For centuries Central and Eastern Europe has been the scene of frequent changes of borders and numerous ethnic conflicts. Contemporary ethnic diversity of this region is much smaller, however, the growing nationalisms of the various societies, mutual mistrust, and the temptation of politicians to use ethnic issues in the regional geopolitical competition pose a real threat to the stability and peace in Central and Eastern Europe. The dynamic political, legal, social and economic changes which have been taking place in this part of Europe for three decades now, which overlay its clear civilization division into the Latin and the Byzantine parts and are intensified by historical animosities, must have had an impact on the situation and the perception of minorities. In contrast to Western Europe, the contemporary ethnic diversity of Central and Eastern Europe is primary the consequence of various, often centuries-old historical processes (settlement actions, voluntary and forced migrations, border changes, the political and economic expansion of particular countries), and in the ethnic structure especially dominate the indigenous groups, migrants, particularly from the outside of the European cultural circle, are of marginal importance. Moreover, national minorities are usually concentrated in the border regions of countries, often in close proximity to their home countries, becoming – often against their will – element of the internal and foreign policies of neighbouring countries. The main aims of the article are to explain the threats to peace arising from the attempts to use minorities in inter-state relations and regional geopolitics as well as engaging minority groups into ethnic and political conflicts (autonomy of regions, secession attempts) and still the very large role of history (especially negative, tragic events) in the shaping of contemporary interethnic relations in Central and Eastern Europe. However, the varied ethnic structure typical for this region does not have to be a conflict factor, on the contrary – it can become a permanent element of the identity and cultural heritage of each country.
national minority, ethnic minority, border region, separatism, ethnic conflicts, international relations
APPADURAI, A. (2006), Fear of small numbers. An essay on the geography of angry. Durham: Duke University Press.
BACHMANN, K. and LYUBASHENKO, I. (eds.) (2014), The Maidan Uprising, Separatism and Foreign Intervention.Berlin: Peter Lang. International Academic Publisher.
BAŃSKI, J. (2008), ‘Polska i Europa Środkowo-Wschodnia w koncepcjach podziału Europy’, [in:] EBERHARDT, P. (ed.), Problematyka geopolityczna ziem polskich, Warsaw: Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania PAN, pp. 121‒134.
BARWIŃSKI, M. (2013), ‘Polish Interstate Relations with Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania after 1990 in the Context of the Situation of National Minorities’, European Spatial Research and Policy, 20 (1), pp. 5‒26.
BARWIŃSKI, M. (2014), ‘Struktura narodowościowa Polski w świetle wyników spisu powszechnego z 2011 roku’, Przegląd Geograficzny, 86 (2), pp. 217‒241.
BARWIŃSKI, M. (2016), ‘Wielokulturowość we współczesnych polskich badaniach geograficznych i edukacji geograficznej – zarys problematyki’, Przegląd Geograficzny, 88 (2), pp. 137‒158.
BARWIŃSKI, M. and LEŚNIEWSKA, K. (2014), ‘The contemporary situation of Polish minority in Lithuania and Lithuanian minority in Poland from the institutional perspective’, Geographia Polonica, 87 (1), pp. 27‒46.
BATT, J. (2001), ‘Between a rock and a hard place – multi-ethnic regions on the EU’s new eastern frontier’, East European Politics & Societies, 15 (3), pp. 502‒527.
BESIER, G. and STOKŁOSA, K. (2017), Neighbourhood Perceptions of the Ukraine Crisis. From the Soviet Union into Eurasia?, London and New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
BRUBAKER, R. (1996), Nationalism reframed: nationhood and the national question in the New Europe.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
BUDYTA-BUDZYŃSKA, M. (2010), Socjologia narodu i konfliktów etnicznych.Warsaw: PWN.
BUFON, M., MINGHI, J. and PAASI, A. (eds.) (2014), The New European Frontiers: Social and Spatial (Re)-Integration Issues in Multicultural and Borders Regions. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars.
COHEN, S. (1973), Geography and Politics in a World Divided. New York: Oxford University Press.
DEVYATKOV, A. (2012), ‘Russian policy toward Transnistria’, Problems of Post-Communism, 59 (3), pp. 53‒62.
DUVOLD, K. and BERGLUND, S. (2014), ‘Democracy between Ethnos and Demos: Territorial Identification and Political Support in the Baltic States’, East European Politics and Societies, 28 (2), pp. 341‒365.
