Demography and Population Movements

Authored by: Theodora Dragostinova , David Gerlach

The Routledge History Of East Central Europe Since 1700

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9780415584333
eBook ISBN: 9781315230894
Adobe ISBN: 9781351863438




In the mid-nineteenth century, the residents of the Black Sea city of Constanţa in the Ottoman Empire (today in Romania) included the Austrian subject Janko, the Prussian subjects Ernest and Christian Joseph, who was from Danzig. They had all moved hundreds of kilometers from their homes to accumulate riches in the Ottoman realms. 1 As the economic conditions in the region changed and new opportunities emerged elsewhere, by the late nineteenth century many residents of Eastern Europe were headed west, either to Western Europe or across the Atlantic. In the early twentieth century, young Jews in the Pale of Settlement faced hard economic times, persecution, occasional pogroms, and the draft. They were disinclined to serve a country that showed little regard for their rights: “Bein’ you such a handy boy and you want to be saved [from the draft], it’s goin’ to be a terrible war, so you should go to the United States,” Moshe Lodsky of Lublin was counseled. He sailed to New York alongside many “Polacks” and Jews in 1912. 2 As the horrors of military conflict engulfed the region, many prepared to emigrate in search of security and stability; others were forced to do so as a result of international treaties sanctioning population exchanges, such as the Muslims of once-Ottoman Salonica (today in Greece) who wept as they were leaving their native city: “We’re used to living freely and in honor, but seeing how they seize our fields and even enter our homes, we feel life has become impossible.” 3 In July 1945 as millions of German-speakers were being forcibly removed from countries across the region the Allied leaders attempted in vain to control the situation and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Winston Churchill made it clear that British authorities were not eager to accept the expellees into their zone of occupation in postwar Germany citing pragmatic concerns. 4 Migration picked up once more after the collapse of communism – whether people were crossing the Bulgarian-Greek border illegally to pick olives, going on a trip from Poland to the United Kingdom with the intention of staying, or fleeing the attempts of paramilitary bands to round up young men in war-torn Yugoslavia, the inhabitants of East Central Europe were on the move again.

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Demography and Population Movements

In the mid-nineteenth century, the residents of the Black Sea city of Constanţa in the Ottoman Empire (today in Romania) included the Austrian subject Janko, the Prussian subjects Ernest and Christian Joseph, who was from Danzig. They had all moved hundreds of kilometers from their homes to accumulate riches in the Ottoman realms. 1 As the economic conditions in the region changed and new opportunities emerged elsewhere, by the late nineteenth century many residents of Eastern Europe were headed west, either to Western Europe or across the Atlantic. In the early twentieth century, young Jews in the Pale of Settlement faced hard economic times, persecution, occasional pogroms, and the draft. They were disinclined to serve a country that showed little regard for their rights: “Bein’ you such a handy boy and you want to be saved [from the draft], it’s goin’ to be a terrible war, so you should go to the United States,” Moshe Lodsky of Lublin was counseled. He sailed to New York alongside many “Polacks” and Jews in 1912. 2 As the horrors of military conflict engulfed the region, many prepared to emigrate in search of security and stability; others were forced to do so as a result of international treaties sanctioning population exchanges, such as the Muslims of once-Ottoman Salonica (today in Greece) who wept as they were leaving their native city: “We’re used to living freely and in honor, but seeing how they seize our fields and even enter our homes, we feel life has become impossible.” 3 In July 1945 as millions of German-speakers were being forcibly removed from countries across the region the Allied leaders attempted in vain to control the situation and prevent a humanitarian disaster. Winston Churchill made it clear that British authorities were not eager to accept the expellees into their zone of occupation in postwar Germany citing pragmatic concerns. 4 Migration picked up once more after the collapse of communism – whether people were crossing the Bulgarian-Greek border illegally to pick olives, going on a trip from Poland to the United Kingdom with the intention of staying, or fleeing the attempts of paramilitary bands to round up young men in war-torn Yugoslavia, the inhabitants of East Central Europe were on the move again.

If migration involves “moves that are relatively long and relatively definitive” and entails a “break with the area of origin,” one could analyze the history of East Central Europe in the last three centuries as migration history. 5 According to Charles Tilly’s oft-cited article, several types of migrations evolved in Europe in the modern period: local migrations involved smaller distances and were connected to labor or marriage practices; circular migrations led to a return to origins after seasonal work; chain migrations included related individuals and produced clusters of people linked by descent; and career migrations linked to economic opportunities. 6 In addition to these rather routine reasons for relocation connected to family strategies and economic motivations, military conflict emerged as a major factor in the movement of people in East Central Europe, because of the large scale of individual or community migrations during war but also due to the planned colonization and displacement of targeted populations in its aftermath. With the rise of nationalism and the idea of the homogeneous nation-state in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the pace of migrations accelerated as nationalist conflict produced both forced and voluntary migrations that radically changed the ethnological and demographic structure of the area. But even as such dramatic events affected the lives of people in important ways, other, more personal factors also mattered in decisions about emigration; life plans, labor demands, family networks, and personal motivations all supplemented official plans for the movement of people. Thus, migration reflected the complexity of life influenced by political events, military campaigns, religious discrimination, economic circumstances, social organization, property-holding status, and demographic characteristics while population movements also exhibited regional variations and fluctuations. 7

This chapter focuses on key developments in the migration history of East Central Europe: from “mixing” of various ethno-linguistic and religious communities in the period of empires to “unmixing” after the triumph of the nation-state; from routine labor and seasonal migrations to more sustained economic and overseas migrations beginning in the late nineteenth century; and, finally, from Cold War travel restrictions to renewed economic and ethnic migrations after the collapse of communism. In the earlier centuries of military conquest and political or religious conflict, population movements created borderland areas between and within empires where populations of diverse ethnicities, languages, and religions were intermixed. This intermixing was accompanied by parallel labor and economic migrations, which included long-distance rural-to-rural migrations but also an increasing number of rural-to-urban and transatlantic migrations. Thus, demographic and economic pressures were the leading causes for migration in the long nineteenth century due to the lack of economic opportunities and an increasing population. But as nation-states made their appearance in the region, the state became instrumental in causing and directing migration in order to create nationally homogeneous states. Ultimately, the “ethnic unmixing” of the Habsburg, Ottoman, and Russian Empires following World War I and the continued displacement of populations during and after World War II redrew the borders of Europe along putative ethnic and national lines. Warfare was a central cause of migration during this period; as modern war practices increasingly targeted civilian populations, war and migration went hand in hand. In contrast, the post-1950 period saw more limited migration movements connected to the drive for modernization in the area under communist control, and only occasional overseas political or ethnic migrations (such as those of Jews to Israel or Germans to Germany). The collapse of communism revived old migration practices of an economic character and led to the last phase of “ethnic unmixing” in the territories of former Yugoslavia. However, after the turbulent period of early post-socialism, migration practices leveled off, following the integration of the East Central European countries into the European Union.

As the territories of East Central Europe experienced a shift from empires to nation-states to the Cold War divisions, and to European Union integration, the area saw both changes and continuities in the migration practices and motivations of states and people. While the causes, nature, and extent of population movements varied throughout this time period, similar labor and seasonal migration patterns emerged while state policies involving immigration, emigration, and forced migration likewise developed along parallel lines. Demography crucially influenced migration as population pressures provided their own spur to relocation. Ultimately, the interplay of individuals’ priorities and pressures applied by economic and state policies produced a range of experiences that were as varied as the many routes people traveled.

Historiographic trends

Migration movements and population shifts in East Central Europe have been covered extensively in the historiography of the region, especially since the 1970s when more scholars started paying attention to demographic processes and diasporic linkages. Interest in religious and ethno-national change has motivated historians to examine, for example, the process of Turkic colonization and Islamization in the Balkans, and many scholars have produced pioneering works showing how the Ottoman conquest radically changed the population dynamics in the area. 8 Others have traced the demographic changes in the Habsburg territories, especially Bohemia, during the counter-Reformation or during and following the establishment of the Austrian military frontier. 9 Cumulatively, these works depict a dynamic process of population transformation from the early modern period on.

Later historians, interested in the impact of these changes beyond the region, turned their attention to the existence of diasporic communities in the Black Sea and Mediterranean areas. An early work of Olga Katsiardi-Hering examined the Greek community in Trieste, Italy, opening the door for similar studies of diasporic communities throughout the entire Balkans. 10 At the same time, inspired by the turn toward quantitative methods associated with historical demography, some historians have meticulously studied changes in the population of specific communities, questioning stereotypes about the region based on scant empirical evidence. Maria Todorova and Karl Kaser’s works are examples of sophisticated demographic history focused on the Balkans. 11 These works demonstrate a vibrant process of population change over the centuries; many focus on trends within one region or use evidence coming from a single national archive. In the regional historiographies, there are numerous studies of the various ethno-national or religious groups and their movement within or without, which are too numerous to list. More often than not, scholars have tackled “their” diasporas abroad and “their” refugees, without establishing connections to the broader historical processes in the region. Overall, such studies portray a rather isolated picture of one group or one trend, without engaging the broader framework of the fluid borders or the numerous population movements across them.

Broader regional studies of the twentieth-century population movements first emerged in the immediate wake of the massive migrations they sought to explain. Two notable examples are Stephen Ladas, The Exchange of Minorities, on the population exchanges among Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece in the interwar period, and Joseph Schechtman, European Population Transfers, on the migrations during World War II and its aftermath. These continue to be master studies of two traumatic population movements in the areas, even if later scholars have questioned the authors’ interpretive framework that assumed the “success” or “necessity” of population transfers. 12 These studies depicted the dynamics in the area as pathological and unique, without making broader European comparisons. Newer studies, however, have taken up this task. 13

Only recently have scholars turned toward emphasizing the interrelatedness of population movements, emphasizing common triggers and shared networks between East and West. Klaus Bade’s Migration in European History presents a comprehensive history of migration in Europe, which integrates the two parts of the continent in a single narrative. Other works that include migrations in East Central Europe within a broader framework are Saskia Sassen’s Guests and Aliens, which emphasizes the turn toward controlling population movements everywhere in Europe in the modern period, while also emphasizing the uniqueness of unmixing in East Central Europe in the aftermath of empires; and Leo Lucassen’s The Immigrant Threat which compares the story of the labor migrations of the Poles in Germany with that of the Irish in Britain and the Italians in France, demonstrating the pan-European dynamics of reception and integration of immigrants. This comprehensive approach is also evident in John Torpey’s The Invention of the Passport, which demonstrates that border controls and immigration restrictions on both sides of the Atlantic were interconnected so that trends in East Central Europe mirrored practices first pioneered in the West; and in Mark Wyman’s Round-Trip to America which explains the large number of return immigrants from East Central Europe within the context of the New Immigration trends since the 1870s. 14

Much attention has been paid to the transformation of cities as major hubs of population change. Nikolai Todorov’s pioneering work, The Balkan City, 1400–1900, established an important comparative framework for researchers. 15 Recently, more scholars have paid attention to individual cities. These include, among others, Gary Cohen’s study of demographic change in nineteenth-century Prague, Nathaniel Wood’s subtle explanation of the allure of urban life in Cracow, Mark Mazower’s comprehensive work on the transformations of Salonica over five centuries, and Robert Donia’s longue durée examination of the changes in Sarajevo from Ottoman rule through the Yugoslav wars. 16

By adopting a close, micro-historical analysis of individual migration stories and re-discovering social history, more scholars have scrutinized the actual experience of relocation. In her study of the Greek refugees in Piraeus, Renée Hirschon questioned the premise of easy integration of refugees in the aftermath of resettlement to their supposed national homeland, Greece. 17 Philipp Ther presented similar findings regarding the integration of the Germans arriving from Poland and Czechoslovakia in the aftermath of World War II. 18 Building upon these insights, anthropologists have turned their attention to gender dynamics, inter-generational differences, and the traumatic memory of the minority experience or exile. 19 These studies problematized the traditional focus on state-centered national homogenization efforts and paid more attention to the plight of the affected populations.

Finally, more historians have recently adopted comparative and transnational perspectives on migration movements. The authors of this chapter, David Gerlach and Theodora Dragostinova, highlight in their own work the interrelatedness of migration movements within Central Europe and the Balkans, respectively. 20 Ulf Brunnbauer and Tara Zahra have likewise embarked on comparative studies of migration trends across Europe. 21 But the integrated, comparative study of migration and population change for all of East Central Europe has yet to be written, and this chapter is an attempt to chart both the commonalities and differences between Central Europe and the Balkans.

The mixing of peoples: empires and borderlands

At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the territories of East Central Europe belonged to three large states, the Habsburg and the Ottoman Empires and the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. Migrations within and from the region further connected these lands to other areas, thanks to the influence of Prussian/German and Russian policies on population movements. The people and spaces of East Prussia, much of Ukraine, and parts of western Belarus comprised intrinsic parts of East Central Europe’s migratory patterns. Similarly, Anatolia, Asia Minor, and the Black Sea and Mediterranean were areas interlinked with migration trends in the Balkans. At times these areas were destinations for migrants; at other times they were launching pads, showing how difficult it is to talk about a coherent “eastern European” migration pattern when discussing migration in the area. While common trends existed in these diverse territories, there were also variations in the migration patterns developing in Southeastern, East Central, and Northeastern Europe.

To complicate things further, modern ethno-national categories fail to explain the fluidity of population dynamics in this large area, as many communities did not have firm attachments to particular states, but rather prioritized their religious affiliations to a particular church or their ethno-linguistic affinities to neighboring peoples. Therefore, when discussing the time period before the twentieth century, it is difficult to use accurate ethnic or even linguistic labels as different sources used different ethnonyms, and these changed over time. Any group identity terms used in this section have to be read with the understanding that when speaking of Greeks in the seventeenth century, for example, Ottoman sources took into consideration religion and not ethnicity. Similarly, Czech-speakers or Ukrainian-speakers of the same time period are not the automatic ancestors of modern Czechs and Ukrainians, and so forth. 22

As a general trend, due to military conflicts between the powers, territorial expansions and contractions, and religious tensions prior to 1700, extensive migrations connected to the constant territorial and political changes decisively shaped the demography of the region since the early modern period. Because military conquest and religious conflict often went hand in hand with population displacement, forced or voluntary religious conversion, and the planned colonization of strategic territories, Central Europe and the Balkans underwent dynamic intermixing of various ethnic and religious groups. The population of the entire region was quite heterogeneous, but this was particularly obvious in strategic areas, many of which were located in the borderlands between empires. Despite the fluidity of borders during this time period, however, changes in the frontiers did not always entail mandatory migratory movements because, together with political goals, the empires also pursued practical economic aims often related to the agricultural development of these areas. In addition, early modern imperial governments did not consider ethnicity a key factor when developing their population policies. Thus, while imperial governments sometimes encouraged migration into newly acquired territories, they only reluctantly and exceptionally displaced the people already living there.

