Iryna Vushko on Political Elites in the Transition from Empire to States

September 20, 2016
Austrian Parliament

Iryna Vushko, an assistant professor of history at Hunter College in New York, joins HURI's weekly Seminar in Ukrainian Studies on September 26, 2016. During her talk, she'll present information from her newly completed book, The Lost Fatherland: Europeans between Empire and Nation States, 1900-1939. All are welcome to attend the seminar.

Austrian Parliament

The Lost Fatherland is a collective biography of the political elites who started their careers in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and who after 1918 parted ways into six successor states: Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland. Italy, Yugoslavia, and the Soviet Union. The monograph brings together a close-knit cohort of twenty-three individuals – statesmen and politicians – who made careers in two or more systems - the Empire and one or more successor state that emerged on its ruins. They all were colleagues or friends before 1918, received similar education, served in the same institutions – parliament or government, belonged to similar social networks; all spoke German and one or more languages of the empire – Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Croat, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian. They lived parallel lives before 1918 and parted ways in a somewhat radical manner thereafter: former friends and colleagues landing in different states, some of them turning their backs against one another. 

It is also a story of human life, endeavor, trauma, and various ways to deal with it all. A conventional way to address wars and major upheavals is by focusing on the human casualties, demographic and physical losses. The psychological trauma of the survivors is all too often ignored. In her book, Vushko explains how the emotional aspect of transition - the fatherland lost, families left in shambles, friendship destroyed - affected politics in twentieth century Europe. She addresses one of the dilemmas in history across time: how the same people who for years peacefully lived side by side with each other, negotiated concessions and political compromises, could turn against each other when parting ways and on occasions resort to reciprocal violence.  

Iryna VushkoIryna Vushko is an Assistant Professor of History at Hunter College, City University of New York. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 2008 and held fellowships in Austria, Italy, Germany, Poland and Harvard. Her first book “The Politics of Cultural Retreat: Imperial Bureaucracy in Austrian Galicia ” was published by Yale University Press in 2015.