EBERHARDT, P. (2003), Ethnic groups and populations changes in twentieth-century in Central-Eastern Europe. History, data and analysis, New York and London: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
EBERHARDT, P. (2004), ‘Koncepcja granicy między cywilizacją zachodniego chrześcijaństwa a bizantyjską na kontynencie europejskim’, Przegląd Geograficzny, 76 (2), pp. 169–187.
GAPONENKO, A. V. (2013), Ethnic conflicts in the Baltic States in post-soviet period. Riga: Institute for European Studies.
GYURCSIK, I. and SATTERWHITE, J. (1996), ‘The Hungarians in Slovakia’, Nationalities Papers, 24 (3), pp. 509‒524.
HASTINGS, A. (1997), The construction of nationhood: ethnicity, religion and nationalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
HEFFNER, K. (1998), ‘Ethnically mixed regions in the Polish conceptions of regionalisation: the Opole Region in Silesia’, [in:] BURDACK, J., GRIMM, F-D. and PAUL, L. (eds.), The political geography of current East-West relations. Lipsk: Institut für Länderkunde, pp. 214–230.
HUNTINGTON, S. P. (1996), The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: A Touchstone Book.
ISTOK, R. (2003), ‘Hungarian minority at the southern border of Slovakia in the political and geographical context’, [in:] KOTER, M. and HEFFNER, K. (eds.), The role of ethnic minorities in border regions, Łódź–Opole, pp. 98‒108.
JANICKI, K. (2009), Źródła nienawiści. Konflikty etniczne w krajach postkomunistycznych. Cracow–Warsaw: Instytut Wydawniczy Erica.
JANUSAUSKIENE, D. (2016), ‘Ethnicity as political cleavage: the political agenda of the Polish national minority in Lithuania’, Nationalities Papers. The Journal of Nationalism and Ethnicity, 44 (4), pp. 1‒13.
KATCHANOVSKI, I. (2016), ‘The Separatist War in Donbas: A Violent Break-up of Ukraine?’, European Politics and Society, 17 (4), pp. 473‒489.
KAUFMAN, S. J. (2001), Modern hatreds. The symbolic politics of ethnic war. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
KOCSIS, K. and KOCSIS-HODOSI, E. (1998), Ethnic geography of the Hungarian minorities in the Carpathian Basin, Budapest: Geographical Research Institute.
KOLOSSOV, V. (1999), ‘Ethnic and political identities and territorialities in the post-Soviet space’, GeoJournal, 48 (2), pp. 71‒81.
KOMORNICKI, T. and MISZCZUK, A. (2010), ‘Eastern Poland as the borderland of the European Union’, Quaestiones Geographicae, 29 (2), pp. 55‒69.
KOROSTELINA, K. V. (2008), ‘Identity, autonomy and conflict in republics of Russia and Ukraine’, Communist and Post-Communist Studies, 41, pp. 79‒91.
KOTER, M. (1993), ‘Geographical classifications of ethnic minorities’, Geographica Slovenica. Geography and ethnicity, 24, pp. 123–138.
KOTER, M. (1995), ‘A genetic classification of frontier peoples and multicultural border zones in Poland, Bohemia and Slovakia’, Acta Universitatis Mattiae Belii Banska Bystrica. Geopgraphical Studies, 1, pp. 37–45.
KOTER, M. (2003), ‘Multicultural border regions of Europe – form of ethnic composition and process of their differentiation’, [in:] KOTER, M. and HEFFNER, K. (eds.), The role of ethnic minorities in border regions, Łódź–Opole, pp. 13–22.
KOWALSKI, M. (2008), ‘Wileńszczyzna jako problem geopolityczny w XX wieku’, [in:] EBERHARDT, P. (ed.), Problematyka geopolityczna ziem polskich, Warsaw: Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania PAN, pp. 267‒296.
KOWALSKI, M. and SOLON, J. (2008), ‘Ethnical diversity and regional development of eastern borderland regions in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia’, [in:] Territorial dilemmas of socio-economic development in Europe. Europa XXI (18). Warsaw: Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania PAN, pp. 79–98.
LEŚNIEWSKA, K.. (2013), ‘The socio-political situation of Poles in Vilnius after the accession of Lithuania to the European Union’, [in:] HEFFNER, K. (ed.), The Eastern dimension of the United Europe, Łódź–Opole, pp. 41‒54.
LEŚNIEWSKA-NAPIERAŁA, K. (2015), Geograficzno-polityczne uwarunkowania sytuacji mniejszości polskiej na Litwie i Łotwie po 1990 roku, Łódź: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Łódzkiego.
LEVINSSON, C. (2006), ‘The long shadow of history: Post-Soviet border disputes. The case of Estonia, Latvia and Russia’, The Quarterly Journal (Fall), pp. 98‒109.