In the Balkans, the intermixing of diverse ethnic and religious groups became the rule after the Ottoman conquest of the various Byzantine and Balkan Christian principalities from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Many Balkan Christians fled before the armies that devastated the area. Entire communities escaped to neighboring territories, retreated to mountainous regions, or resettled to cities, such as Salonica and Ioannina, that enjoyed special privileges. The extensive Turkish colonization with settlers from Asia Minor as well as the conversion to Islam of local Christians brought religious changes. But the establishment of relative peace and tranquility after the conquest, often described as Pax Ottomana, led to the “abolition of state and feudal frontiers, which enhanced movements and the interpenetration of different population groups.” 23 Following a significant demographic decline during the conquest, this trend was overcome by the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and population growth became the trend by the eighteenth century. 24 Christians, Muslims, Armenians, Jews, and others became thoroughly intermixed in a state that distinguished among the populations based on their religious affiliations rather than ethnicity. As Lady Mary Montagu, the English aristocratic writer traveling to Istanbul in the early 1700s, remarked, using ethno-linguistic labels that have to be treated with caution, in the capital “they speak Turkish, Greek, Hebrew, Armenian, Arabic, Persian, Russian, Sclavonian, Walachian, German, Dutch, French, English, Italian, Hungarian.” 25 By the eighteenth century, sources included in the category of “Christians” people that were variously called Serbs, Greeks, Bulgarians, Moldavians, Wallachians, Gagauzes, Armenians, Vlachs, Hungarians, and Cossacks. The “Muslims” consisted of Turks as well as indigenous Muslim converts of various ethnicities, but also the categories of Tatars, Circassians, Albanians, Kurds, and Muslim and Tatar Gypsies. 26 All of these categories cannot be understood in the sense of modern nations, but their sheer number demonstrates the radically different social organization that the Ottoman state brought to the Balkans with its religious and ethno-cultural intermixing. Despite the presence of large Muslim communities, a novelty in the area, the ratio between Muslims and non-Muslims showed the numerical preponderance of the non-Muslims in all Balkan provinces until the late nineteenth century. 27

The Ottoman conquest facilitated the emergence of interspersed diasporic communities that further complicated the demography of Southeastern Europe. By the seventeenth century, the Sephardic Jewish population fleeing Spain had settled in Istanbul, Salonica, and Edirne and turned Salonica into the chief commercial city of the eastern Mediterranean. 28 In the Danubian area, Sofia had the largest concentration of Jews, some 20 percent. In the eighteenth century, there were also Jewish migration flows from Central Europe, especially Austria, southward. Large Armenian communities existed mostly in the eastern parts of the Balkans as a result of trade relations between Istanbul and the west coast of the Black Sea. 29 Greek communities, marked as speakers of the Greek language, appeared throughout the Mediterranean and spread to the Adriatic, Hungary, Austria, and Russia, and established connections with Greek-speaking centers in Ottoman Pontos, Asia Minor, and the Black Sea. 30 These diasporas were crucial to the facilitation of trade through Ottoman-controlled lands and promoted the continued religious and cultural diversity of the empire. As a result of all these processes, as late as 1785 foreign travelers to the Ottoman lands casually described the everyday reality of religious and ethnic intermixing: “I passed . . . villages of half Turks, half Bulgarians, where Moslems and Christians live without hatred, even in alliance, and drink bad wine together, violating Ramadan and Lent . . . and are no less honest folk.” 31

In the eighteenth century the Habsburg monarchy possessed a diverse ethnic and religious composition that resembled in this respect the Ottoman Empire. Following the Ottoman defeat of the Kingdom of Hungary in 1526, several territories were placed under Habsburg authority. In addition to the remnants of the Kingdom of Hungary and Croatia-Slavonia, the former Bohemian Kingdom also came under Habsburg control. These changes transformed the ethno-linguistic make-up of the realm from a German-speaking majority with Italian, Slovene, and Polish-speaking minorities into a truly polyglot empire, with Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian, Ruthenian, and Serbian-speakers added to the mix. By 1600 the hereditary lands had roughly 2 million inhabitants, the Bohemian crown lands 4 million, and the remnants of the Hungarian Kingdom just over 1 million. 32 In the aftermath of the Reformation, new religions emerged. Many German-speakers as well as some Slovene- and Slovak-speakers adopted Lutheranism; the inhabitants of Hungary were mostly Calvinist; many Czech-speakers remained Catholic, but adopted anti-Roman Catholic Hussite practices; Croatia was largely Catholic but many Orthodox Christians also inhabited the area. By the early seventeenth century, Habsburg rulers no longer worshipped the same church as the majority of their religiously diverse subjects. However, policies directed against Protestants led to the ultimate victory of Catholicism in the Bohemian and Austrian lands. Persecution of Protestants led to extensive migration, much of it based on religion; roughly 200,000 people left the Habsburg Empire in the 1620s, mostly nobles from Bohemia and Moravia who fled Catholic forces after the defeat at White Mountain in 1620, but also tens of thousands from the hereditary lands. 33 Again, it is important to emphasize that people fled these areas due to religious and political persecution targeting the nobility, and not because of what might be construed as national pressures in the modern sense. The situation differed in Hungary where the Habsburg rulers made no attempt to convert the kingdom’s Protestants. Because of Hungary’s position between the Ottoman and Habsburg realms, the Habsburg monarchy treated Hungary with moderation; in Transylvania, after 1700 a diverse religious community included Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodox, and Uniates.

Further to the east, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which resulted from the union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1569, had an equally complicated ethnic and religious configuration. By 1600 the population of the Commonwealth was more than 10 million and continued to increase, with the towns growing in size until mid-century. However, after 1650 the “Deluge” (Potok) reversed these trends as Swedish, Muscovite, and Cossack forces fought for control of the country and the population declined. 34 A wide variety of languages was spoken in the Commonwealth including Polish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian/Ruthenian, Belorussian, Russian, German, and Latvian. In terms of religion, the majority of Polish-speakers were Catholics while most speakers of East-Slavic dialects, including Ukrainian, Ruthenian, and Belorussian were Uniates or Orthodox. German-speakers were predominantly Lutherans. There was also a significant Jewish minority. While the Commonwealth had long been a powerful country, by the early eighteenth century the balance of power in Europe had altered drastically to its disadvantage, particularly with the appearance of Prussia, Russia, and Austria as powers competing for control in the area. On the eve of the first partition of 1772, the population of Poland-Lithuania included over 12 million inhabitants, less than a half of them Polish-speakers. 35

The reconfiguration of empires and states and the changes in the religious composition of their inhabitants prior to the eighteenth century had spawned significant migrations and a tremendous diversity of peoples in the entire area covered by these multiethnic and multiconfessional empires. Much of the migration during the eighteenth century flowed from these earlier changes. In particular, the ongoing fighting between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires in the Balkans and Hungary caused continued migration and ethnic mixing in these contact areas. By 1683, the Ottoman armies had pushed the border between the two empires all the way to Slovakia and threatened Vienna. When the Habsburg forces along with other Christian armies forced the Ottomans to retreat, new migrations in both directions ensued. The Habsburg government then actively encouraged the settlement of the border zone in southern Hungary with German-speakers from the Bohemian crown lands in the north and with Orthodox Christians from Serbia in the south. The Habsburg monarchy granted religious freedom and significant local autonomy to these colonists as well as favorable land grants in exchange for their military service. 36 On the Ottoman side of the border, a large number of Muslim converts deserted from the Christian armies to the Ottoman side; these were inhabitants of Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, and Wallachia who lived along the Sava-Danube River line and often crossed the border in both directions. This is how the military frontier (Militärgrenze) emerged, a stretch of hundreds of miles of ill-defined border between the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires, which functioned as a frontier region, something like a no-man’s land, where people moved in and out according to the treaty in force. 37 While the military frontier was unique with its permeable borders and intermixed population, it was also typical of the extensive “mixing” of people from different ethnic groups that characterized East Central Europe as a contact zone of several empires.

By the early eighteenth century the Habsburgs had reversed the Ottoman expansion in Europe, re-conquering Hungary and Croatia and expanding into Italy and Transylvania. After 1718, the Ottoman-Habsburg border was drawn on the Sava-Danube Rivers and the crest of the Carpathian Mountains between Transylvania and Wallachia-Moldavia. This remained an area of vibrant exchange between Serbian-speaking populations in the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires because economic activity, mainly cattle-breeding, led to frequent movements of the populations that shared the same language, religion, and livelihood. New military frontiers were set up in the 1760s and 1780s in Croatia-Slavonia, the Banat, and Transylvania, and similar migration trends continued. 38 During the reign of Maria Theresa (1740–80) the government sponsored the relocation of German-speakers to former areas of Ottoman control near Novi Sad (Neusatz) and in the Banat. These settlers became known as Danube Schwabians and joined the already established communities of Transylvanian Saxons along the southern Habsburg frontier. The state offered them land, equipment, livestock, and tax exemptions for ten years. From 1689 to the end of the eighteenth century it is estimated that some 350,000 persons migrated to Hungary. 39 After another war in 1790, some South Slav families from Serbia and Croatia crossed over into the Habsburg realm and spent time in transit camps until the final border adjustments were made. 40 Others were given land allotments and established as “border guards” (Grenzer) against the possible threat of Ottoman incursion. By 1843, nearly half of the Croatian Military Border was composed of Orthodox Christians. By this time, with the Ottoman Empire in retreat and the creation of the independent Serbian state, the Habsburg rulers began to discourage the immigration of Orthodox Slavs to these regions. 41 Habsburg policies shifted due to the increasing pressure of nationalist politics. Earlier rulers had generally encouraged Christian settlement of the region, but they would later seek to prevent the ethnic mixing that these defensive policies had helped to create.

Over the course of the eighteenth century, the Ottoman rulers also engaged in military interactions with the Russian Empire, which was pushing for access to the warm seas. The extensive Russo-Turkish conflicts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries became the main factor in the movement of people in and out of the Balkans. In the 1720s, the Sublime Porte sent punitive expeditions against the Herzegovinian and Montenegrin tribes because they sided with Peter the Great in the Turkish-Russian War. Ottoman officials moved many to eastern Bosnia while others fled north to Serbia. 42 As the Russian Empire advanced to the south and captured territories on the Black Sea, new population movements emerged from the north to the south. The Russian annexation of the Crimean Khanate (1783) provoked the mass emigration of thousands of Turkic-speaking people, usually designated as Tatars, from the Crimean Peninsula to the Danubian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia (and particularly the area of Dobrudja) where the Ottoman sultans colonized them to strengthen the frontier against the Russians. More Tatars fled from Bessarabia in 1812 because of the Russian occupation of the province. Population movements connected to the military conflict between the Ottoman and Russian Empires continued in the nineteenth century; only in Dobrudja, some 100,000 Tatars settled by the middle of the century. 43

In East Central Europe, while the acquisition of new territories from the former Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth did not necessarily result in forced out-migrations, extensive in-migrations occurred in these newly acquired lands due to economic and religious considerations. The Habsburg, Romanov, and Hohenzollern monarchies, similarly to the Ottomans in the earlier time period, promoted colonization policies that encouraged the economic development of what often were sparsely inhabited areas. In East Prussia, the Hohenzollerns made every effort to speed the colonization of those lands by offering attractive terms of settlement including livestock, building materials, and credit. 44 Following the partitions of Poland, Prussia continued to encourage peasant settlement from Brandenburg into its newly acquired lands in the east, but these policies failed to bring large numbers of new settlers from the west. 45

While economic motivations were important, greater religious freedom also contributed to people’s decisions to resettle. For instance, from 1713 to 1756 roughly 900,000 Czech-speaking settlers moved to Prussia. Some came for religious reasons, others for the economic advantages offered by the state. During the Prussian-Habsburg war in 1742, Czech-speakers moved both into and out of Silesian territories acquired by the Hohenzollerns. Religious communities of “dissenters,” Protestants, Lutherans, Evangelicals, and others, took advantage of the possibility to resettle in these regions. This process continued throughout the eighteenth century, though their total numbers remained low. 46 Jews from Galicia also began migrating to Transylvania following Joseph II’s Edicts of Toleration issued in the late 1700s. 47 However, the numbers of migrants who moved permanently for religious reasons or for economic advancement remained low during the eighteenth century; even those who moved because of military conflict were mostly confined to the border regions.

Demographic trends also did not work in favor of large-scale emigration. Like most of Europe during the eighteenth century, the regions of Central and Southeastern Europe were marked by high mortality and high birth rates. East Central Europe tended toward higher birth rates (40 per 1,000) than Western Europe (30 per 1,000). This difference was due in large measure to the lower age at which people in East Central Europe married and began procreating. For the same reason, birth rates tended to be higher in the Balkans than in Central Europe. 48 While famines, plagues, and negative climatic events took less of a toll than in previous centuries, gains in health care and nutrition had yet to make a significant impact on life expectancy. The relatively high birth rates more or less led to a sufficient replacement rate for the overall population. Because the economic systems were overwhelmingly agricultural, only through the significant expansion of food production could larger populations be supported. 49 Still, populations in East Central Europe did grow slowly, mirroring the overall European trend. While reliable data for the years 1700 to 1800 is lacking, for the Habsburg monarchy at least population growth rates after 1750 fluctuated from 0.5 to 1 percent per year. 50 Of course, regional variations were great and some areas experienced a greater strain on land and resources. Nonetheless, large-scale emigration was held in check; while people maintained seasonal labor migrations, the vast majority of people remained where they were.

Overall for the entire region, despite the military conflicts and political upheavals in the eighteenth century, border changes rarely entailed population displacement. After the three partitions of 1772, 1793, and 1795, Poland-Lithuania disappeared from the map of Europe, but this major political change was not accompanied by mass migrations. Some Polish-speakers emigrated and established communities in Western Europe, particularly in France, and the incoming regimes targeted selected groups for resettlement. The Prussian government tried to expel the poorest Jews, while Russian tsars forced out the poorest gentry, but no mass exodus ensued. 51 State-led efforts at population restructuring were exceptional. During the Napoleonic campaigns that tore apart the Habsburg realms, political change and new borders likewise did not trigger extensive population movements. The failure of the Polish uprising in 1830 led to what is termed “The Great Emigration” of Poles to France; some 9,000 people, mostly of noble origin, took part in the exodus. 52 Thus, the eighteenth century saw only specific, localized permanent migrations as neither “natural” “push” factors, such as population growth, nor politics, promoted them. Only with the establishment of new nation-states in the Ottoman Balkans and the beginning of sustained population growth in the early nineteenth century did migration practices start to change.

Economic and labor migrations in the long nineteenth century

Migration was increasingly central to the economic lives of many eastern European inhabitants in the nineteenth century when economic transformations, some of them linked to urbanization and industrialization, produced new trends in the movement of people. These more rigorous economic migrations did not interrupt the ethnic intermixing but occurred in conjunction with it. Even before that period, engaged in routine local migrations connected to labor exchange, marriage patterns, and social mobility. Thus, old labor migration practices continued, although the advent of new economic relations and demographic realities in the nineteenth century somewhat altered the established patterns. Traditional seasonal labor migration practices expanded, as did rural-to-urban movements and long-distance migrations. 53 While the increased mobility of individuals might have developed earlier in the Ottoman territories because peasants were not tied to the land, these trends also became prevalent in the Habsburg realms and the Polish lands after the emancipation of serfs in the second half of the nineteenth century. Overall, several trends converged in the population movements in East Central Europe in the long nineteenth century: fast-paced population growth, larger internal rural-to-urban migrations, more extensive seasonal labor migrations, and increased out-migration to Europe and the United States. 54

The interrelationship between old practices and new trends was evident in the migration activities of the transhumant Balkan pastoralists (variously called Sarakatsani, Vlachs, or Cincars) who practiced migration as a way of life since earlier times. The presence of these groups well into the twentieth century demonstrates a lack of interest in overarching “national” motivations, and the pastoralists’ focus on local, community, economic, and family needs. The nomadic and semi-nomadic cattle breeders led the extensive migrations of their livestock from the winter to the summer pastures across hundreds of kilometers. The movement of people intensified in the eighteenth century when they lost their previous privileges and low taxation status and sought new opportunities to rent land for grazing. 55 The establishment of large, for-profit farms (ciftlik) in Thessaly, Macedonia, the Salonica and Edirne areas, and the Maritsa and Danube regions created new incentives for the pastoralists because during winter the estate owners allowed the flocks to graze their lands if the shepherds paid rent. 56 Throughout the nineteenth century, the Cincars of the Macedonian Mountains and Pindus migrated between the summer grazing in their home areas and the winter pastures near the Aegean shore. 57 Similarly, shepherds from Pindar in Greece drove their flocks in caravan groups as large as a thousand horses, accompanied by their wives, children, and household goods. 58 These pastoralists combined old and new economic practices and continued to be a dynamic migrant community in the interwar period. As the new borders could impede travel, governments made special arrangements by offering duty-free transit and facilitating temporary migration between winter and summer grazing areas. After 1933 the Karakachani of Bulgaria, who traditionally traveled from the Rhodopes, or Balkan Mountains to the Aegean Sea, were no longer able freely to cross the Bulgarian, Greek, and Turkish borders, so they limited their migrations to a single country or became sedentary. 59

In the late eighteenth century, new migration trends connected to changes in economic development. Throughout the Ottoman Empire, fairs became popular as centers for the sale of goods produced by the local population. As periods of peace became longer, trade patterns became more extensive and local merchant groups became directly involved in European trade in the Mediterranean, Central Europe, and Russia. 60 The Ottoman textile industry developed rapidly in the first half of the nineteenth century as numerous manufacturing enterprises emerged that involved the work of urban and rural populations. 61 The development of industry and the growth of urban centers to the west also began to draw greater numbers of people from East Central Europe and the Polish lands who started migrating westward in the hope of better opportunities. 62 This migration flow from east to west altered previous patterns of migration that had been based on resettling imperial borderlands. Agricultural workers increasingly took to the road in order to fill the gap left by other workers moving to the cities and into the factories. Workers were also needed in the construction of transportation (railroads, canals, and roadways) and service sectors that supported the growing urban populations. The majority of migrants, whether local or long distance, comprised a pool of unskilled laborers for industrial and agricultural work. Others were involved in itinerant trade, while still others joined the artisan class in urban areas. 63 These new economic trends also contributed to the steep rise in emigration beyond Europe, particularly to the Americas.

