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Dr Klaus Richter
Dr Klaus Richter

Funded by the UK-German Funding Initiative in the Humanities of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the German Research Foundation (DFG), the project aims to strengthen the strategic partnership of the University of Birmingham and the Herder Institute in Marburg by bringing together leading scholarly expertise and unique archival collections on Baltic history.

The project aims to investigate whether the central role of land reform in 1918-1940, 1940-1990, and after 1991 has produced a land-owning subjectivity that is specific to the Baltics, but also how far there is a broader logic to how property redistribution shapes subjectivities that can be applied to other geographical contexts.

The Baltic States are a relatively small part of Europe, but their populations have experienced some of the 20th century’s most profound projects of land redistribution. Our project thus aims to provide an approach for further inquiries into the impact of land reform in other geographical and chronological contexts worldwide.

Dr Klaus Richter - Reader in Eastern European History at the University of Birmingham.

The issue of who should own land is one of the core questions in social, economic and political systems across the globe. For owners, land can guarantee subsistence – even prosperity – but also social status. For modern states, on the other hand, the ability to control land tenure (and agricultural production) has become increasingly linked to national sovereignty.

For this reason, land distribution and land reform play a crucial role in social and political transformations. At the same time, land reform has become an integral policy of democratisation, economic empowerment and social integration, designed to deepen the relationship between rural population and the state by shaping social identities and providing the state with legitimacy. 

P. Šinkis "Asiūklyne village rakes".
P. Šinkis "Asiūklyne village rakes". The photograph is presented in the Panevėžys Local History Museum book "Povilas Šinkis's photograph".

By putting the lens on subjective experiences of land redistribution as well as the dynamic relationship of land reform with other national and international developments. The project will assess the impact of land reform on Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian societies and on their relationship with the interwar, Soviet, and post-Cold War state.

The project will be carried out by the two PIs, Dr Klaus Richter from the Department of History at the University of Birmingham and Professor Heidi Hein-Kircher from the Herder Institute in Marburg, with a team of early-career researchers. Richter and Hein-Kircher will work closely together with Baltic experts who will spend time as visiting scholars in Birmingham as part of the project.

It will be based on archival research, but the project team will also carry out interviews to preserve the experiences of those affected by land privatisation after the collapse of the Soviet Union. These sources will be made available in the form of an Archive of Landowning Subjectivities to be used for further research and for teaching.