seminar (or watch it online through our Facebook page) to learn more.

HURI: Your talk is entitled, "Divide and Rule: Managing the Ukrainian Minority in Interwar Poland." What can we expect? 

Fedorowycz: Broadly, I’ll be discussing strategies which the Polish Ministry of Interior used to quell Ukrainian opposition. In so doing, I go beyond common explanations offered in the historical literature that focus mainly on group-level assimilationist policies, namely the Polish-dominated school system and the official program in the early 1920s to colonize the Ukrainian-inhabited eastern borderlands with “loyal” Poles from central Poland. Instead, I shed light on Ministry of Interior policies which aimed at dividing and thereby weakening the Ukrainian opposition by exploiting the many cleavages among Ukrainian political organizations. This analysis involves a more nuanced approach in managing the Ukrainian opposition; it was not simply universally repressed or assimilated, but rather strategically and selectively curbed.

HURI: Why did you choose to explore this topic?

Polish Ministry of Interior Fedorowycz: My main research interest is inter-communal ethnic violence. Specifically, I am interested in analyzing the mass violence that erupted in World War II in the ethnically mixed Polish-Ukrainian Eastern Borderlands. To understand these complex wartime dynamics, however, deep understanding of the pre-War ethnic politics is vital. As such, I decided that it was important to examine the various policies and the political climate of the interwar period in Poland before trying to reach any conclusions about what happened during World War II. I often find that work on Polish-Ukrainian relations during World War II selectively looks back into the interwar period for answers to explain the bloody wartime experience, taking a deterministic, rather than theoretically or empirically based, approach. What happened during World War II between Poles and Ukrainians, however, was far from inevitable; understanding the interwar period emphasizes this point.

HURI: How does the topic fit into the research you are doing at HURI?

Fedorowycz: Having spent considerable time researching the interwar period, I’m now shifting my focus to examine the contentious World War II dynamics between Poles and Ukrainians. In a way, then, the research I’m conducting at HURI is a continuation of the story, albeit a much darker chapter.

HURI: Is there one particular fact or insight you've encountered in your research that you find especially interesting?

Fedorowycz: One of the main implications of my research is to showcase the utility of taking a comparative approach and using research methodologies that traditionally are used in isolation. In this presentation I’ll be focusing on the Ukrainian minority, but my findings draw from an examination of the Belarusian, German, and Jewish minority experiences in interwar Poland. I use both quantitative statistical analysis and qualitative historical-comparisons, in addition to drawing from broad theoretical and empirical literature on minority politics that go far beyond the interwar Polish experience. Taking this comparative and multidisciplinary approach allows us to shed new light on old questions.

Daniel Fedorowycz completed his doctorate in Politics at the University of Oxford. His dissertation examines ethnic politics in multinational states and focuses on the variation in state response to minority group organizations in interwar Poland. More broadly, Daniel researches questions relating to the causes of ethnic conflict through examining local-level dynamics in the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands during the interwar and World War II era. In 2014-15, Daniel was a pre-doctoral fellow at Yale University’s Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence. He holds a MA in European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies and BA(Hons) from the University of Toronto. Currently, Daniel is a Shklar Fellow at the Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University.

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