The changing demographic structure of the region was also critical to the migratory shifts during this period and related to economic change. Several complex factors converged during the nineteenth century that led to a vast increase in populations. Historians call this crucial period the “demographic transition.” Mortality rates began to decline, thanks to improved nutrition and health care. In East Central Europe until 1860, the death rate hovered around 38 per 1,000 people (compared to 26.7 in Western Europe). By 1900, the death rate had declined to 33.3 per 1,000 people. The decline did not proceed evenly across the region; it began first in Bohemia and Moravia and then generally affected areas to the south and east over the following decades. 64 Fertility rates also began to decline, as did infant mortality, though the extent and the rates of decline varied tremendously among different countries. Although mortality declines everywhere preceded those of fertility, the reasons for this remain unclear. 65 Nonetheless, the lengthy decline in mortality rates and that of fertility in the region, from the late nineteenth into the twentieth century, led to a period of dramatic population increase. In 1850–51, the Habsburg realms counted roughly 30 million inhabitants. By 1910 the overall population increased to over 49 million. 66 According to the Ottoman census of 1831, the population in the European provinces included 9 to 10 million people. Even if official statistics did not give a completely accurate picture, by the beginning of the twentieth century the population was clearly on the rise. 67 Figures from 1910 for the remaining parts of Europe under Ottoman control as well as the newly independent states in the Balkans totaled over 22 million people. 68 Such dramatic population expansion during a period of economic change offered both pressure on traditional resource use and an outlet for this pressure in urbanization and overseas emigration.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, urban areas substantially increased. In 1870 there were 21 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants and only three over 500,000 (Berlin, Vienna, and Istanbul). In the next forty years cities experienced a dramatic rise in their number of inhabitants. Areas around Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, Wrocław, and Zagreb witnessed growing population densities from under a hundred persons per square kilometer to between one and two hundred persons. Vienna and Berlin became cities with more than 2 million inhabitants. 69 Some cities grew because of the natural increase of births over deaths, while others experienced a heavy influx of people from the countryside. For instance, 79 percent of the population growth in Breslau (today, Wrocław) during the nineteenth century was due to the arrival of migrants. 70 Everywhere the urban populations increased; by the 1870s, urban dwellers of the Balkan provinces of the Ottoman Empire ranged from 14 to 23 percent of the total population. From the 1830s to the 1870s, the new states of Serbia and Greece developed their own urban networks while an even larger number of small and medium-sized cities sprang up in the Danubian area. 71 Even if the region remained predominantly agricultural, the expansion of urban areas in and around East Central Europe reflected changes in the demographic, economic, and migration patterns.

New employment opportunities emerged with the growing cities. Agricultural, artisan, and industrial labor migrations that had already begun earlier in the century expanded both within the region and into nearby regions of Europe. In the Balkans, many migrants settled on the outskirts of cities and continued to do farming work; others joined hired labor or became artisans. Most migrants were master builders and construction workers, but tailors, bakers, potters, cartwrights, woodworkers, and bronze tinkers also migrated and traveled extensively. 72 For example, the population of the Balkan Mountain areas had well-established links with the large-scale stock raising businesses in Dobrudja, an attractive region because of the construction of the Russe-Varna railroad and the brisk traffic in the Danubian ports. 73 This new trend led to an increase in the migrant population in the northeastern Balkans to 6 percent of the entire population. 74 Industrialization in Bohemia and parts of Austria provided for short-distance relocation to centers of production. Czech-speakers, for example, migrated from the countryside to nearby industrial centers. Those who lived in southern Moravia and Bohemia often moved to Vienna, while those who lived in northern regions moved to Germany and to growing industrial regions in northern Bohemia. Later, they moved further south in the Habsburg realms. Similarly Poles, Mazurians, and others from East Prussia moved west into German lands, first to Berlin, but later throughout the region. By the 1890s, Poles and Mazurians traveled in significant numbers to the Ruhr region of Germany and comprised a key segment of the growing mining and steel workers there. Poles from Galicia moved to Silesia and Prussia. 75

Despite the draw of the cities, many of these migrants also remained involved in agricultural production. Seasonal labor migrations remained important. Agricultural laborers in German areas east of the Elbe River included large numbers of migrants from Russian Poland and Austrian Ruthenia, particularly after the 1890s. By the early 1900s, seasonal migration along the German-Russian border reached new heights. By 1902 more than 280,000 agricultural workers were crossing the frontier in both directions on eight-month passes. By 1913 the figure had risen to more than 800,000. Women comprised a large percentage of these migrants. 76 Labor recruitment agencies or brokers helped to facilitate and profited from the seasonal migrations into Prussia. In Austrian Galicia the government exercised little oversight of these brokers and stable migratory currents emerged. In Russian-controlled Congress Poland, authorities sought to control migration and prevented any recruitment efforts from the German side. Despite these efforts, Polish and other agricultural migrants from the east continued to move west in search of labor opportunities. 77

The scale of periodic labor migrations expanded as migrant work provided an important alternative or additional source of income. The Mazurians traveled to the Ruhr during the agricultural off-season when they could earn money in the mines. Hundreds of thousands of Poles likewise migrated seasonally to Germany to work on farms. 78 In the South Slav and Bulgarian lands, the periodic migrants were called pečalbari or “profit seekers.” They traveled in search of work in an extensive area from Istanbul in the east to the Bulgarian-Serbian borderlands to the west to Romania in the north to Pindus in the south. In 1863, some 32,550 inhabitants of the Bulgarian lands worked in Istanbul while in 1872 some 80,000 migrants from various Ottoman provinces arrived in Serbia. In certain parts of Macedonia, such migrants comprised 66 to 69 percent of the entire workforce in 1894–95. Even as late as 1920 to 1935 Serbia sent out an annual average of 50,000 pečalbari. 79

Most pečalbari traveled in groups after they had been recruited by paid contractors who agreed with interested landowners, and they lived, worked, slept, and ate communally. 80 Agricultural workers performed services on the large farms in Eastern Bulgaria, Dobrudja, and the areas around Salonica, Edirne, and Istanbul. Some went long distances, such as the workers from Niš who in the 1850s traveled each year in groups of 200 to 500 to Istanbul, a walk of twenty days. Others traveled as far as the large estates of Hungary where they earned handsome pay. There were also builders, brick makers, and masons who were organized according to a hierarchy of masters, journeymen, and apprentices, and each received a share according to his status. When the Danube–Black Sea railway was built in the 1870s, masons arrived from all over the empire and returned home in the winter months. These builders also contracted to build cottages, town houses, stone bridges, administrative buildings, and churches. Sometimes, unmarried young women were sent as domestic servants to nearby cities. Some pečalbari remained with their families during the harvest season and migrated during the winter months when work on the land diminished. They generally saved their cash, built comfortable homes, and purchased additional land for their families. Some men intermarried away from home while others brought new wives to their villages. The brisk pečalbari trade only came to an end after World War I when the newly drawn borders forced most to work domestically.

By the early twentieth century, the distances labor migrants traveled were becoming longer and many migrants were heading to new destinations. This period coincided with the first systematic East Central European state attempts to regulate migration practices, as in the rest of Europe. 81 The Prussian government had previously required Polish and other foreign labor migrants to leave the country after seasonal agricultural work. Similarly, the German government exercised control over the Polish labor force in Germany because Poles comprised the vast majority of the 1.2 million foreign laborers that worked east of the Elbe in Germany in 1914. Fearing a growing Polish immigrant population, German officials established a network of regulations and agencies to monitor their presence and ensured their return migration to Russian territory at the end of every season. 82 The Russian government began monitoring its western borders more closely in 1828, recording the nationality of foreigners who entered the country. Non-labor migrant groups increasingly began facing harsher restrictions. As the number of Roma who fled to the West rose, many attempted to go to the United States but immigration restrictions against vagrants ensured that most of them stayed in Europe. 83 Despite such attempts to regulate migration, on the eve of World War I half a million South Slavs worked in industrial centers in Western Europe.

The flow of people to the United States and elsewhere outside of Europe was also connected to the economic and demographic changes in East Central Europe. In particular, the demographic transition had created a reservoir of young people who had few options for advancement other than through migration. 84 By 1914, all areas in the Balkans and Central Europe that experienced sustained periodic migrations were also sending workers to the United States. Roughly 7 million people moved from the region to the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. 85 The combined territories of Austria-Hungary comprised one of the four largest European sending countries to the United States, along with Italy, Great Britain, and Russia, before the turn of the century. 86 This migration became particularly significant beginning at the turn of the twentieth century. Before the 1880s emigration from East Central and Southeast Europe to the United States was limited. By the 1890s, nearly 600,000 people had emigrated from Austria-Hungary; by 1910 this figure had increased to over 2 million. 87 The increase in immigrants from Polish areas incorporated into Prussia, Austria, and Russia was similarly dramatic, though it varied from region to region. Emigration from Prussian Poland began mostly in the late 1850s and peaked by the 1890s. Polish emigration from the other partitioned areas began later, in the 1890s and continued to rise after 1900. Overall somewhere between 1.8 and 2 million inhabitants of the partitioned Polish lands emigrated to the United States from 1870 to 1914. 88 From the 1860s and 1870s until the period before World War I, about 1 million Balkan Slavs emigrated to the United States, mostly from Austria-Hungary, Serbia, Greek Macedonia, and Bulgaria (see Table 3.1).

The vibrant cross-Atlantic migration was facilitated by several factors. Shipping agents as well as emigrants and successful return migrants encouraged others to move across the ocean. German shipping agencies that had relied upon German migrants for their profits had to turn to other areas of Europe when German emigration declined. In response, these agencies pursued migrants from further east. From 1894 to 1914 nearly 90 percent of emigrants from German ports were non-Germans. 89 In the Habsburg lands, the government’s censor committee eventually outlawed advertisements by German transportation firms, in an effort to prevent the drain of available labor. 90 But the returning migrants who had earned enough money to buy land and build a new home “promoted America with more impact than did handbills posted on village walls.” 91 The communications of emigrants who had successfully resettled and mailed their stories home induced many more to leave. Several patterns marked the emigration beyond Europe during these years. It was heavily male and migrants came primarily from peasant backgrounds. Emigrants from the Balkans were over 90 percent male from 1899 to 1910; males comprised the majority of migrants from Austria-Hungary as well. 92 During the same period, the majority of emigrants from Austria-Hungary worked in agriculture, and only a small percentage worked in American industries. 93

Table 3.1   Immigration from East Central Europe to the United States, 1899–1914 (partial data)

Ethnicity or place of origin

Number of immigrants to United States

Bulgarian and Montenegrin


Croatian and Slovenian
















Source: Walter Wilcox, ed., International Migrations vol. 1 Statistics: International Tables (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1969), Table 13, 460–470. (Serbs and several other ethnic groups and places were not indicated in this source.)

Note: *Includes Austria-Hungary, Romania, and European Turkey only.

Many migrants returned to Europe. The patterns of return migration varied considerably, and differences between short-term labor migrants and long-term settlers, between those who had planned to settle permanently, but went back again, were not always easy to distinguish. That some migrants made the trip more than once complicated the picture. Some who moved to the United States earned enough money in order to return home and secure a landholding, or to support their families. Others moved with the intention of staying, but found that their work or social lives were not what they had imagined and returned to more familiar surroundings. Most new immigrants to the United States took the lowest paying and most physically demanding jobs, and many lived in squalid conditions. Because many came from peasant backgrounds, nostalgia for native cultural traditions combined with the rigors of new work routines made return migration an attractive option. The highest rate of return for the years 1908–23 belonged to Serbs, Bulgarians, and Montenegrins, though Hungarians, Romanians, and Slovaks also returned in large numbers (see Table 3.2). Thus, the overall picture of immigration to the United States fits within the larger trend of economic migration; much of the population flow was work related and for many people it was temporary or seasonal.

Table 3.2   Immigration from East Central Europe to the United States and return migration to Eastern Europe, 1908–23

Origins (area or ethnicity)

Immigrants into USA

Return migrants

% returnees

Czech lands (Bohemia, Moravia)




Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro




Croatia, Slovenia




Dalmatia, Bosnia, and Herzegovina












































Source: Mark Wyman, Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880–1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 11.

The Balkans showed the largest percentage of returnees from the United States, with nearly two-thirds of all immigrants from Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro returning before 1914. By 1920, a high level of mortality combined with high return migration levels had reduced the number of US residents from the South Slav lands to 169,437 and from Bulgaria to 10,477. Most of the immigrants were coming to the United States, earning wages, spending little, and departing with their savings. 94 For the Balkans, transatlantic emigration amounted to a form of transient migration, linked to the old practice of pečalbari; the immigrants saw themselves as temporary labor migrants while communities back home expected them to save, remit, and return home, and community leaders sought to bring pressure on those who failed to fulfill their obligations. 95 That, before 1914, 50 percent of Austrian emigrants and 33 percent of Hungarian emigrants returned suggests that similar dynamics were at work for people in the Habsburg realms, and that not all immigrants considered the United States as a place of permanent settlement. 96

Most migrant workers, however, remained on the continent. Polish continental migration was twice as high as emigration to America. Those heading out of the Habsburg lands were also much more likely to remain in Europe. The people of East Prussia migrated in large numbers to western areas of Germany, but not much further abroad. 97 The years from 1854 to 1914 witnessed the height of migration, turning East Central Europe into a vast network of migration chains within and from the region. Klaus Bade reflecting on the Polish case argues that,

between 1860 and 1914, probably more than one-third of the total population of almost 30 million in the Polish territories was familiar with different forms of migration as part of their everyday working lives, whether short- and long-distance migration in rural districts, rural-urban migration, or continental and overseas labor migration and emigration. 98

But the aftermath of World War I curbed these extensive migration trends. The mass overseas emigration was not repeated in the 1920s because of the new immigration laws in the United States. 99 The tighter enforcement of nation-state borders and passport regulations limited the spontaneous labor and seasonal migrations. 100 A period of enhanced mobility was coming to an end.

The drive to homogenization: ethnic unmixing, 1878–1950

While economic migrations dominated much of the population movements of the nineteenth century, the politics associated with the disintegration of the multiethnic empires and their replacement with ethnically-based nation-states increasingly promoted a new kind of migration. In 1923, the British diplomat Lord Curzon used the term “ethnic unmixing” to describe the reality of war and displacement following the Greco-Turkish war of 1921–22 that led to the first compulsory population exchange in modern Europe. Scholars have used the term to refer to the demographic changes associated with the disappearance of the Ottoman, Russian, and Habsburg Empires and the establishment of new or enlarged nation-states in East Central Europe after World War I. 101 This process of “unmixing” continued during the turbulence of World War II and involved some 46 million East Central Europeans. In fact, the postwar period produced the most comprehensive ethnic cleansing of the continent, with the forced migration of over 16 million individuals. The period from the Berlin Treaty of 1878 to the end of World War II witnessed the greatest demographic shift in European history. By 1950, the once diversely populated East Central Europe had been redrawn along mostly homogeneous national boundaries.

Several trends determined the outcome of population movements in the late nineteenth century. With the expansion of the role of the state through taxation, education, conscription, and the maintenance of public order, the bureaucracy was now actively involved in regulating migration. With the new state borders and tighter citizenship requirements, local mobility declined. 102 Because the newly emerging nation-states in the Balkans and, later, East Central Europe, were organized according to ethnic criteria and generally espoused nationalist ideologies, elites strove to control and manage their populations to a degree never seen before. After the Berlin Treaty of 1878, elite and state efforts to create homogeneous nation-states produced organized, violent, and massive population movements. The combination of modern bureaucracies and armies, nationalist ideologies, and two world wars unleashed a flood of migrants throughout East Central Europe, many of them fleeing their homes under duress. 103

In describing his hometown, Ruschuk (today Russe in Bulgaria), in the years just before World War I, the Nobel Prize-winning writer Elias Canetti captures the notorious mixing of peoples in the Balkans:

If I say that Ruschuk is in Bulgaria, then I am giving an inadequate picture of it. For people of the most varied backgrounds lived there, on any one day one could hear seven or eight languages. Aside from the Bulgarians, who often came from the countryside, there were many Turks who lived in their own neighborhood, and next to it was the neighborhood of the Sephardim, the Spanish Jews – our neighborhood. There were Greeks, Albanians, Armenians, Gypsies. From the opposite side of the Danube came Rumanians . . . There were also Russians here and there. 104

Even if Canetti used normative national categories, his emphasis was on the continued ethno-linguistic and religious diversity of the Balkans well into the twentieth century – a diversity that now stood in the way of the increasingly stronger nationalizing state, which saw its territory as the domain of the dominant state-owning nation.

