AABS Book Prize Awarded to Klaus Richter

May 20, 2022

The Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies announces that Klaus Richter’s Fragmentation in East Central Europe: Poland and the Baltics, 1915-1929 has been awarded the 2022 AABS Book Prize. The biennial prize of $1,000 is awarded to an outstanding English-language scholarly book in Baltic Studies (humanities and social sciences). The 2022 award covers books published in 2020 and 2021.

The 2022 Book Prize Committee, chaired by President-Elect Dovilė Budrytė, selected the awardee from a pool of 10 books that were nominated by the publishers, authors, or their colleagues. The Committee noted the high level of all nominated books and solicited reviews for each of them. AABS thanks everyone who submitted a nomination.

In his review of Fragmentation in East Central Europe for the Book Prize Committee, Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius (University of Tennessee, Knoxville) wrote,

This book makes a great contribution to multiple fields: Baltic studies, modern European history, and political and international history. The subject—the formation of newly independent states after the First World War, out of the wreckage of once formidable empires—is a vital one, and has resonance for the present day as well. Now this volume will be indispensable to anyone approaching this topic. Richter decisively addresses the transition from broken imperial structures to new arrangements, frequently imperfect, established by new successor states against huge odds and under enormous external and internal pressure. His text deftly moves across the regional landscape for productive comparisons and contrasts, and focuses not only political elites, but also the different levels of state structures and societies. It is a remarkable, ambitious, admirable work of synthesis on the basis of original research.

In his 2021 review of the title in the Journal of Baltic Studies (free access through August 2022), Dr. Tomas Balkelis (Lithuanian Institue of History) wrote,

The book will definitely be a must read for specialists working on the political and, especially, social and economic transformation of the new East-Central European states. Those interested in nationalism, ethnic conflict, and population displacement will also find it appealing for its depth of research, the use of little-known archival sources and the ability to provide a transnational account of various conflicts and state-building policies that have been generated by the fragmentation caused by the Great War.

Fragmentation in East Central Europe: Poland and the Baltics, 1915-1929

by Klaus Richter, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2020, 355 pp., ISBN 978-0-19-884355-9 (Hardback)

The First World War led to a radical reshaping of Europe’s political borders. Nowhere was this transformation more profound than in East Central Europe, where the collapse of imperial rule led to the emergence of a series of new states. Fragmentation in East Central Europe uses the Baltic States and Poland as case studies of how new borders intersected centuries-old networks of commercial, cultural, and social exchange. These states had to face the challenges posed by territorial fragmentation and at the same time establish durable state structures within an international order that viewed them as, at best, weak, and at worst, as merely provisional entities that would sooner or later be reintegrated into their larger neighbours’ territory.

Fragmentation in East Central Europe challenges the traditional view that the emergence of these states was the product of a radical rupture that naturally led from defunct empires to nation states. It retraces the roots of the interwar states of East Central Europe, of their policies, economic developments, and of their conflicts back to the First World War. At the same time, it shows that these states learned to harness the dynamics caused by territorial fragmentation, thus forever changing our understanding of what modern states can do.

©Klaus Richter, 2022

Klaus Richter is a historian of modern Central and Eastern Europe. He received his PhD in 2012 from the Technical University of Berlin. He is currently working as Reader in Eastern European History at the University of Birmingham and as Director of the Institute for German and European Studies (IGES). His previous book, Antisemitismus in Litauen. Christen, Juden und die ‘Emanzipation’ der Bauern, 1889-1914 (2013), was a study on Christian-Jewish relations in the Russian Empire’s Lithuanian provinces. He is also the author of numerous articles and book chapters on the social history of the Baltics and East Central Europe as well as on the history of nationalism, ethnic conflict, and economic crisis.

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