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Contact zones in the urban space.

Central and Eastern Europe from the early modern times until the first half of the 20th century
Dr. Torsten Lorenz, Charles University Prague, Czech Republic

Guest lecture on Thursday, June 4th, 18:00-20:00, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Stephanssaal, Postgebäude, Logenstr. 9-10

Throughout history towns have always been in the focus of migrations. Tradesmen came to town in order to sell their goods, while locals came here to buy their products or to take care of some administrative matters. As a result, the towns became a contact zone of people of different origin. In Central and Eastern Europe these differences – professional, social, mental and ethnic ones – were even more pronounced than in other parts of Europe. Trade often was the domain of Jews, who in some instances substituted the urban middle class, while Germans often were the ruling “patrician” group. Besides them there often were noble residencies in the towns, whose owners were of different ethnic origin. The peasant population was mostly Polish, Czech or Ruthenian.  

These structures, which had developed in the middle ages and the early modern times started to break up since the beginning of the 19th century. The population increased, feudal barriers were abolished and given the industrialization in some parts of Central and Eastern Europe the movement of people to the towns accelerated and intensified. At the same time nationalism became a new option of identifying oneself.

In my contribution I will take a look at the development of urban society in Central and Eastern Europe from the early modern times until the first half of 20th century. With the example of Cracow, L’viv, Prague and the small town of Birnbaum (Międzychód) I will identify contact zones in the urban space and analyze their development over time. I will finally make some points about the different factors, which over time influenced the co-existence of people in the cities and towns of Central and Eastern Europe.