While reaching its climax in the aftermath of World War I, in the Balkans the process of “ethnic unmixing” had begun many decades prior when nation-states started emerging in the territories of the Ottoman Empire. Because ethnicity was not yet the marker by which governments and armies identified and targeted populations for relocation, early forced migrations were mainly based on religious distinctions between Muslims and Christians. 105 During the period of the two Serbian revolts and the Greek War of Independence between 1804 and 1830, Muslims fled their territories while Christians of various ethnic backgrounds took their place. This description of the arrival of Muslim refugees into Ottoman Bosnia from newly autonomous Serbia from Ivo Andric’s novel, Bridge on the Drina captures the desperate plight of the fugitives:

[T]he first refugees . . . appeared on the bridge. The men were for the most part on foot, dusty and bowed, while the women wrapped in their veils were balanced on small horses with small children tied to the saddle-bags or to boxes. Now and again a more important man rode a better horse, but with lowered head and with funeral pace, revealing even more clearly the misfortune which had driven them hither. Some of them were leading a single goat on a short halter. Others carried lambs in their laps. All were silent; even the children did not cry. All that could be heard was the beat of horseshoes and footsteps and the monotonous clinking of wooden and copper vessels on the overloaded horses. 106

As Muslims fled, Orthodox Christians inhabiting Croatia-Slavonia and Vojvodina in the Habsburg monarchy resettled to autonomous Serbia after 1815 to staff the administrations of the new state. In a similar trend, Greek-speakers from various places in the Ottoman Empire resettled to the Greek Kingdom after its creation in 1830. From 1830 to 1878, some 120,000 Muslims fled the territories ceded to the Balkan states while a significant number of Christians moved to the new countries of Serbia, Greece, and Romania (after 1859) (see Table 3.3). 107

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78 had further dramatic demographic effects in the entire Balkans. During the war, 34 percent (515,000) of the Muslims in what would become Bulgaria became refugees. At the same time, some 187,000 Bulgarian-speakers left the Ottoman territories. Roughly 160,000 Muslims left Austrian-occupied Bosnia, most of them resettling to neighboring Kosovo or Macedonia. 108 Despite the “minority clauses” of the 1878 Berlin Treaty, which protected populations regardless of their “religious creeds and confessions,” more Muslims fled newly established Bulgaria. Some 350,000 Turks fled Bulgaria between 1878 and 1912, and the number of Muslims (including the Bulgarian-speaking Pomaks) decreased from 25 percent of the population in 1880 to 14 percent by 1910. 109 As a result of this flight, in the late nineteenth century the remaining Ottoman territories in Europe (Macedonia, Thrace, and Albania) now had a Muslim majority for the first time since the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans. 110 In contrast to the previous period, these population movements had a pronounced political and nationalist edge, removing populations from certain territories because of their religion and ethnicity. At this point, unmixing started occurring more along ethno-linguistic rather than religious lines as the idea of nationally pure states became connected to the drive for political independence in the Balkans.

Similar trends of ethnically motivated resettlement based on nationalist principles were evident in Central Europe. In 1886, the government of recently unified Germany created a Colonizing Commission (Ansiedlungs-Kommission) to buy out Polish farmers and to settle Germans in Pomerania and Poznan (Posen). For a time, German officials even forced some Poles to move into the Russian partition of Poland. In 1894 a subsidized Society of the Eastern Marches (Ostmarkenverein) was created to promote German colonization in the east. The German government spent more than a billion gold marks to alter the ethnic make-up of lands in the east, with only modest results. 111 Polish national activists attempted to do the same, though they lacked the resources. In 1867, when Galicia attained some autonomy within the Habsburg realms, Polish elites promoted Polish education, which became the basis for a Polish-led government. These policies accounted for a significant migration of Galician Germans to West Prussia and Poznan in the 1900s. 112

Table 3.3   Muslim migrations in the Balkans, 1815–1920 (partial data)

Time period

Area of origins



Serbia, Greece












Macedonia, Thrace, Albania


Source: Justin McCarthy, “Muslims in Ottoman Europe: Population from 1800–1912,” Nationalities Papers 28, no. 1 (2000), 32, 35, 36; Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria (New York: Routledge, 1997), Tables 2.9 and 3.1.

Jewish emigration emerged from analogous but much more violent targeting. By the late nineteenth century the situation for Jews in East Central Europe had become extremely precarious, and areas under tsarist control, in particular, were subjected to widespread pogroms and intense persecution. As Michael Marrus argues, “Jews also bore the particularly heavy weight of official hostility reserved for outsiders – in their case, a community apart – not only in religion, but also in language, culture, dress, and way of life.” 113 The 1881 pogroms in the Russian Empire marked a watershed in the history of modern Jewry. They were part of the broader shift toward national chauvinism that negatively influenced the treatment of Jews across the region. Imperial German officials considered Jews an “unwanted element” and ensured that the 2.5 million Jewish emigrants, mostly from the Pale of Settlement, moved directly to the ports of Bremen and Hamburg. 114 Unlike other transatlantic migrants from East Central Europe, few Jews made the return trip, especially after 1900. In addition to persecution, the sheer poverty of Galicia’s Jews was a prime motive for their emigration. The case of the Garrett family was typical of Jewish thinking about emigration from the Polish lands in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As Alvin Garrett related:

My father came here first. He wanted to go to either Palestine or the United States. He had applications made to both countries. He got the visa to the United States, and about a week or two after, we got the visa to Palestine, but he chose the United States because he had three aunts living here and because he felt it was the land of opportunity. My father hated the antisemitism in Poland . . . It just got to my father so badly, he just wanted to get out of there, and wanted his family out of there. 115

Such cases reflected the multiple impulses, the desire to escape persecution and the hope of a better quality of life, as well as the familial connections, that led many Jews to leave their homes and move to America.

Another big wave of population movements occurred during the Balkan Wars and World War I. In the Ottoman Empire, people living in borderland areas such as Thrace, Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia were forced to resettle multiple times as successive armies and administrations entered their areas, initiating chain reactions of human displacement. From 1912 to 1920, according to Ottoman statistics, some 414,000 Muslims migrated to Anatolia and Eastern Thrace (the regions that became the Turkish Republic in 1923) from various parts of the Balkans; 250,000 moved in 1914 alone (see Table 3.3). 116 In the Balkans for the entire period of the wars, more than 2.5 million people were dislocated (see Table 3.4). 117 But nationality was not the main factor in the decision for or against emigration; while many would have preferred to remain in their areas as minorities, the progress of military campaigns or the execution of state-orchestrated population movements often gave them no choice. Beyond militarily motivated population displacements, “enemy” minorities were segregated and interned or removed from strategic areas in wartime. 118 For example, after 1914 some 40,000 Greeks fled Western Thrace, which had been incorporated into Bulgaria, while some 80,000 Bulgarians left their lands that had become part of Serbia, Greece, or Romania, showing that the power of the state to dictate people’s choices was increasing. Similarly, 20,000 Albanians resettled from Kosovo, now in Serbia, to the new Albanian state. In 1914, 265,000 Greeks abandoned the Ottoman Empire while 115,000 Turks left Greece. Characteristic of the temporary nature of many migrations, some of these people sought repatriation to their original areas after the wars’ end. 119

These trends continued during World War I, which for the inhabitants of the Balkans in many ways functioned as the “Third” Balkan War. During World War I in Serbia, after the attack of the Habsburg and Bulgarian armies, 120,000 to 150,000 Serbs fled with the Serbian army, only to return at the war’s end. When Bulgarian officials seized Aegean Macedonia, previously in Greek hands, they interned 36,000 Greek inhabitants of Macedonia to Bulgaria and they settled 39,000 Bulgarian migrants in their place, hoping to secure the rapid Bulgarization of the area. Similarly, after 1918 some 180,000 Greeks moved back from Greece to their places of birth in Eastern Thrace and Asia Minor in the Ottoman Empire. With the conclusion of the war, Hungarians fled the territories in Vojvodina, and Croatia-Slavonia ceded to Yugoslavia as well as Transylvania ceded to Romania, some 55,000 and 220,000 people, respectively. 120

Table 3.4   Migrations in the Balkans during the Balkan Wars and World War I, 1912–18 (partial data)








Eastern Thrace (Turkey)





Serbia, Greece, Romania





Western Thrace (Bulgaria)





Kosovo (Serbia)





Eastern Thrace (Turkey)





Asia Minor (Turkey)










Serbia (occupied)

Adriatic coast




Macedonia (Bulgaria)






Macedonia (Bulgaria)





Turkey under Greek occupation




Vojvodina, Croatia-Slavonia (Yugoslavia)





Transylvania (Romania)



Sources: Alexandros Pallis, “Racial Migrations in the Balkans during the Years 1912–1924,” Geographical Journal LXVI (1925): 315–331; Dimitrije Djordjevich, “Migrations during the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars and World War One,” in Ninić, Migrations in Balkan History (Belgrade: Prosveta, 1989), 115–129. More figures, often with variations, are available in Stephen Ladas, The Exchange of Minorities: Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932), 10–17.

The efforts to reshape the borderlands through expulsion and resettlement became a recurrent feature of life in these regions during the wars and their aftermath. On the western borders of the Russian Empire, where the mix of populations included Poles, Jews, Ukrainians, Belorussians, Germans, and others, World War I brought forced deportations. In December 1914 the Russian military began the forced relocation of all Austro-Hungarian, German, and Ottoman subjects from the Polish provinces in the west. 121 This policy expanded to target over 600,000 Jews for expulsion from Russian-occupied territories by the end of 1915. 122 After the Russian defeat in the west, several million people fled eastward from the approaching Austro-Hungarian and German armies. As the German offensive in the east began, Poles started moving in the opposite direction to Germany, some voluntarily, others by force. In one instance, the regular Polish seasonal laborers were prevented from leaving Germany because they were needed to fill the positions vacated by military recruits. 123 The conclusion of formal hostilities in November 1918 did not mean the end of widespread dislocation. Once Poland was established as an independent country after the war, fighting continued along the Polish–Russian frontier into 1921 as the Bolsheviks attempted to secure their borders, consolidate power, and spread the Revolution. This situation induced more people to flee, particularly as famine spread and many people of Polish nationality moved to the reestablished state of Poland.

While many wartime population movements were spontaneous flights, governments planned and implemented others by force. In an effort to minimize the chaos, cost, and violence associated with these migrations, Balkan politicians proposed the first population exchange treaties, based on the presumption of voluntary migration. Following the Balkan Wars, in 1913 Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire agreed on the “reciprocal exchange” of 100,000 Bulgarians and Turks in the 50 kilometer zone of the new border established in Eastern Thrace. In 1914, the Ottoman and Greek governments similarly discussed exchanging Greeks in the Izmir/Smyrna area for Muslims in Macedonia and Epirus, a population of nearly 1 million people. Yet the outbreak of World War I stalled these negotiations. 124 After the war, a Greek proposal outlined the need for a comprehensive population exchange among Bulgaria, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, but both Yugoslavia and Turkey declined to participate. 125 Under League of Nations supervision, Bulgaria and Greece signed a Convention for the Emigration of Minorities on November 27, 1919, which served “to regulate the reciprocal and voluntary emigration of the racial, religious, and linguistic minorities” between the two countries. 126 Persons 18 years of age could submit a declaration for emigration; the emigrants permanently lost citizenship in their country of origin, while that government took over their immovable property; representatives of both countries decided on the procedures for compensating the emigrants for their lost estates. 127 The Convention set up special frontier posts, customs regulations, reduced transportation rates, and the free export of cattle and movable property, and encouraged representatives of the affected minorities to make visits to the other country in order to identify suitable resettlement locations. 128 The guiding idea behind the Convention reflected the elites’ new prioritization of national identities and held that its provisions would encourage people to voluntarily resettle in the country of their ostensible nationality.

Despite these clauses, by the summer of 1923 few Bulgarians and Greeks had applied to emigrate. 129 Only when large numbers of Greek Orthodox refugees started arriving in Greece from Turkey in 1923, did the accompanying disorder spill into the rest of the Balkans and cause the mass flight of both Bulgarians and Greeks. 130 In the end, these emigrations affected some 154,691 individuals. Despite the provision for voluntary emigration, the Convention acted to pressure minorities to emigrate. 131

Even more radical measures of “umixing” were taken after the Turkish-Greek War of 1921–22. In the summer of 1922 Turkish nationalist forces defeated the Greek army, which had facilitated the expulsion and massacre of Muslims during its earlier advance to the interior of Asia Minor; the Greek defeat exposed the Christian population to reprisals by Turkish irregulars and the Turkish army. Orthodox Christians chaotically fled their villages and towns for Greece. Civilian casualties were high; many women were raped and abducted while men were detained in labor battalions and disappeared. 132 When the League of Nations initiated peace talks in Lausanne in November 1922, all sides recognized that a peace settlement would involve population displacement. Neither state was willing to accept the imposition of minority treaties regarded as Great Power interference. Turkish representatives wished to build a centralized, homogeneous, Turkish nation-state in place of the multiethnic Ottoman Empire. Because so many Greek Orthodox refugees had fled Turkey already, Greek politicians recognized that their return was impossible, and preferred instead to rid their lands of Muslim minorities. The goal was to establish nation-states with homogeneous populations.

The Lausanne Treaty signed in July 1923 created the precedent of compulsory population exchange between “Turkish nationals of the Greek Orthodox religion established in Turkish territory” and “Greek nationals of the Muslim religion established in Greek territory” who “shall not return to live in Turkey or Greece.” 133 This definition of the exchanged populations, focused on their religion rather than their nationality, clearly demonstrates how fluid identity categories remained even after World War I. But most characteristic of the radical shift in international politics was the fact that, according to the Lausanne Treaty, in addition to the populations that had already fled, a significant group of people who had not been affected by war in 1921–22 were now mandated to leave Greece and Turkey. Almost all Christian populations in Anatolia and Turkish Thrace, about 1.5 million, were de facto expelled from their homes. About 500,000 Muslims, predominantly Turks but also the Greek-speaking Kritiki of Crete and Muslim Roma, Pomaks, and Albanians were expelled from Greece. The Greeks of Istanbul, Imbros, and Tenedos, strategic islands overlooking the Dardanelles, as well as the Muslims of Western Thrace were the only populations exempted from this forced exchange due to a special agreement between Greece and Turkey to preserve some of the most visible minorities in both countries. Overall, for both Christians and Muslims, a population of 2 million, exchange entailed traumatic exile. But Greece, Turkey, and the international community saw the ethnic homogenization of the two states as positive and stabilizing.

The presence of large refugee populations in the interwar period destabilized the economy and society of East Central European states and became a source of political instability. The refugees frequently became communist sympathizers and in defeated countries such as Bulgaria and Hungary they furthered territorial revisionism. 134 To facilitate recovery after the war, the League of Nations actively helped the accommodation of refugees. After the arrival of 280,000 refugees in Bulgaria, a 1926 League of Nations loan allowed 40,000 families to receive land, agricultural equipment, seeds, animals, homes, and loans by the early 1930s. In Greece, the Refugee Settlement Commission under the League of Nations supervised the distribution of land and agricultural equipment, house construction, amelioration and irrigation campaigns, and communications improvements to the most destitute of the 1.5 million refugees residing in the country. 135 Governments tried to use the refugees to colonize border areas with sizeable minority populations; such campaigns were attempted in Greece, Bulgaria, and Czechoslovakia. 136 Because of limited economic resources for integration and tensions between the newcomers and the local population, refugees played an important role in domestic politics.

Despite the large wartime population movements, the East Central European countries failed to achieve total national homogeneity during the interwar years and minorities remained prominent in many areas (see Table 3.5). The end of Austria-Hungary brought large numbers of refugees to the newly established successor states. By the late 1920s Austria received 764,000 people that had resided elsewhere in the empire prior to the war. With the Trianon Peace Treaty, Hungary lost 72 percent of its previous territory and received roughly half a million refugees. At the same time, 3 million Hungarians became minorities in Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. Unlike the Ottoman case, a relatively small percentage of Hungarians emigrated abroad, and those who did were mostly elites. The majority of Hungarian peasants stayed, something that the Hungarian government encouraged to foster irredentist claims. Five million Germans were also transformed into minorities due to the punitive territorial clauses of the Versailles Treaty. Many Germans who found themselves in Poland after the war had been German citizens before the war. For them, both political and economic conditions appeared more favorable across the border in Germany. The exodus was particularly heavy from urban areas. While a majority of Germans emigrated from Poland by the mid-1920s, most other minorities stayed in their prewar country. Aside from former imperial civil servants and military personnel, most German-speakers remained in Czechoslovakia; in the Sudetenland, they comprised 95 percent of the population. 137

It is important to emphasize that the presence of minorities in censuses and irredentist literature does not mean that people necessarily prioritized their national identities – and there is a growing literature to show the opposite. 138 Yet, from the perspective of state security, the presence of minority populations produced particularly tense relations in the contested territories of the former imperial borderlands. After the war, Romania annexed several provinces with large minority populations; Transylvania, lost by Hungary, had a significant Hungarian-speaking population, some 1.5 million people, almost 8 percent of Romania’s total population, but a quarter of Transylvania’s. 139 Similarly, Serbia and Greece split the formerly Ottoman province Macedonia, but Bulgaria remained a strongly revisionist power maintaining that the remaining 140,000 Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia were Bulgarians while criticizing Serbia for pursuing assimilation measures in Serbian (Vardar) Macedonia. 140 In Bulgaria, Muslims comprised 820,000 (14 percent) of all inhabitants in 1934. While the Bulgarian governments did not pursue uniform expulsion policies, discriminatory taxation, economic marginalization, and educational restrictions encouraged the flight of close to 200,000 Muslims, predominantly Turks, in the interwar years. 141 Czechoslovakia also faced challenges of national heterogeneity with 3.2 million German-speakers (22 percent of the population), and significant Ruthenian and Hungarian minorities. 142

Table 3.5   Minorities in Eastern Europe in the interwar period

Country and year

Minority group by ethnicity



Romania (1930)






















Bulgaria (1920)






























Poland (1921)




Ukrainians (Ruthenians)












Hungary (1920)







Jews (by religion)


























Source: Joseph Rothschild, East Central Europe between the Two World Wars (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1974).

