Marcel Garbos

Date of Award


First Advisor

Nancy Yanoshak

Second Advisor

Christopher Coggins

Third Advisor

Gennady Shkliarevsky


In the closing months of the First World War, the tripartite balance of power that had structured the geopolitical milieu of East-Central Europe since the 1815 Congress of Vienna rapidly imploded as the authority of the German, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian Empires gave way to a fluid patchwork of embryonic states spanning the geographically expansive and ethnolinguistically diverse swath of territory between the Baltic and Black Seas. By focusing on the complexly imbricated processes of nation-building that unfolded within and at the peripheries of the region’s Polish and Ukrainian populations during this critical juncture, this thesis endeavors to explore a significant yet lamentably neglected dimension of the transformation of East-Central Europe after the collapse of the ailing “Concert of Europe,” posing the question of why a robust center of geopolitical stability failed to materialize between the nascent Second Polish Republic, the Lviv-based West Ukrainian People’s Republic (ZUNR), and the Kiev-based Ukrainian People’s Republic (UNR) at the outset of the Interwar period. While it frames this “stunted reconstruction” as the consequence of a confluence of factors and processes that developed in tandem over the course of the long nineteenth century, this study devotes special attention to the deep historical and intellectual cleavages that prevented leading figures in Polish national thought, namely Józef Piłsudski’s federalist Socialists and Roman Dmowski’s National Democrats, from formulating and implementing a consistent and efficacious approach to the “Ukrainian question” (kwestia ukraińska), or the problem of defining the relationship of the Polish state to Ukraine and its people, in the crucial years of 1918-21. Rather than focusing solely on this three-year period, however, this piece charts a genealogy of Polish geopolitical thought and policy towards Ukraine from the conclusion of the nineteenth century to the aftermath of the 1921 Peace of Riga, which effectively partitioned the lands of the ZUNR and UNR into Polish and Soviet spheres of influence, thereby stifling the ambitions of the major movements for Ukrainian statehood while severely weakening the position of the Second Polish Republic and leaving East-Central Europe in a condition of fragmentation.

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