Klaus Richter
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‘A mass which you could form into whatever you wanted’
Refugees and state building in Lithuania and Courland, 1914–21
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Looking at developments from the beginning of the First World War until the early 1920s, this chapter considers the impact of ethnic belonging on the treatment of refugees and the changes in ethnic policies over the course of the war and the first years of independent statehood. The focus is on Lithuania and Courland for two reasons, firstly because they both formed part of Ober Ost and therefore shared many of the consequences of occupation. However, displacement and repatriation differed quite significantly between the two regions. The refugee crisis of the First World War and ensuing repatriation irrevocably changed the ethnic fabric of Latvia and Lithuania. Tomas Balkelis considers the process of repatriation and emphasises that refugees 'had to be persuaded or forced to abandon their divergent and multiple identities' in order to become citizens of the newly established independent nation state.

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Europe on the move

Refugees in the era of the Great War


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