Interwar Poland, where minorities constituted 30 percent of the population, offers a good example of how the new nation-states pursued contradictory policies aimed at minimizing the influence of their minorities. As Rogers Brubaker has argued, while the Polish bureaucracy tried to assimilate the 5.5 million Ukrainians and Belarusians, it adopted policies of dissimilation against the 2.5 million Jews and close to 1 million Germans, choosing to keep the two groups distinct from the rest of the population. 143 The Citizenship Act of 1920 permitted Poles living abroad to return and acquire Polish citizenship. The Polish state also sought to settle Poles along its eastern border regions; over 1.2 million immigrants from Russia arrived in Poland between 1918 and 1921. Many of these were Jews fleeing from persecution, White Army pogroms, or Red Army reprisals, complicating the plans for Polish colonization of the region. 144 Furthermore, a significant number of Poles migrated westward, first into the newly awarded territories from Germany and later as seasonal laborers in Germany. Weimar Germany, for its part, continued the originally Prussian policy of limiting the stay of Polish migrant workers; this practice was formalized with a November 1927 treaty that gave the German government control over the movement of farm laborers. 145 Despite the Polish state’s efforts at homogenization, migrants moved to where they saw fit without concern for state policies. In the late 1930s, the minority question continued complicating the political decisions and social reform movement in many East Central European countries.

During the late 1930s and 1940s, population movements became linked with the nationalist programs of individual states, war, and the Nazis’ genocidal policies. Nazi population policies focused on clearing the east of Jews and Poles and collecting Germans into an integrated homeland or greater Reich. 146 This dual aspect of Nazi resettlement goals created complex and contradictory population policies, which appeared immediately after the takeover of the Sudetenland in October 1938. Tens of thousands of Czechs and Jews left the borderland areas of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. While they were not forced out in the manner that soon became commonplace in areas of occupied Poland, many Czechs lost their jobs and most Jews understood that the imposition of Nazi power threatened their immediate livelihood. Prague was one destination for Jews from the Bohemian borderlands, though many also sought to go abroad. However, as the Nazi persecution of Jews began to grow in the late 1930s, emigration options declined as states began closing their borders to Jews. The British government prevented Palestine, which had been an important receiving country for Jews (accepting 215,000 – mostly from East Central Europe – between 1933 and 1939), from permitting further immigration. 147 While some Czechoslovak Jews were able to emigrate in 1938 and early 1939, increasing restrictions left 117,000 Jews in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia on the eve of the war. 148

The German-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 offered new possibilities for population restructuring while unleashing massive refugee movements. In the Soviet-controlled east, deportations ensued immediately as the NKVD rounded up Polish officials, intellectuals, and others, and sent them to labor camps deep in the interior of the USSR. 149 These expulsions, however, differed from the Nazis’. The Soviets feared potential enemies and they sought to eliminate the possibility of active resistance. For the Nazis, population restructuring was part of a deep ideological commitment to create ethnically homogeneous German “living space.” 150 The Nazi concept of Lebensraum included the relocation of German-speakers from the east, the so-called Volksdeutsche, as the vanguard for German expansion into an enlarged Third Reich and the removal of non-Germans from these areas. The Nazis avidly pursued this policy after conquering Poland.

The first German-speakers to be resettled in accordance with this policy were from South Tyrol, followed by those from the Baltic countries. This was followed by an agreement between Germany and the USSR on November 16, 1939, for an exchange of populations; to the Soviet Union went several thousand Ukrainians and White Russians, a mere fraction of their total number, and Germans, mostly from Volhynia and Galicia, went to Nazi-occupied Poland. 151 The relocation of Volksdeutsche necessitated the expulsion of others, mostly Poles, who owned the farms that these German settlers were to occupy. 152 These Poles were forced eastward into the Generalgouvernement. By the end of 1941, roughly 1.5 million Polish citizens had been forcibly deported and nearly 500,000 German-speakers settled in their place. 153 This pattern of resettlement and expulsion, whereby the arrival of one group required the expulsion and relocation of another, repeated itself several times before 1942. Throughout the war, the Nazis relocated almost a million German-speakers from various parts of Europe to occupied Poland and to Germany. 154

Nazi policies also led to population movements in other parts of East Central Europe and especially to the reshuffling of minority populations. When Romania returned southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria in 1940, this territorial adjustment was accompanied by the exchange of Bulgarians and Romanians living in close proximity to the border. 155 When Bulgaria entered the northern parts of Greece in 1941, Greeks fled the Bulgarian regime. Hungarians retaking parts of northern and eastern Transylvania spurred the migration of Romanians to the south; many of these were officials who had been moved there during the interwar years. Hungarian authorities sometimes used violence to induce people to leave. Large numbers of Hungarians, in turn, moved northward to the expanded Hungarian state. 156 The Nazi policies of re-shaping Europe by changing borders and moving populations had a spillover effect in the entire area (see Table 3.6).

Nazi war plans also necessitated the recruitment of foreign workers in order to maintain industrial and agricultural production, and to replace Germans who entered the military (see Table 3.7). Nazi Germany encouraged the migration of foreign workers to the Reich already beginning in 1937. In 1938 and 1939 tens of thousands of Poles, Czechs, and others migrated to work in the enlarged Reich. 157 Once the war began, Nazi officials turned to more coercive recruitment methods and harsher regulations for foreign workers, particularly those from the east. 158 They also began to use POWs for labor. By the end of 1941 nearly 1 million Poles worked in Germany, along with nearly 2 million POWs. As the war continued the number of foreign workers increased. While the largest contingent of foreign laborers came from occupied areas of the Soviet Union, significant numbers of Poles, Czechs, and others from East Central Europe also labored in the Reich. While many were forced to work, others, such as Bulgarians, went voluntarily. By 1944, more than 8 million foreigners were working for the German Reich. 159 For the entire period of the war, over 13 million foreigners, including Jews and POWs, worked for the Reich – the vast majority under forced labor conditions. 160

Table 3.6   Wartime transfers, expulsions, and related population movements, 1939–44







Polish citizens





Polish citizens



1.5–2 million


Ethnic Germans


German Reich




N. Dobrudja

S. Dobrudja




S. Dobrudja

N. Dobrudja




N. Transylvania





S. Transylvania




























Sources: Joseph Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 1939–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), 270–271, 482–487; Paul Robert Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 164–167; Pavel Polian, Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2004), 118–119.

Note: Numbers do not include those who moved for work, or those who fled.

Table 3.7   Total number of civilian workers in Nazi Germany, 1938–45

Ethnic group

Number of workers















Sources: Mark Spoerer and Jochen Fleischhacker, “Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany: Categories, Numbers and Survivors,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 33, no. 2 (Autumn, 2002): 187; Mark Spoerer and Jochen Fleischhacker, “The Compensation of Nazi Germany’s Forced Laborers: Demographic Findings and Political Implications,” Population Studies 56, no. 1 (March, 2002): 5–21.

Note: Numbers do not include POWs, concentration camp inmates, or Jews.

The Nazis reserved their most radical measures for the Jewish population. These policies stemmed from distinct ideological motives, but they became intertwined with and were influenced by the resettlement of German-speakers. For example, when not enough suitable property could be procured through the expulsion of Poles from the incorporated territories in 1939, Nazi officials began deporting large numbers of Jews in order to accommodate German-speakers who were being relocated from the east. 161 Jews began being moved into ghettos and were utilized for labor until a “final solution to the Jewish question” could be found. Until the invasion of the Soviet Union, Nazi plans had revolved around the idea of pushing the Jews further east or overseas. Because alternative destinations, such as Madagascar – to which Jews might be deported en masse – failed to materialize, Nazi officials decided on the policy of extermination, though historians continue to debate the timing and reasons for this decision. 162 As the Nazi war machine rolled east into Soviet-held territory and, especially after Einsatzgruppen began killing Jews and others in large numbers in July 1941, some fled further eastward into Soviet territory. Many Jews were simply rounded up and shot into mass graves near where they lived. In the occupied east, Jews were gathered and sent to extermination centers. In Poland the shipment of Jews to these centers first involved their capture in the many villages and towns, after which they were brought to larger towns for concentration and transport. This took place mostly within a radius of 200 miles of the extermination centers. 163

In countries not directly under German control during the war, Jews were also expelled and at times murdered. For example, Romanian soldiers drove Jews from Bessarabia and Bukovina en masse into Transnistria in 1941 in two separate actions. During the first action in August German troops on the other side of the Dniester prevented Jews from crossing; they remained in border towns for two months. In September, the expulsions started again. Raul Hilberg indicates that roughly 35,000 Jews were killed during these events. 164 Other countries approached the treatment of their Jews differently. Some, like Hungary and Bulgaria, attempted to mitigate or deflect Nazi demands to hand over Jews, and many survived. But even in a country such as Bulgaria, which did not deport its 40,000 Jews despite German pressure, the Jewish populations from the just acquired lands in Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and Northern Greece were treated more harshly, and more than 11,000 were deported to extermination camps. 165 Generally the plight of Jews in territories that had been newly acquired – with the aid of the Axis powers – was worse than that of Jews who had lived in the old country and forged deeper bonds with their Christian neighbors; the new Jews were considered potentially disloyal, marginal, and dispensable. Ultimately, nearly 6 million Jews and a more difficult to determine number of Roma perished as a result of Nazi policies and actions and those of their collaborators. 166 Tens of thousands of other so-called “undesirables” were also targeted and murdered as a part of the Nazi onslaught.

More massive migrations at the end of World War II were a continuation of wartime policies and population movements. Jewish emigration particularly evolved from wartime practices and attitudes. Returning Jews received little support and antisemitic violence continued in some places. 167 Likewise, the ethnic cleansing campaigns along the Polish-Ukrainian border had begun as a war within the war, caught in the maelstrom of the sweeping eastern front and the heart of the Holocaust. While some German-speakers were resettled as part of the Nazi empire building practices in the east during the war, their ethnic cleansing from the region following the war was nearly total and sanctioned by the Allied powers. Not only were Germans and other minorities forced to leave their homes, but others moved in to acquire their property and new opportunities at their expense. These postwar migrations in East Central Europe concluded the population movements unleashed during the war, particularly those of Germans and Jews, and may be seen as a continuation of the regional ethnic unmixing practices begun during World War I (see Table 3.8).

The migration of German-speakers at the end of the war occurred in different guises and at different times, but cumulatively over 12 million persons were displaced by 1948. Many German-speakers fled from their homes with the retreat of the German army from East Prussia, Romania, and Poland; some of these had just recently been resettled there during the war. Red Army troops forced many others to flee and unleashed a ferocious period of retribution against Germans. Those who remained faced expulsion at the hands of the reestablished Czechoslovak, Polish, Hungarian, and Yugoslav states, generally with Allied support, as a punishment for the Nazis’ own brutal wartime policies. Some German-speakers were deported to the Soviet Union and ended up in Gulag camps, though the vast majority was sent to defeated Germany. 168 The Czechoslovak government in exile was particularly active in its attempts to gain Allied backing for the idea of a “population transfer.” With the Allies’ tacit support, though without formal agreement, it initiated the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia. From May to August 1945 somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 Sudeten Germans fled or were expelled. One expellee later recalled:

In the station hall, all persons to be expelled and all their possessions were subjected to a strict search . . . In the real and literal sense of the word, we left the room as beggars. Then we were loaded into railway cars. It was after midnight when our train of cattle cars left, plastered with slogans “Heil Hitler” and “Home into the Reich” . . . Nobody knew where to go the next day at the start of an uncertain future. 169

Table 3.8   Postwar transfers, expulsions, and related population movements, 1944–48












Ethnic and Reich Germans, Magyars






Polish land ceded to USSR

German lands ceded to Poland

1 million


Ukrainians, Belorussians, Lithuanians

Polish lands ceded to USSR




Ethnic and Reich Germans



12 million*



Subcarpathia Rus’ USSR (former Czechoslovakia)





Central Poland

German lands ceded to Poland

3 million


Czechs, Slovaks

Interior of Czechoslovakia

Borderlands of Czechoslovakia

1.8 million







Polish émigrés





Czech and Slovak emigrés









Source: Eugene Kulischer, Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917–47 (New York, 1948), 164–167.

Note: *includes large number of people who fled.

Similar scenes occurred in Poland. The Potsdam Accord, which the Allied powers signed on August 2, 1945, merely sanctioned the ethnic cleansing of German-speakers from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary, though it sought to secure the “humane transfer” of the remaining population. By 1947, over 2 million more Germans were put on trains and shipped out of Czechoslovakia.

A similar effort to expel the Hungarian population living in Slovakia proved more difficult to achieve. As in the Czechoslovak and Polish cases, indiscriminate expulsions began immediately after the war. However, unlike the Bohemian-Saxon border across which the Soviet military authorities permitted the Czechoslovak army to expel Germans, Soviet authorities in Hungary were less cooperative. The expulsion of Hungarians was not approved by the Allied powers, but a bilateral agreement was reached in February 1946 that permitted a population exchange between Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Ultimately the negotiations over the number of eligible candidates for exchange and the question of compensation prevented a wholesale transfer of both countries’ Slovak and Magyar minorities. 170 Nonetheless, in Czechoslovakia tens of thousands of Magyars were forced to relocate to former Sudeten German areas; in part as retribution, in part to shore up the shortage of agricultural workers caused by the expulsion of Germans. Most of these Hungarian-speakers, however, later made their way back to southern Slovakia. Many of the wartime and postwar migrations involved multiple movements of groups. Migration policies that targeted the removal of certain ethnic minorities simultaneously involved the resettlement of other, usually titular ethnic groups, in their place. This process, which sought to make “ethnic unmixing” a reality, though nowhere was it completed, had the effect of vastly increasing the number of migrants during these years.

The readjustment of postwar Poland’s borders, moved west 200–300 kilometers after the war, led to the flight of roughly eight million people, Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Lithuanians. As a result of official agreements, Poles and Jews could choose to move to Poland from areas given to the Soviet Union, whereas Ukrainians, Belorussians, and Lithuanians were to go to their respective Soviet republics. 171 It was necessary to use force to induce some people to move. On the other hand, more than three million Poles from central Poland relocated to the so-called “recovered territories” in the west to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the departing Germans. The Polish government continued to implement repressive ethnic policies into 1947 when Ukrainian-speakers were forced out of the Polish-Ukrainian borderlands and dispersed throughout the country, so that they would not represent a compact enclave along the border with the Soviet Union. 172 The Czechoslovak government pursued similar efforts with the remaining Germans living in borderland regions.

Six to seven million displaced persons (DPs) lived in the western zones of postwar occupied Germany, in addition to the streaming influx of German expellees; a similar number of DPs lived in the Soviet zone. Many of the DPs were former foreign laborers in the Nazi Reich, and the majority were Poles. POWs and former concentration camp inmates comprised the remainder. In October 1945 the United Nations Rehabilitation and Relief Administration (UNRRA) took control of the administration of DPs, many of whom were living in camps. By the end of 1945 most DPs had returned home, so that only 737,375 people continued living under UNRRA care. Many of these, however, did not want to leave the camps for fear of persecution. Among the largest groups of remaining DPs were inhabitants of the Baltic states, reluctant to return to the Soviet Union, and Poles from Poland’s Eastern Borderlands that had become Soviet territory. 173 Many had to be forced to return. In the end, roughly two million Soviet citizens – Ukrainians, Belorussians, Baltic peoples, and Poles, some of them Soviet citizens only since September 1939 – were transported back east. 174

Jews faced continued persecution after the war. When they returned from exile or from concentration camps to their homes they faced hostile inhabitants and unsympathetic local governments. Many then headed to Germany and the DP camps; by December 1945, 3,000 Jews per week were arriving in DP camps in Germany from the east. 175 This volume increased dramatically in 1946, particularly following the pogrom in Kielce, Poland during the summer. 176 By 1947, 122,313 Polish Jews had become residents in the UNRRA camps and the figure continued to climb. Jews comprised 25 percent of the UNRRA camp population in Austria and Germany in 1947. 177 Some of them found ways to escape the camps and they traveled abroad, helped by family members or Jewish organizations including the so-called Bricha, which covertly assisted the immigration of Jews to Palestine. Roughly 57 percent of Jewish emigrants headed to Palestine, while nearly 30 percent went to North America. 178

Population movements, 1944–48

Map 3.1   Population movements, 1944–48

Source: From Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, p. 191 (University of Washington Press, 2002) © Paul Robert Magocsi.

