Tomaš Nenartovič (Herder Institute, Marburg, Germany)
My presentation focuses on territorial issues in interwar Lithuania. It is commonly perceived that scientists and scholars play an important role in the formation and development of nations. In particular, geographers, ethnologists, statisticians and others describe and also determine boundaries, subsequently publishing them in media such as maps, textbooks, atlases, etc. This was especially the case during the age of nationalism in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Undoubtedly, this data had significant influence in building not only the first rudiments of national bodies of scholarship, but also helped legitimize national-territorial claims after World War I.
My Ph.D. project of which this research is a part addresses the so-called Balto-Slavic area, which during the tsarist period was known as the “North-Western provinces” and after 1918 split into a number of geopolitical units. Thus, contemporary scientific descriptors such as “Polish,” “Lithuanian,” “Belarusian,” “Soviet-Belarusian,” “Russian,” and “German” to great extent can be perceived as ethno-geographic and ethno-cartographic constructs, built in accordance with scientific, political, cultural and other traditions in the respective states. The main aim of this paper is to discuss the importance and influence of scientific geographical knowledge for political decision making. It is also important to consider national, linguistic and religious notions put forward in the arguments that were used in the discussions over territory as the region was a large multi-confessional and multi-ethnic border area. Therefore, a comparative transnational perspective is indispensable in tracing these ethno- and geo-political discourses.