Refugees - a never ending story


The increase of global figures of refugees in the last decades, their use in the field of political argumentation and in the public discourse pose the question of historization of the refugee topic. also The latter is also important because of the fact that refugees and refugee experiences have been largely excluded from the »mainstream« historical debates; as a historical category they are absent from discussions of social sciences and even more from the politics. The reasons for a deficient interest of the historiography are hard to explain, for the fact that the displacements of the civil population have always been part of processes such as wars, revolutions or formation of (nation) states. The absence of refugees to the markings of historical debates thus represents also only a partial understanding of the processes that not only marked an era, but fundamentally changed it. Refugees have been one of the main “products” of the post-imperial Europe and a key feature of the European evolution after WW1, despite the chronological diversification and differences in the duration of the war and its endings. The main motor of the refugeedom were hence the dissolution of the empires, total war and revolution, which represent the essence of the present project proposal.

The project idea on refugees as a never-ending story represents a response to the actual processes in the world, in Europe and in Slovenia and are a response to the ahistorical approach when confronting the refugees in our time, who are treated in actual policy exclusively as an issue of security. With WW1, the refugees became an object of international politics and a factor in international relations, after the war they became a decisive factor in internal and international politics, which led to the first international stipulations regarding the refugee status and (non)citizenship. The decision for the time frame of the project is sound, as it will encompass the period of the genocidal 20th Century, which marked the Slovenian territory from the refugee point of view as a territory of departure and arrival, the first being the main focus of the project. The research will analyse the two world wars and the war in the former Yugoslavia (1991 – 1995); the First and the Second World war will be analysed from the point of view of the departures, whereas the “last” war will place the Slovenian territory as the place of arrival of the refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The ends of both world wars, the insecurity, the dissolution of empires and the decomposition of the imperial control over the citizens did not mark the end of the refugeedom, on the contrary. The processes of nationalization and “purification” of the post-war spaces were the consequences of nationalisms, particularisms and expulsionisms that aimed to form “pure”/national states and thus demanded the displacement of the population with wrong ethnic credentials. This is why the project group should and will not omit the topic of expulsions immediately after world wars, yet in a limited manner.  One of the project clusters will thus research the topic of a special social group, i.e. the nobility and its fate after WW2. It has to be pointed out that the nobility was not treated as a special social group, but as Germans and thus had to face the same procedures as Germans settled in the Slovenian territory; the basis for the expulsions were thus made on a completely false national assumption. The presentations of individual cases of the noble families in the Slovenian lands in the 1940s are otherwise scattered in literature, but were never subject of a systematic research. A revealing case study will be that about the refugee topic in the art, the art historians and artists, who were connected to the experience of the refugeedom.

The research of the Slovenian refugee experience will further on place the Slovenian forced migrations in the context of the European history of war migrations, because it has been neglected in the European contextualization of war violence and consequent migrations, maybe because geographically or factually not interesting enough for the European historiography.

Project steps

1st Year:

  • recording different sources (archives, libraries, field work))
  • a roundtable: public presentation of the project idea and of the preliminary results

2nd Year:

  • continuation of the recording
  • analyses of the sources and writing of the texts
  • workshop: refugeedom and WW1, case-study – Art on the move

3rd Year:

  • workshop: refugeedom in WW2, case-study - nobility
  • organization of the panel at the future convention of The Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies
  • preparation of the studies on individual project clusters, in English as well
  • monograph on the refugeedom in WW1
  • preparation of a virtual exhibition and of an exhibition with the cooperation of the Museum of National Liberation in Maribor