That “ethnic unmixing” generally succeeded can be seen from the drop in the number of ethnic minorities in the countries of East Central Europe, though states continued to manipulate such categories. From 1930 to 1960 Poland and Czechoslovakia reduced the proportion of ethnic minorities within their borders from roughly one-third to less than 10 percent. By 1956 Romania’s ethnic minority population had dropped from 28 percent to 14 percent of the population. The other countries of the region also witnessed declines. 179 The Holocaust, combined with the emigration of Jews following the war, ended the large Jewish presence in East Central Europe, which had been a crucial feature of the region’s culture and demography. German communities, also a centuries-long feature of the region, were first relocated and then expelled en masse as a result of Nazi policies of the war, and the politics of postwar retribution. Although the volume of migration varied during the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods, as did specific political rationales in each period, these population movements had in common this effort to engineer ethnic homogeneity. The effects on people’s lives were also frequently devastating and together these migrations substantially altered the demographic and ethnographic make-up of the region.

The Cold War and post-communist migrations

After the late 1940s, migration throughout the region was framed by the emerging Cold War. Thus the split between East and West significantly reduced out-migration as travel restrictions, strictly controlled borders, and stringent passport policies almost eliminated private travel abroad for the citizens of communist-ruled countries. The large-scale economic migrations that had previously characterized the region were interrupted (with the exception of Yugoslavia), and replaced by more limited political emigration. The majority of emigration took place within Europe (including Turkey), while overseas migrations to the Americas, Israel, or elsewhere were greatly reduced. Even migrations of ethnic minorities depended on bilateral agreements. The main destination countries of Eastern European emigrants during this period were Germany (68 percent), Israel (8 percent), Turkey (7 percent), Austria, and the USA. 180 Overall, Eastern European migration was relatively static after 1950 while the most significant migration flows continued the process of national homogenization that had begun before World War I and reached its apex during the World War II period.

Each of the Eastern European countries had its unique demographic conditions, but as a whole, and similar to Western Europe, population growth began to slow after the war. This was, in effect, a continuation of the demographic transition particularly related to the drop in fertility. For example, in Poland, fertility rates were still quite high with the average number of children for each woman still exceeding three in the 1950s. It was not until the 1960s that the figure dropped to fewer than three. Delayed marriage was a key factor in this change. 181 Similar changes occurred in other countries of the region, though they also varied. In 1974, the annual rate of population growth ranged widely, from 0.3 in Hungary to 0.6 in Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia to 0.9 in Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. Regional differences also existed within some countries, most notably in Yugoslavia where the Slovenes and Croats had relatively low birth rates while the ethnic Albanian population increased more dramatically. Despite the drop in fertility, and the losses connected with death, border changes, and migration at the end of World War II, populations either reached or surpassed prewar levels by the 1970s. See Table 3.9.

In part, liberal abortion policies helped to shape the trend of declining birth rates. Beginning in the mid-1950s all of the communist countries permitted abortions upon request. Fertility rates dropped dramatically in the ensuing years such that some governments attempted to make access to abortion more difficult, with Romania taking the most drastic step by outlawing the practice altogether in 1966. In most cases, however, the governments were pressured into lifting even moderate restrictions on abortions, and even in Romania abortion rates increased again in the 1970s. Abortion policies and practices stood in stark contrast to pronatalist policies that encouraged women to work and to procreate by providing payments, housing, and childcare to families with children. While abortion policies were only part of the reason for decreasing birth rates, pronatalist policies in general failed to reverse slowing population growth, or did so only for a short time. 182

Postwar migrations were closely related to broader political and economic developments in the Soviet bloc. While overseas emigration declined, and most migrations were confined to domestic ground, rural-to-urban migration particularly accelerated. The rapid socio-economic transformations after the Communist Parties took power led to the systematic transformation of the Eastern European countries into industrial societies. Extensive financial and labor inputs for heavy industry propelled this shift. Numerous large industrial cities emerged by the 1960s, transforming a primarily rural region into an urban and industrial one. Poland and Bulgaria, in particular, experienced the urban shift associated with rapid industrialization. Eleven Polish cities exceeded 100,000 inhabitants in 1931; by 1966, 23 cities comprised over 20 percent of the population. Bulgaria was an overwhelmingly agricultural country in the 1930s, but by the 1970s 60 percent of its population lived in cities. 183 While in 1910 East Central Europe had only 21 cities with populations between 200,000 and 1 million inhabitants, by 1990 there were 82 such large cities and approximately 59 percent of the entire population lived in cities. 184 Substantial differences in the rate of urbanization existed, of course. In 1974 the GDR was 75 percent urbanized; Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and Poland were more urban than rural but Albania was still two-thirds rural; and Turkey and Yugoslavia were only slightly more urbanized than Albania. In addition, contrasts existed within each country and among ethnic groups; this was most evident in the case of Yugoslavia. 185 Overall, communist policies of planned economic development through industrialization and urbanization unleashed new waves of rural to urban migration. 186

Table 3.9   Prewar and postwar population in East Central European countries (in thousands)





























Source: B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics: Europe 1750–1988 3rd ed. (New York: Stockton, 1992), 3–9.

Note: *1949.

In addition to widespread domestic migration to cities and industrial sites, some international migration took place within the Soviet bloc linked to economic development. In the late 1950s, Bulgaria sent workers to farms and construction sites in Czechoslovakia to aid in building communism. Poles, Hungarians, and Yugoslavs also went to work there, particularly in the 1960s. The GDR also received workers from other countries in the Soviet bloc. Polish and Hungarian workers began moving there in the mid-1960s, laboring on construction projects or participating in training across the border. In the 1970s, Bulgarian workers engaged in construction and forestry in the far north of Russia, Poland, and GDR. 187 Unlike earlier labor migrations in the region, the communist governments had much greater control over these guest workers through official agreements and close monitoring.

In contrast to the other socialist countries, the Yugoslav government allowed its citizens to participate in labor migrations outside the socialist orbit throughout the 1960s and 1970s. From 1964 to 1973, almost 1.5 million Yugoslav citizens migrated to Western Europe; in 1973, one in ten migrant workers in Western Europe was a Yugoslav; Germany, Austria, Sweden, and France were the main receiving countries. The decision to open the Yugoslav borders in the 1960s was linked to the liberal economic reform of 1965, which proposed international labor migration as a safety valve for unemployment. Emigration was expected to be short-term and have the positive effect of generating hard currency; the regime expected the majority of emigrants to be manual workers and petty farmers. 188 Yugoslav authorities designated these migrants as “temporary” and most of them wished to return home, pointing to parallels with the nineteenth-century pečalbari. 189 But expectations failed because a large percentage of the migrants were highly educated or skilled workers, and the process resembled “brain drain” migration. The immigrant remittances did not generate economic development as expected but were put into unproductive activities and conspicuous consumption. In the early 1970s, the Yugoslav government began encouraging the return migration of skilled workers. But a conservative backlash together with a lack of policies to re-incorporate the returnees led to continued migration waves of Yugoslav citizens to Western Europe. 190

Another aspect of migration during the communist period was the continued relocation of ethnic minorities. Most dramatically, from 1950 to 1987 roughly 1,367,790 German-speakers migrated to West Germany, primarily from Poland and Romania. 191 But similar trends were evident elsewhere as policies shifted from communist internationalism to renewed nationalism. Between 1950 and 1952, 155,000 Bulgarian Turks left the country, and again in 1982–89 at least 350,000 Turks fled from measures of forced assimilation in Bulgaria. While not just for ethnic reasons, 5.3 million GDR citizens relocated to the Federal Republic, and 1.5 million Soviet citizens, mainly Jews, emigrated to Israel or the USA. 192 The creation of the state of Israel sped up Jewish emigration from Eastern Europe. When the Jewish state came into being in May 1948, it held an open door policy on Jewish immigrants; some 340,000 Jews arrived from Europe in the first 18 months after independence. 193 Migrations to Israel continued throughout the period. The majority of the Jewish population of Bulgaria, roughly 40,000 people, resettled to Israel; between 1960 and 1992, Romania lost almost its entire Jewish population as 500,000 people emigrated to Israel and the USA, while Israel paid for these Jews to be able to emigrate. 194

Roma migration also continued during this period. During the late 1960s, for instance, several Roma communities in Slovakia were forced to relocate to the Czech lands. 195 Despite an ostensible ideological commitment to internationalism, communist regimes sometimes legitimized their authority by cracking down on ethnic “outsiders.”

Finally, political refugees or dissidents fleeing to the West served as a potent symbol of anti-communism or freedom-seeking throughout the period, despite the difficulties of distinguishing political and economic factors for emigration. Communist repression often included economic measures, such as the firing or demotion of intellectuals or party leaders, or the confiscation of desirable housing, further blurring the distinction between economic and political emigration. Poles and Czechs left in significant numbers just after the war and into the 1950s. From 1948 to 1953, 44,000 people emigrated from Czechoslovakia. 196 Following the Hungarian Uprising in 1956, 194,000 Hungarians emigrated. One Hungarian described how good fortune and a bit of hustle played a role in such escapes:

The decision [to leave] was a spontaneous one. We were thinking about it before, but we never really materialized it in our mind. For a few days after October 23rd, we thought the uprising might succeed, but even that was mixed euphoria, not quite complete euphoria. . . . So I started to go and suddenly there is a guy with a machine gun, a border guard. He says, “Where are you going?” and my friend says, “We are going to the movie.” [Laughs.] He says, “Seriously, where are you going?” And we told him, “We want to go out.” . . . “We want to get the hell out of here.” So the guy said, “All right. It is five miles to the border. It is five miles to go and you have forty-five minutes because in about forty-five minutes the train will come,” which is the Orient Express. “When the train comes you have two things to do, you either climb up there, in which case you would be captured, or you let the train run over you.” So we started to run. We passed about one hundred and fifty people. Apparently he let everybody through. We passed these people and we ran like crazy. I was in tremendous physical condition. So we were going like crazy and we were totally dead, and finally fell down onto the Austrian side of the border. Three more people came, then came the train. Then nobody came. We barely made it. That’s the way I got out. 197

The situation in East Germany was unique since Germany had been divided; the large number of emigrants, roughly 2.7 million from 1949 to 1961, when the Berlin Wall was constructed, speaks to people’s desire to join their families and escape communist rule. 198 After the suppression of the 1968 Prague Spring by Warsaw Pact forces, Czechoslovakia also witnessed increased emigration; 127,000 people departed the country in the next four years. 199 In the 1980s, some 250,000 Poles arrived in Western Europe after the imposition of martial law and the suppression of Solidarity. 200 While these emigrant waves accelerated during periods of political persecution, it is unclear whether they occurred for exclusively political reasons, or whether economic factors were also at play. Western countries allowed some political refugees, but they remained wary about a massive influx from the East. Yet “the West” as a coveted place of escape remained a powerful image for Eastern Europeans living beyond the Iron Curtain.

With the end of the Cold War, it became clear that the Iron Curtain had served as a barrier against East–West migration. As Klaus Bade points out, it is not coincidental that the collapse of communism began with the dismantling of barbed wire posts on the Hungarian-Austrian border and the flight of East Germans to the West in the summer of 1989. 201 After 1989, Poland, the former GDR, the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and Romania became sending areas to the West. Emigration from Hungary and the Czech Republic was more limited. Overall, from 1989 to 1993, more than 5 million Eastern Europeans left their countries for the West. These new immigrants included ethnic minorities, labor migrants, and political asylum seekers but their motivations frequently overlapped. Since World War II, there had been no comparable migration influx, which led to the tightening of immigration and refugee laws in the West. 202

Distinguishing between economic and political migration was as difficult in the early years of post-socialism as it had been in the previous period. Many fled to the West to seek better economic fortunes or to avoid persecution on ethnic, religious, or sexual grounds, but often these factors went hand in hand. Following the end of communist rule, migration flows from east to west reemerged along prewar patterns. For example, Polish migrants resumed large-scale seasonal migration to Germany; by 2003, nearly 290,000 Poles had seasonal employment there, and large Polish communities emerged in Great Britain as well. 203 Bulgarian labor migrants flocked to neighboring Greece but also further, to countries such as Spain and Germany. Romanians migrated in larger numbers to Spain, Italy often as construction, farm, or domestic laborers. In these societies they could easily learn the language given the similarity between Spanish, Italian and Romanian. Moldovans, by contrast, were more likely to undertake labor migrations to Russia, given their likely knowledge of Russian language and culture. While some migrants relocated abroad permanently, many went as temporary labor migrants, like the pečalbari of old, who regularly returned to their countries. 204

The end of the Cold War also unleashed the mass migration of ethnic minorities to their “kin states,” in the hope of escaping the growing nationalism of host communities and of finding a better life during the turbulent period of post-socialism. Following the persecution of the late 1980s, more Turks left Bulgaria for Turkey where they expected to avoid political repression and find better economic conditions. 205 Between 1988 and 1993, at least 125,000 Hungarians left Romania and Yugoslavia following the Hungarian government’s pronouncement that it was the protector of all Hungarians, which created an anti-Hungarian climate in both countries. Germans continued to leave Poland and Czechoslovakia. During 1989–92, 1.2 million Germans moved from East to West Germany while 230,000 (re-)emigrated to the eastern part of the country. 206 These migrants tended to abandon poorer areas for better-off regions.

The complex motivations for migration are perhaps best illustrated in the emigration of Roma, which began immediately after 1989. The main destination countries were Germany and Austria, and the main sending countries Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria. The Czech areas often served as an intermediate point to which Roma moved in large numbers; some continued on to other European countries further west. Many of the Roma were economic migrants, but they also fled social discrimination and harassment so they often sought political asylum in Western Europe and the United States. By 1993, there were 250,000 Roma asylum seekers in Germany, mostly from the Balkans. In 1997 continuing pressure against Roma communities in the Czech Republic and Slovakia culminated in a large-scale exodus to the West. But many Roma were obliged to leave Western European countries after revisions in asylum laws, incentives offered by repatriation programs, and threats of deportation undermined such movement. 207 Like their neighbors to the east, they saw the Roma as an unwanted group that posed possible threats.

The population movement associated with the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s was no doubt the most dramatic shift related to ethnicity. Many scholars have classified the outcomes of these wars as a variation on “ethnic unmixing” because the political fracturing of Yugoslavia led to the creation of mostly homogeneous new states while ethnic cleansing was widely practiced during the wars. Before the wars Yugoslavia was one of the most heterogeneous states in Europe (see Table 3.10). 208 This intermixing of populations complicated the secession process of the former Yugoslav republics because there were extensive Serbian populations throughout Yugoslavia. Thus, the Yugoslav wars produced the most extensive European migration waves since World War II.

As a result of the Yugoslav wars, between 4 and 5 million people fled from their homes either as international refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs) (see Table 3.11). 209 By the time the Bosnian war ended in November 1995, there were more than 2.5 million refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina. By mid-1997, of the 500,000 who were supposed to return after the Dayton Peace Treaty, only 300,000 had returned because of the destroyed infrastructure and areas scattered with landmines. In 1998, some 1.8 million were still displaced. Overall, roughly half a million refugees were taken in by European countries, notably Germany, Switzerland, and Sweden, as well as the US, Canada, and Australia. But by 1993 most Western European countries had closed their borders to the victims of war in Yugoslavia. 210

Table 3.10   The population of Yugoslavia according to nationality, based on the 1981 census


Number (millions)




























Source: Klaus Bade, Migration in European History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 315, 317.

Table 3.11   Internally displaced persons in the former Yugoslavia in 1993

Area of residence of IDPs

Number of IDPs



Serb-dominated Croatia








Bosnia and Herzegovina


Source: Heinz Fassmann and Rainer Münz, “European East-West Migration, 1945–1992,” The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, 476.

During the war, Western European countries responded with new measures to contain migrations caused by ethnic cleansing. The UN established the so-called “safe havens” in the midst of armed conflict (which failed miserably, as evidenced by the massacre in Srebrenica) or organized refugee centers in proxy areas (such as camps for Bosnian Muslims in Croatia). European governments adopted ideas of “temporary protection” in a number of refugee-receiving countries; the refugees were not recognized as lawful and permanent residents but tolerated as temporary refugees. In the aftermath of war, despite the attempts to encourage return migration, many people fled their homes because of the destruction of their villages and towns or the politically motivated seizure of their properties. Thus, debates have emerged whether the population policies after the wars, by not facilitating the return of refugees, actually sanctioned rather than reversed the policies of ethnic cleansing. 211 All these trends posed serious dilemmas of how to deal with the continued “ethnic unmixing” of East Central Europe in the twenty-first century.

