Memory Assaults against Oblivion: Contrasting the Memory of Border Shifts in Cieszyn Silesia, Orawa, Spisz



border studies, borderlands, memoryscapes, national minorities, Czechia, Poland, Slovakia


This paper focuses on the memoryscapes of Cieszyn Silesia, Orawa and Spisz in a context of the border conflicts of the twentieth century. The regions located on the current Czech-Polish and Slovak-Polish border have lived through paralleled histories of the border demarcation after WWI, which was unprecedented there. In both cases the national minorities were left behind the border, outside of their home states. Their stories and memories are, however, not being researched together. This paper contrasts the patterns of memory production related to the border shifts in the landscape in both regions. Emphasis is placed on the memory sites, their narratives and memory activism related to the conflicting past. The results show that the main axes of both memory debates are contrasting. While the conflict over Cieszyn Silesia was most shaped by the short war in 1919, the lesser-known dispute over Orawa and Spisz was marked by numerous smaller incidents, assimilation efforts and a layer of post WWII violence. This has important consequences for the memory production. The other important differentiating factor is the scope of memory activism inside of the national minority group.

DOI: 10.14712/23363231.2023.15