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On moral substance and visual obscurity in policies and practice of state expansion

By Olga Sezneva


What may the moment of territorial repossession and resettlement reveal to us about the practice of modern statehood? This paper discusses several key aspects of the Soviet occupation and incorporation of East Prussia in 1945–49: its juridical and administrative configuration into a zone of exception through militarized ‘closing’, the unequal invocation of citizenship rights and duties of Soviet settlers and the creation of legal and political limbo around German civilians, and the categorical production of social distinctions that separated the Soviet ‘us’ from the German ‘them’, together with a simultaneous articulation of a new, obscured identity—the spy. It demonstrates the thoroughly spatialized politics of settlement refracted through everyday experiences of travel, settlement, and cultural encounter. It argues on the basis of these findings that unintelligibility and ambiguity play a more complex role in statecraft than is often recognized. 


National intelligibility, displacement and ethnic cleansing, post-war Soviet geography, Soviet statecraft  

Publication details

Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (2013), 31 (4), 611-27. doi: 10.1068/d12911.

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