Despite fears that a flood of immigrants would arrive from the East, since the late 1990s Western European observers have considered immigrants from the former Eastern bloc to be relatively safe and economically attractive. Indeed, East Central European states have been increasingly confronted with immigration challenges of their own. Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary in particular have become buffer zones for immigrants unwanted in the west and north of Europe; by the mid-1990s, there were between 250,000 and 300,000 foreigners living in Hungary, which completed its “transition from a country of emigration to one of immigration or transmigration.” Thus these countries became “waiting rooms” for immigrants from the former Soviet Union as well as Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. 212 By the late 1990s, the former communist states of Eastern Europe hosted roughly 6.4 million refugees or involuntary displaced persons, 73 percent of Europe’s total. 213 By 2000, the immigrants in Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic were overwhelmingly from neighboring states or from the former Soviet Union, including many Ukrainians and, in the case of Hungary, citizens of Romania. Non-European migrants, notably Chinese and Vietnamese, represented small but stable minorities with previous connections to the region. Many performed unskilled labor and often traveled illegally until the former Eastern bloc countries started enforcing their own legislation limiting migration and asylum. 214 By 2000, migration flows into and out of the region had begun to slow down. Return migrations continued after EU integration and the improved economic conditions in the area. Previous émigrés returned to Poland in large numbers when the legitimizing notion of political asylum from communism no longer served to justify such migration. 215 By the late 1990s some 150,000 Turks returned to Bulgaria after their curtailed integration into Turkish society. 216 Overall, the beginning of the twenty-first century has brought a level of stability to the region. While seasonal and more permanent labor migrations continue, the large waves of refugee movements for political or ethnic reasons have come to an end.


Since 1700, residents of East Central Europe have moved residence for many reasons. Social pressures and economic considerations were among the leading causes for migration throughout the period as people moved to get married, seek land, engage in seasonal work, or look for more permanent economic opportunities. As the region entered the modern period, the state became increasingly involved in controlling such migrations, limiting or encouraging settlement in certain areas according to its strategic and nationalist priorities. Warfare was a central cause of migration in the twentieth century, when military conflicts went hand in hand with population displacement for humanitarian, security, or political purposes. While individuals did not always comply with government and military orders, they experienced severe limits in their ability to choose their place of residence, especially with the implementation of population transfers and genocidal policies. Only in the second part of the twentieth century did migration in the region taper off, albeit with exceptions in the 1990s. With the migration crisis in Europe in 2015, the region was transformed from an area of emigration, to one of in-migration, a trend that remains to be analyzed. Today, political elites and ordinary citizens still debate the implications of migration policies within the European Union despite the fact that historically, East Central Europeans have always been people on the move.


Nikolai Todorov, The Balkan City 1400–1900 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1983), 378.

June Namais, First Generation: In the Words of Twentieth-Century American Immigrants (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 45–47. Moshe Lodsky remembered in 1975 being drafted for World War I in 1912. Of course, the war only began in 1914.

Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians Muslims, and Jews, 1430–1950 (New York: Vintage, 2006), 314.

US Department of State Historical Office, Foreign Relations of the United States. The Conference of Berlin; The Potsdam Conference, 1945 (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1960), 383.

Charles Tilly, “Migration in Modern European History,” in William McNeill and Ruth Adams, eds., Human Migration: Patterns and Policies (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1978), 50.

Tilly, “Migration in Modern European History,” 51–54.

Leslie Page Moch, “Moving Europeans: Historical Migration Practices in Western Europe,” in Robin Cohen, ed., The Cambridge Survey of World Migration (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 126–127.

Some works include Speros Vryonis Jr., “Religious Changes and Patterns in the Balkans, 14th–16th Centuries,” in Henrik Birnbaum and Speros Vryonis Jr., eds., Aspects of the Balkans: Continuity and Change. Contributions to the International Balkan Conference held at UCLA, Oct. 23–28, 1969 (The Hague: Mouton, 1972); Antonina Zhelyazkova, “Islamization in the Balkans as a Historiographical Problem: The Southeast-European Perspective,” in Fikret Adanır and Suraya Faroqhi, eds., The Ottomans and the Balkans: A Discussion of Historiography (Leiden: Brill, 2002); Anton Minkov, Conversion to Islam in the Balkans: Kisve Bahası Petitions and Ottoman Social Life, 1670–1730 (Leiden: Brill, 2004); and Tijana Krstic, Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011).

Some works include Gunther Erich Rothenberg, The Military Border in Croatia, 1740–1881: A Study of an Imperial Institution (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1966); Hans Hugo Sokol, Die k. k. Militärgrenze (Wien: Bergland Verlag, 1967); Ernest Sommer, Into Exile: The History of the Counter-reformation in Bohemia (1620–1650) (London: The New Europe Publishing Co., 1943); and Howard Luthan, Converting Bohemia: Force and Persuasion in the Catholic Reformation (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

On the Greek community of Trieste, see Olga Katsiardi, I Elliniki paroikia tis Tergestis, 1750–1830 (Athens: University of Athens, 1986). See also the proceedings of the International Conference “Russia and the Mediterranean,” in Olga Katsiardi-Hering, Athina Kolia-Dermitzaki, and Katerina Gardika, eds., Rossia kai Mesogeios: Praktika 1. Diethnous Synedriou: Athina, 19–22 Maiou 2005 (Athens: Herodotos, 2011).

Maria Todorova, The Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern: Demographic Developments in Ottoman Bulgaria (Washington, DC: American University Press, 1993); and Karl Kaser, Patriarchy after Patriarchy: Gender Relations in Turkey and in the Balkans, 1500–2000 (Berlin: Lit, 2008).

Stephen Ladas, The Exchange of Minorities. Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1932); and Joseph Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 1939–1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946); Joseph Schechtman, Postwar Population Transfers in Europe, 1945–1955 (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1962). Other works include Dimitris Pentzopoulos, The Balkan Exchange of Minorities and its Impact upon Greece (Paris: Mouton, 1962); Eugene Kulicher, Europe on the Move. War and Population Changes, 1917–1947 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1948); Malcolm Proudhood, European Refugees, 1939–52: A Study in Forced Population Movement (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1956).

Rogers Brubaker, “The Aftermath of Empire and the Unmixing of Peoples,” in Karen Barkey and Mark von Hagen, eds., After Empire. Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building: The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires (Boulder, CO: 1997), 155–180; and Eric Weitz, “From Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions,” American Historical Review 113 (December 2008): 1313–1343.

Klaus Bade, Migration in European History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003); Saskia Sassen, Guests and Aliens (New York: New Press, 1999); Leo Lucassen, The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe since 1850 (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2005); John Torpey, The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); and Mark Wyman, Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880–1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996).

Todorov, The Balkan City.

Mazower, Salonica; Gary Cohen, The Politics of Ethnic Survival: The Germans of Prague, 1861–1914 (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2006); Nathaniel Wood, Becoming Metropolitan: Urban Selfhood and the Making of Modern Cracow (DeKalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2010); and Robert Donia, Sarajevo: A Biography (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Renée Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe: The Social Life of Asia Minor Refugees in Piraeus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989); Renée Hirschon, ed., Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey (New York: Berghahn Books, 2003); Bruce Clark, Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions that Forged Modern Greece and Turkey (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006).

Philipp Ther, “The Integration of Expellees in Germany and Poland after World War Two: A Historical Reassessment,” Slavic Review 55, no. 4 (Winter 1996), 779–805; and the contributions in Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak, eds., Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948 (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

Hirschon, Heirs of the Greek Catastrophe; Anastasia Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1870–1990 (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Pamela Ballinger, History in Exile: Memory and Identity at the Borders of the Balkans (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

Theodora Dragostinova, Between Two Motherlands: Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900–1949 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011); David Gerlach, The Economy of Ethnic Cleansing: The Transformation of the German–Czech Borderlands after World War II (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).

Ulf Brunnbauer, ed., Transnational Societies, Transterritorial Politics: Migrations in the (Post) Yugoslav Region 19th–21st Century (Munich: Verlag, 2009); Brunnbauer, “Emigration Policies and Nation-building in Interwar Yugoslavia,” European History Quarterly 42, no. 2 (2012): 602–627; and, Globalizing Southeastern Europe: Emigrants, America, and the State since the Late Nineteenth Century (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016); Tara Zahra, “Going West,” East European Politics & Societies 25 (November 2011): 785–791; and The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World (New York: Norton, 2016).

For a detailed discussion of the use of ethnic and national categories, see Chapter 4 in this volume. For a critique of the propensity of scholars to equate ethnic groups and nations, see Jeremy King, “The Nationalization of East-Central Europe. Ethnicism, Ethnicity, and Beyond,” in Maria Bucur and Nancy Wingfield, eds., Staging the Past: The Politics of Commemoration in Habsburg Central Europe, 1848 to the Present (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2001), 112–152.

Maria Todorova, “The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans,” in Carl Brown, ed., Imperial Legacy. The Ottoman Imprint on the Balkan and the Middle East (New York: Columbus University Press, 1996), 62.

Maria Todorova and Nikolai Todorov, “The Historical Demography of the Ottoman Empire: Problems and Tasks,” in Richard Spence and Linda Nelson, eds., Scholar, Patriot, Mentor: Historical Essays in Honor of Dimitrije Djordjevic (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 156–157. Yet, because of decentralization in the eighteenth century, it is difficult to provide a comprehensive summary of the demographic situation during this time.

Quoted in Mark Mazower, The Balkans: A Short History (New York: Modern Library, 2002), 46.

Todorov, Balkan City, 353. The census of 1866 distinguished only among non-Muslims, Muslims, Muslim migrants, Muslim Gypsies, Non-Muslim Gypsies, Armenians, Jews, and Catholics.

Todorov, Balkan City, 44–60, 455; Todorova, “The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans,” 62–63. As far as long-term demographic processes and characteristics are concerned, such as fertility, mortality, marriage patterns, family and household size and structure, there is “no indication that the empire left a unique imprint which requires us to speak of a specific Ottoman legacy” (Todorova, “The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans,” 63).

Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts.

Todorov, Balkan City, 354–355.

Dimitris Tziovas, ed., Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009).

Hauverive’s impressions from Bulgaria in 1785, as described in Larry Wolff, Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994), 118.

Charles Ingrao, The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618–1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 7–14.

Ibid., 38–39; Robert Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 1526–1918 (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1974), 113. Kann cites the emigration as “the forced migration of possibly as many as 40,000 families.”

Adam Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand Year History of the Poles and Their Culture (New York: Hippocrene, 1987), 176.

Paul Robert Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2002), 70–71.

Ingrao, Habsburg Monarchy, 86; Kann, A History of the Habsburg Empire, 76.

Peter Sugar, Southeastern Europe under Ottoman Rule, 1454–1804 (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, reprint 2011), 104–107.

Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 67, 70–72.

Kann, Habsburg Empire, 197–200; Massimo Livi Bacci, The Population of Europe: A History, trans. Cynthia De Nardi Ipsen and Carl Ipsen (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 28.

Rothenberg, Military Border in Croatia, 84.

Ibid., 125.

Radovan Samardžič, “Migrations in Serbian History,” in Ivan Ninić, ed., Migrations in Balkan History (Belgrade, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts: Prosveta, 1989), 85–86.

Halil İnalcık, “Dobrudja,” in P. Bearman et al., eds., Encyclopaedia of Islam (Brill, 2008). Online: (accessed October 18, 2016).

“Cabinet Order by King Frederick William I on the Cameral and Crown Properties and Land Settlement in Lithuania (1718),” German History in Documents and Images (GHDI), <> (accessed March 23, 2011).

Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 257.

Jaroslav Vaculík, České menšiny v Evropě a ve světě (Prague: Libri, 2009), 11–13.

Ladislau Gyemant, “Immigration und Integration: Die jüdische Gesellschaft in Siebenbürgen im Zeitalter der Emanzipation (1790–1867),” in Mathias Beer and Dittmar Dahlmann, eds., Migration nach Ost- und Südosteuropa vom 18. bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts: Ursachen, Formen, Verlauf, Ergebnis (Stuttgart: J. Thorbecke, 1999), 163–189.

Bacci, Population of Europe, 103.

Ibid., 40–42.

John Komlos, Nutrition and Economic Development in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg Monarchy: An Anthropometric History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989), 64–66.

Piotr Wandycz, The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795–1918 (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press), 14–18.

Ibid., 117.

For the same trend in Western Europe, see Tilly, “Migration in Modern European History,” 67–68. See also Moch, “Moving Europeans,” 126. The new migration practices reflected changing economic practices, agricultural activities and urban/rural economies. Economic and demographic factors continued to shape migrations while human connections and migrant workers linked the individual migrants to the broader economic and demographic conditions.

Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 93.

In the centuries after the conquest, Ottoman demands for milk, dairy products, wool, and leather supplies led to low taxation exacted from shepherds to graze their flocks and other privileges granted to cattle breeders. Zhenia Pimpireva, Karakachanite v Bulgariia (Sofia: IMIR, 1998), 26.

Dragoslav Antonijević, “Cattlebreeders’ Migrations in the Balkans Through Centuries,” in Migrations in Balkan History, 153–154.

Michael Palairet, “The Migrant Workers of the Balkans and Their Villages (18th Century–World War II),” in Klaus Roth, ed., Handwerk in Mittel- und Südosteuropa. Mobilitat, Vermittlung, und Wandel im Handwerk des 18. Bis 20. Jahrhunderts (Munich: Südosteuropa Gesellschaft, 1987), 32.

Antonijević, “Cattlebreeders’ Migrations in the Balkans,” 154.

Pimpireva, Karakachanite v Bulgariia, 27–29.

The Balkans became involved in European maritime trade as well as in caravan trade with Central Europe. Todorov, Balkan City, 193.

Ibid., 459.

Heinz Fassmann and Rainer Münz, “European East-West Migration, 1945–1992,” The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, 470–480.

For corresponding trends in Europe, see Klaus Bade, Migration in European History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003), 6–9, 20–21, 41–45.

Jean-Claude Chesnais, The Demographic Transition: Stages, Patterns and Economic Implications, trans. Elizabeth and Philip Kreager (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 54–55.

Ibid., 149–151.

Brian Mitchell, International Historical Statistics: Europe 1750–1988, 3rd ed. (New York: Stockton, 1992), 3, 5. The number for Cisleithania is 17,535,000 in 1851, and for Transleithania, 13,192,000 as of 1850. These figures do not include those posted to the military.

Todorova, “The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans,” 64.

Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 93.


Bade, Migration in European History, 43.

Todorov, Balkan City, 310–312, 323.

Ibid., 314; Palairet, “The Migrant Workers,” 30–31. For similar trends in the West, see Bade, Migration in European History, 58, 63.

Todorov, Balkan City, 369, 372–373.

Ibid., 382.

Bade, Migration in European History, 47–49; Wyman, Round-Trip to America, 18.

Walter Wilcox, ed., International Migrations vol. 1: Statistics (New York: Gordon and Breach, 1969), Russia, Table IX, 810. See also, Bade, Migration in European History, 66–68.

Bade, Migration in European History, 160–164.

Ibid., 58.

Palairet, “The Migrant Workers,” 23–25.

The rest of the paragraph is based on Palairet, “The Migrant Workers.”

See Sassen, Guests and Aliens; Torpey, Invention of the Passport.

Bade, Migration in European History, 157–160.

Leo Lucassen and Wim Willems, “Wanderers or Migrants? Gypsies from Eastern to Western Europe, 1860–1940),” in Cambridge Survey of World Migration, 136–140.

Chesnais, Demographic Transition, 169.

Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 93.

Wilcox, ed., International Migrations, vol. 1: Statistics, International tables, Table 13, 268–271.

Bade, Migration in European History, 93.

Ibid., 109–110.

Ibid., 93–94.

Vaculik, České menšiny, 17–18.

Wyman, Round-Trip to America, 206.

Ibid., 39.

Wilcox, ed., International Migrations, vol. 1: Statistics, International tables, Table 27, 336.

Michael Palairet, “The ‘New’ Immigration and the Newest Slavic Migrations from the Balkans to America and Industrial Europe since the Late Nineteenth Century,” in Thomas Smout, ed., The Search for Wealth and Stability. Essays in Economic and Social History presented to M. W. Flinn (London: Macmillan, 1979), 44–45. The re-emigration rates for 1908–13 are estimated at 18.7 percent for Dalmatians and Bosnians, 38.4 percent for Croats and Slovenes, and 45.8 percent for Serbs, Bulgarians, and Montenegrins.

Palairet, “The ‘New’ Immigration and the Newest,” 49–50.

Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 93.

Bade, Migration in European History, 108.

Ibid., 109.

Now, the main destination of South Slav migration became Brazil, Argentina, and Canada. Carl-Ulrik Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia: Long Waves of International Migration,” in The Cambridge Survey of World Migration, 285.

The pečalbari system declined as workers increasingly moved to urban centers and found work in industry. Palairet, “The Migrant Workers,” 46.

Brubaker, “The Aftermath of Empire and the Unmixing of Peoples”; and Weitz, “From Vienna to the Paris System.”

Tilly, “Migration in Modern European History,” 68.

Weitz, “From the Vienna to the Paris System,” 1314. See also Tilly, “Migration in Modern European History”; Norman Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); and Michael Mann, Dark Side of Democracy: Explaining Ethnic Cleansing (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Quotation found in Andrew Baruch Wachtel, The Balkans in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 2.

Again, please refer to Chapter 4 in this volume.

Ivo Andric, The Bridge on the Drina (Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press, 1977), 97–98.

