Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, History, Free University Berlin

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, Princeton University
When the War Was Over: Soviet Belorussia 1940s-1950s

My dissertation investigates the massive social, political, and personal transformation process that the Second World War enacted in the Soviet Union. More specifically, its focus lies on the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belorussia from the 1940s to the 1950s. During WWII, Belorussia was at the epicenter of Nazi-Soviet total war. Occupied by the German forces in 1941-1944, it also became one of the main sites of the Holocaust. What happened in this borderland had more than regional consequences – it shaped European and Soviet history. This dissertation links three research fields that are conventionally studied separately, but are really intertwined: the German occupation of the Soviet Union, the making of the post-war Soviet system, and the formation of East European societies after the Holocaust. As an investigation into the legacy of war and occupation, I will examine the consequences that the German occupation had for the formation of post-war Belorussian society. How did the question of locals’ behavior during Nazi rule bear on the ways in which individuals reconstructed their communities after the war? And did the “ghosts of war”, in particular the Belorussian Jews, haunt post-war society in this process? Moreover, I will study the impact of the war on the post-1944 reconfiguration of Soviet power. Which political lessons did the Soviet authorities draw from their evaluation of the occupation years and how did the post-war Soviet system reflect these lessons? This remaking of Soviet power went hand in hand with the creation of a new socialist Belorussia. In 1944, the republic was divided into two politically different halves. How did both the regime and society engage in the unification of Western and Eastern Belorussia under the banner of socialism? And did the war events facilitate this process – in other words: Did WWII turn Belorussia, to use Kate Brown’s apt expression, from ethnic borderland into Soviet heartland?