You are here

Vilnius in 1918-1919: A Frontier City in War, Nation-Making and Revolution

The talk will focus on the stormy juncture of 1918-1919 in Vilnius as a contested city in the context of imperial collapse. The crisis in the city has been triggered by Germany’s capitulation in World War One and the German revolution in November 1918. The collapse of the monopoly of power in the region led to a number of political actors each claiming the multi-ethnic city as part of their political orders. I will examine the actions and motivations of Lithuanian Council (Taryba), Polish Self-Defence (Samoobrona), German Soldantenrat, Soviet Council of Workers, and the advancing Red Army. The emphasis will be on their attempts to look for a military solution to the control of city with a particular focus on their strategies of mobilization and negotiation. The abundance of demobilizing soldiers encouraged rapid creation of new (para)military structures among various ethnic and social groups and turned the city’s population into hostages of political agitation, military mobilization and disorder. The conflict over Vilnius epitomized a new type of ‘frontier warfare’ where the boundaries between the militaries and civilians became blurry and fluid, while fierce political activism created new configurations of power among the multi-ethnic population.
Dr. Tomas Balkelis received his Ph.D. in History at the University of Toronto in 2004. After graduation, he worked at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham. During the last two years, he led a Lithuanian Research Council funded team of historians based at Vilnius University working on the international project 'Population Displacement in Lithuania in the XXth century' which focused on forced population transfers, refugee identities and displacement experiences between the Great War and the end of the Cold War. During 2009-2013, he was a European Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University College Dublin. He is the author of The Making of Modern Lithuania (Routledge, 2009). His articles among other journals have been published by Past and Present and Contemporary European History. He has a particular interest in the modern history of Baltics, Russia, and Poland. His research fields include nation-building, national myth-making, population displacement and paramilitary violence. He is currently working on a monograph on paramilitarism in the Baltic States after the Great War. 



Friday, October 21, 2016. 12:00 PM


Encina Hall West, Room 219


CREEES Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies




This event is open to Stanford affiliates.
RSVP requested.