Justin McCarthy, “Muslims in Ottoman Europe: Population from 1800–1912,” Nationalities Papers 28, no. 1 (2000): 32.

There were roughly 400,000 Muslims in Bosnia at that time. McCarthy, “Muslims in Ottoman Europe,” 35–36.

Ali Eminov, Turkish and Other Muslim Minorities of Bulgaria (New York: Routledge, 1997), Tables 2.9 and 3.1; and R. J. Crampton, Bulgaria (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), Table 15.1.

McCarthy, “Muslims in Ottoman Europe,” 36.

Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 257–258.

Ibid., 148.

Michael Marrus, The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 27.

Jack Wertheimer, “‘The Unwanted Element’: East European Jews in Imperial Germany,” Leo Baeck Institute Yearbook 26 (1981): 23–46.

Peter Morton Coan, ed., Ellis Island Interviews: In Their Own Words (New York, 1997), 163.

Ladas, Exchange of Minorities, 16; Justin McCarthy, Death and Exile: The Ethnic Cleansing of Ottoman Muslims, 1821–1922 (Princeton, NJ: Darwin, 1995), 156–164.

Todorova, “The Ottoman Legacy in the Balkans,” 64–65.

Bade, Migration in European History, 175. For a case study of the complicated migration movements in the Balkans, see Dragostinova, Between Two Motherlands.

Many more figures are available in Alexandros Pallis, “Racial Migrations in the Balkans during the Years 1912–1924,” Geographical Journal LXVI (1925): 315–331; and Dimitrije Djordjevich, “Migrations during the 1912–1913 Balkan Wars and World War One”; Ninić, Migrations in Balkan History, 115–129.

Djordjevich, “Migrations,” 118–119.

Eric Lohr, Nationalizing the Russian Empire: The Campaign against Enemy Aliens during World War I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 124.

Lohr, Nationalizing the Russian Empire, 138; Eugene M. Kulischer, Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917–47 (New York, Columbia University Press, 1948), 31.

Bade, Migration in European History, 180; Marrus, Unwanted, 52–68; Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 122.

Ladas, Exchange of Minorities, 18–23; Pentzopoulos, Balkan Exchange of Minorities, 54–60; and Djordjevich, “Migrations,” 117–118.

C.A. Macartney, National States and Minorities (London: Oxford University Press, 1934), 435–436.

Mixed Commission on Greco-Bulgarian Emigration, Memorandum on the Mission and Work of the Mixed Commission on Greco-Bulgarian Emigration (1929), 2.

Ladas, Exchange of Minorities, 41–48.

Memorandum on the Mission and Work of the Mixed Commission, 6, 12–13, 15.

Macartney, National States and Minorities, 440.

The literature of the topic is huge. Two recent works are Renée Hirschon, ed., Crossing the Aegean; and Onur Yildirim, Diplomacy and Displacement: Reconsidering the Turco-Greek Exchange of Populations, 1922–1934 (New York: Routledge, 2006).

Theodora Dragostinova, “Navigating Nationality in the Emigration of Minorities between Bulgaria and Greece, 1919–1939,” East European Politics and Societies 23 (2009), 185–212.

Hirschon, Crossing the Aegean; Naimark, Fires of Hatred.

Hirschon, Crossing the Aegean, 8.

István I. Mócsy, The Effects of World War I: The Uprooted: Hungarian Refugees and their Impact on Hungary’s Domestic Politics, 1918–1921 (New York: Social Science Monographs, 1983); Theodora Dragostinova, “Competing Priorities, Ambiguous Loyalties: Challenges of Socioeconomic Adaptation and National Inclusion of the Interwar Bulgarian Refugees,” Nationalities Papers 34, no. 5 (November 2006): 549–574.

Hirschon, Crossing the Aegean.

Dragostinova, “Competing Priorities, Ambiguous Loyalties.”

Annemarie Sammartino, The Impossible Border: Germany and the East, 1914–1922 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010), 98; Brubaker, “The Aftermath of Empire,” 160–164; Marrus, Unwanted, 72; Bade, Migration in European History, 199.

Karakasidou, Fields of Wheat; Zahra, Kidnapped Souls; Dragostinova, Between Two Motherlands.

Rogers Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996); Irina Livezeanu, Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, and Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 8–9, 135–137; Joseph Rothschild, East-Central Europe between the Two World Wars (Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 1974), 284.

Dragostinova, “Navigating Nationality.”

Eminov, Turkish and other Muslim minorities; Mary Neuburger, The Orient Within. Muslim Minorities and the Negotiation of Nationhood in Modern Bulgaria (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2004).

Rothschild, East-Central Europe, 89–90.

All numbers based on Rothschild, East-Central Europe, 36; for additional information, see Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed, 84–103.

Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 122–130.

Bade, Migration in European History, 192–193.

Götz Aly, Final Solution: Nazi Population Policy and the Murder of European Jews, trans. Belinda Cooper and Allison Brown (London: Arnold, 1999), 19; Christopher Browning, Nazi Policy, Jewish Workers, German Killers (Cambridge: Press Syndicated of the University of Cambridge, 2000), 11.

Marrus, Unwanted, 152–154.

Ibid., 175.

Philipp Ther, “A Century of Forced Migration: The Origins and Consequences of ‘Ethnic Cleansing,’” in Redrawing Nations, 51; Pavel Polian, Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2004), 118–119; Marrus, The Unwanted, 196.

Krystyna Kersten, “Forced Migration and the Transformation of Polish Society in the Postwar Period,” in Redrawing Nations, 77.

Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 166; Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 150.

Christopher Browning, The Origins of the Final Solution: The Evolution of Nazi Policy, September 1939–March 1942 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 2004), 53–58; Aly, Final Solution, 33–63; Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 39–40.

Schechtman, European Population Transfers, 270–271, 349.

David Turnock, Eastern Europe: An Economic and Political Geography (New York: Routledge, 1989), 303, has 670,000; Marrus, The Unwanted, 224, has 1.25 million; Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 166, has 784,000.

Aly, Final Solution, 99.

Rogers Brubaker, Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008), 77–78.

Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 194–195, 203.

Ulricht Herbert, Hitler’s Foreign Workers: Enforced Foreign Labor in Germany under the Third Reich, trans. William Templer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 264; Turnock, Eastern Europe, 307.

Spoerer and Fleischhacker, “Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany: Categories, Numbers and Survivors,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 33, no. 2 (Autumn, 2002): 196–197.

Browning, Origins of the Final Solution, 58.

The decision-making process was contingent on several different factors and plans. For some of these see Aly, Final Solution; Browning, Origins of the Final Solution.

Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, vol. 2 (New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985), 492.

Ibid., 771.

Rumen Avramov, Spasenie i padenie. Mikroikonomika na durzhavniia antisemitizum v Bulgariia 1940–1944 (Sofia: Universitetsko izdatelstvo, 2012), 13.

While the literature on the Holocaust long ignored the persecution and systematic murder of Roma alongside the Jews, that is no longer the case. For a recent work on the subject focusing on Hungary see Janos Barsony and Agnes Daroczi, eds., trans. Gabor Komasromy, Pharrajimos: The Fate of the Roma during the Holocaust (New York: International Debate Education Association, 2008).

Jan Gross, Fear: Antisemitism in Poland after Auschwitz: An Essay in Historical Interpretation (New York: Random House, 2006).

Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 268; Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 167.

Theodor Schieder, ed., The Expulsion of the German Population from Czechoslovakia, vol. 4, Documents on the Expulsion of the Germans from Eastern-Central Europe, trans. G.H. de Sausmarez (Bonn: Federal Ministry for Expellees Refugees, 1960), 463.

Schechtman, Postwar Population Transfers, 129–148.

Bohdan Kordan, “Making Borders Stick: Population Transfer and Resettlement in the Trans-Curson Territorities, 1944–1949,” International Migration Review 31, no. 3 (1997): 705; Kulischer, Europe on the Move, 291–292.

Timothy Snyder, The Reconstruction of Nations (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003), Chapters 8 and 9; see also the chapters on Poland in the following: Steven Várdy and T. Hunt Tooley, eds., Ethnic Cleansing in 20th Century Europe (Boulder, CO: Social Science Monographs, 2003); and Ther and Siljak, eds., Redrawing Nations.

Mark Wyman, DPs: Europe’s Displaced Persons, 1945–1951 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998), 38–60.

Magosci, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 167; Spoerer and Fleischhacker, “Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany,” 197–198.

Wyman, DPs, 59.

For a recent study of the Kielce pogrom see Gross, Fear, 39–51.

Wyman, DPs, 149; Marrus, Unwanted, 331.

Spoerer and Fleischhacker, “Forced Laborers in Nazi Germany,” 181; Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, vol. 3, 1151.

Leszek Kosiński, Demographic Developments in Eastern Europe (New York: Praeger, 1977), 18.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 477–478.

Chesnais, Demographic Transition, 376.

See Chapters 3 and 8, and section IV “Women and Work: Production and Reproduction” in Sharon Wolchik and Alfred Meyer, Women, State, and Party in Eastern Europe (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1985); Chesnais, The Demographic Transition, 127.

Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 286. See also Robert Taaffe, “The Impact of Rural-Urban Migration on the Development of Communist Bulgaria,” in Population and Migration Trends in Eastern Europe, 157–180; Leszek Kosiński, “Demographic Characteristics and Trends in Northeastern Europe,” in Huey Louis Kostanick, ed., Population and Migration Trends in Eastern Europe (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1977), 42–43; Kosiński, The Population of Europe: A Geographical Perspective (London: Longman, 1970), 103; Turnock, Eastern Europe, 10.

Magocsi, Historical Atlas of Central Europe, 53.

Kostanick, Population and Migration Trends in Eastern Europe, 6–8.

Kostanick, Population and Migration Trends in Eastern Europe, 9.

Palairet, “The ‘New’ Immigration,” 56, 59; Turnock, Eastern Europe, 127–130.

Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 286–287.

Palairet, “The ‘New’ Immigration,” 54.

Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 286–287.

Daniel Levy, “Integrating Ethnic Germans in West Germany: The Early Postwar Period,” in David Rock and Stefan Wolff, eds., Coming Home to Germany? The Integration of Ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe in the Federal Republic (New York: Berghan, 2002), Table 1.3, 33.

See Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 472.

Moch, Moving Europeans, 169; Colin Holmen, “Jewish Economic and Refugee Migrations, 1880–1950,” in Robin Cohen, ed., The Cambridge Survey of World Migration (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 151.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 477, and Radu Ioanid, The Ransom of the Jews: The Story of the Extraordinary Secret Bargain between Romania and Israel (Chicago, IL: Ivan R. Dee, 2005).

Roman Kristof, “Roma Migration as an Integral Part of ‘International Roma Politics’ in Europe,” in Will Guy, Zdenek Uherek, and Renata Weinerova, eds., Roma Migration in Europe: Case Studies (Munster: LIT, 2004), 51.

Vaculik, České menšiny, 24.

Namais, First Generation, 148–151.

“The Refugee Movement (1950–1963),” German History in Documents and Images, (accessed November 30, 2010); “East-West Immigration Statistics (1961–1990),” GHDI, (accessed November 30, 2010); Kosiński, “Demographic Characteristics and Trends in Northeastern Europe,” 34.

Vaculik, České menšiny, 27.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 472–474; Bade, Migration in European History, 266–267.

Bade, Migration in European History, 283.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 478–479; Bade, Migration in European History, 281–282.

Marek Okólski, “Migration Patterns in Central and Eastern Europe on the Eve of European Expansion: An Overview,” in Agata Górny and Paolo Ruspini, eds., Migration in the New Europe: East-West Revisited (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 28.

Elena Simona Vrânceanu and Mioara Nedelcu, “Romanian Post Communist Migration. Issues Regarding Immigrants Integration,” Scientific Annals of the Alexandru Ioan Cuza University of Iaşi. Political Science (Analele ştiinţifice ale Universităţii “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iaşi. ştiinţe politice), no. 4 (2009): 78–79.

Darina Vasileva, “Bulgarian Turkish Emigration and Return,” International Migration History 2 (1992): 342–351.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 472.

Bade, Migration in European History, 312–315; Kristof, “Roma Migration as an Integral Part of ‘International Roma Politics.’”

Bade, Migration in European History, 315, 317.

Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 288; Carl-Ulrik Schierup, “Eurobalkanism: Ethnic Cleansing, Nationalism and the post-Cold War Order,” in Stefano Bianchini and Paul Shoup, eds., The Yugoslav War, Europe and the Balkans: How to Achieve Security (Ravenna: Longo Editore, 1995), 31–44; Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 476.

Bade, Migration in European History, 316–317, Bade claims 350,000; Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 288, lists 600,000.

Schierup, “Former Yugoslavia,” 288. For these debates, see also Florian Bieber and Dzemal Sokolovic, Reconstructing Multiethnic Societies: The Case of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2001); and Carl Dahlman and Gerard Toal, Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and its Reversal (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

Bade, Migration in European History, 298.

Oxana Shevel, Migration, Refugee Policy, and State Building in Postcommunist Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).

Okólski, “Migration Patterns in Central and Eastern Europe,” 35–37.

Anna Kicinger, “Beyond the Focus on Europeanisation: Polish Migration Policy 1989–2004,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 35, no. 1 (2009): 81.

Fassmann and Münz, “European East-West Migration,” 477.

Further Reading

Aly, Götz. Final Solution: Nazi Population Policy and the Murder of European Jews. Translated by Belinda Cooper and Allison Brown. London: Arnold, 1999.
Bade, Klaus. Migration in European History. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.
Ballinger, Pamela. History in Exile: Memory and Identity at the Borders of the Balkans. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Barkey, Karen, and Mark von Hagen, eds. After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building: The Soviet Union and the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg Empires. Boulder: Westview Press, 1997.
Brubaker, Rogers. Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
Brubaker, Rogers, Margit Feischmidt, Jon Fox, and Liana Grancea. Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a Transylvanian Town. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2006.
Brunnbauer, Ulf, ed. Transnational Societies, Transterritorial Politics: Migrations in the (Post-) Yugoslav Region, 19th–21st Century. Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2009.
Brunnbauer, Ulf. Globalizing Southeastern Europe: Emigrants, America, and the State since the Late Nineteenth Century. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2016.
Clark, Bruce. Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions that Forged Modern Greece and Turkey. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Danforth, Loring and Riki von Boethen. Children of the Greek Civil War: Refugees and the Politics of Memory. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 2011.
Demshuk, Andrew. The Lost German East: Forced Migration and the Politics of Memory, 1945–1970. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012.
Dragostinova, Theodora. Between Two Motherlands: Nationality and Emigration among the Greeks of Bulgaria, 1900–1949. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011.
Green, Nancy, and Francois Weil. Citizenship and Those Who Leave: The Politics of Emigration and Expatriation. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007.
Grossmann, Atina. Jews, Germans, and Allies: Close Encounters in Occupied Germany. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
Guy, Will, Zdenek Uheker, and Renate Weinerova, eds. Roma Migration in Europe: Case Studies. Munster: Lit, 2004.
Hirschon, Renée, ed. Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey. New York: Berghahn Books, 2003.
Hockenos, Paul. Homeland Calling: Exile Patriotism and the Balkan Wars. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003.
Kaser, Karl. Patriarchy after Patriarchy: Gender Relations in Turkey and in the Balkans, 1500–2000. Berlin: Lit, 2008.
Mandel, Ruth. Cosmopolitan Anxieties: Turkish Challenges to Citizenship and Belonging in Germany. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.
Marrus, Michael. The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
Naimark, Norman. Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.
Rock, David, and Stefan Wolff, eds. Coming Home to Germany? The Integration of Ethnic Germans from Central and Eastern Europe in the Federal Republic. New York: Berghan, 2002.
Sammartino, Annemarie. The Impossible Border: Germany and the East, 1914–1922. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2010.
Sassen, Saskia. Guests and Aliens. New York: New Press, 1999.
Shevel, Oxana. Migration, Refugee Policy, and State Building in Postcommunist Europe. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Siegelbahm, Lewis, and Leslie Page Moch. Broad Is My Native Land: Repertoires and Regimes of Migration in Russia’s Twentieth Century. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014.
Ther, Philipp, and Ana Siljak, eds. Redrawing Nations: Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.
Toal, Gerald, and Carl Dahlman. Bosnia Remade: Ethnic Cleansing and Its Reversal. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Todorova, Maria. The Balkan Family Structure and the European Pattern: Demographic Developments in Ottoman Bulgaria. Washington, DC: American University Press, 1993.
Torpey, John. The Invention of the Passport: Surveillance, Citizenship, and the State. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Tziovas, Dimitris, ed. Greek Diaspora and Migration since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture. Burlington: Ashgate, 2009.
Weitz, Eric. “From Vienna to the Paris System: International Politics and the Entangled Histories of Human Rights, Forced Deportations, and Civilizing Missions.” American Historical Review 113, no. 5 (December 2008): 1313–1343.
Wyman, Mark. Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880–1930. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996.
Zahra, Tara. The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World. New York: W.W. Norton, 2016.
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