LUGOSI, N. (2011), ‘The Hungarian minority question in Slovakia and Romania’, Review of Applied Socio-Economic Research, 1 (2), pp. 111‒120.
MALOVA, D. and VILAGI, A. (2006), ‘European integration and ethnic minorities: A case study of Hungarians in Slovakia’, Sociológia, 38 (6), pp. 507‒532.
MANDELBAUM, M., (ed.) 2000. The new European diasporas: national minorities and conflict in Eastern Europe. New York: Council on Foreign Relations.
MITROKHIN, N. (2015), ‘Infiltration, Instruction, Invasion: Russia’s War in the Donbas’, Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, 1, pp. 219‒249.
MOLE, R. C. M. (2012), The Baltic States from the Soviet Union to the European Union: Identity, discourse and power in the post-communist transition of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. New York: Routledge.
MORACZEWSKA, A. and JANICKI, W. (eds.), (2014), Border conflicts in the contemporary world. Lublin: Maria Curie-Skłodowska University Press.
NORKUNAITE, M. (2016), ‘A state smaller than its territory: Struggles over identity and loyalty on the southeastern borderland of Lithuania’, Politologija, 2 (82), pp. 75‒116.
O’LOUGHLIN, J., KOLOSSOV, V. and TCHEPALYGA, A. (1998), ‘National Construction, Territorial Separatism and Post-Soviet Geopolitics: The Example of the Transdniester Moldovan Republic’, Post-Soviet Geography and Economics, 39 (6), pp. 332‒358.
RUMLEY, D. and MINGHI, J. V. (eds.), (1991), The geography of border landscapes. London: Routledge.
RYKAŁA, A. and SOBCZYŃSKI, M. (2016), ‘Naród polski jako żywa struktura. Kształtowanie się poczucia odrębności narodowej Ślązaków pod wpływem uwarunkowań geograficzno-historycznych i geograficzno-politycznych’, Studia z Geografii Politycznej i Historycznej, 5, pp. 133‒176.
RYKIEL, Z. (2006), Podstawy geografii politycznej.Warsaw: Polskie Wydawnictwo Ekonomiczne.
SLYVKA, R. (2017), ‘The preconditions for conflicts in Donbas and Crimea: similarities and differences’ [in:] SOBCZYŃSKI, M. and BARWIŃSKI, M. (eds.), Borderlands of nations, nations of borderlands, Łódź–Opole, pp. 187‒224.
SOBCZYŃSKI, M. (2010), ‘Geopolitical transformations in Central and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th and 21th centuries’, [in:] KITOWSKI, J. (ed.), 20 years of socio-economic transformations in countries of Central and Eastern Europe – an attempt of accounts, Warsaw: Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania PAN, pp. 5–45.
SOBCZYŃSKI, M. (2013), ‘Zmiany polityczne, terytorialne i spory graniczne w Europie Środkowo-Wschodniej po 1989 r.’, [in:] EBERHARDT, P. (ed.), Studia nad geopolityką XX wieku, Warsaw: Instytut Geografii i Przestrzennego Zagospodarowania PAN, pp. 181–233.
SOBCZYŃSKI, M. and BARWIŃSKI, M. (2013), ‘Geopolitical Location and Territorial transformations of Ukrainian Territory and the complexity of their Internal Structure in the Twentieth Century’, [in:] HEFFNER, K. (ed.), The Eastern Dimension of the United Europe, Łódź–Opole, pp. 131‒162.
SZAJNOWSKA-WYSOCKA, A. (2003), ‘Ethnic problems of Upper Silesia’ [in:] KOTER, M. and HEFFNER, K. (eds.), The role of ethnic minorities in border regions, Łódź–Opole, pp. 82‒88.
VITALE, A. (2015), ‘Borders, ethno-national tensions and minorities – the case of the border between the Baltic states and Russia’, [in:] SOBCZYŃSKI, M. and RYKAŁA, A. (eds.), Geographical-political aspects of the transborder conservation of natural and cultural heritage, Łódź–Opole, pp. 115‒126.
VITALE, A. (2017), ‘Building a new border: the case study of new barrier between Ukraine and Russia, and the problem of minorities’, [in:] SOBCZYŃSKI, M. and BARWIŃSKI, M. (eds.), Borderlands of nations, nations of borderlands, Łódź–Opole, pp. 175‒186.
ZVIDRINS, P. (1998), Changes of the ethnic structure and characteristics of minorities in Latvia, Riga: University of Latvia.