Dr Klaus Richter

Dr Klaus Richter

Department of History
Reader in Eastern European History

Contact details

G16, Fry Building
Department of History
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I am a historian of modern Eastern Europe. My main fields of research are the social history of Poland and the Baltics, Germany’s relations with Eastern Europe, and the history of nationalism and ethnic conflict. I am currently Deputy Director of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. From 2020 to 2022 I was Director of the Institute for German and European Studies (IGES) and from 2019 to 2021 I was Director of the Birmingham Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC).

Feedback and office hours

  • Mondays: 11:00 - 12:00
  • Wednesdays: 12:00 - 13:00


  • Staatsexamen in History (University of Cologne)
  • Doctoral degree in History, (Technical University of Berlin)


Dr Klaus Richter is a Birmingham Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Eastern European History at the University of Birmingham. After studying history, art history, English and German philology at the University of Cologne, he worked as a research associate at the Centre for Research on Anti-Semitism at the Technical University of Berlin (2009 – 2011). In early 2012, he joined the German Historical Institute in Warsaw as a visiting scholar. He took up work at the University of Birmingham in October 2012.


  • Special subject: ‘Conflict, nationalism and genocide in East Central Europe, ca. 1880 – 1953’
  • Option: ‘Europe in the Age of Total War’

Postgraduate supervision

Find out more - our PhD History  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am a historian of Eastern Europe with a specific interest in those regions located between Russia and Germany, i.e. especially modern-day Poland, the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine. In my research, I am particularly interested in nationalism, in the relationship between society and state and in the impact of economic crises. A fundamental questions I concern myself with is what people expect from "their" state and how this changes in periods of crisis.

My past research include a monograph on the effects of territorial fragmentation were utilised to build states in interwar Poland and the Baltics (2020), which received the Biennial Book Award of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies as well as a monograph on anti-Semitism in Lithuania before World War I (2014), which focussed on anti-Jewish violence and strategies to “emancipate” the peasants from Jewish merchants. I am also the lead of the following projects:

  • 'Subjectivities of Owning Land: Land Redistribution and the Nation State in the Baltics, ca. 1900-2000' (as principal investigator). 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. 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. 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.
  • 'The Liminality of Failing Democracy: East Central Europe and the Interwar Slump' (as principal investigator). This project challenges the narrative that democratic failure and the rise of authoritarian leaders in interwar East Central Europe resulted from a lack of experience in political participation. Rather, it argues that authoritarianism was enabled during specific critical moments which endowed it with significant domestic and international support. Economic crises resulted in ‘liminal moments’, which transformed shared expectations towards the agency of states. Examining how these expectations aligned or diverged will show how anti-democratic, anti-liberal and anti-integrationist policies moved into the mainstream and gained support across different layers of society. Beyond the national contexts, the project explores how far the pan-European experience of the Great Depression changed concepts of modern states and thus, rather than pushing them to the margins, pulled the states of East Central Europe deeper into the European state order. Thereby it challenges the division of interwar Europe into democracies that either survived or failed. Two research fellows carry out the research, focusing on the two largest states of the region: Poland and Romania.

Recently concluded research projects:

  • ‘The Fight against the Traffic in Women and Children in Interwar Poland’ (as principal investigator). This project retraced the networks of Polish anti-trafficking organisations and their connection to local and regional practitioners, such as the Polish Women’s police as well as railway and port missions. It focusesdon how far Polish campaigns were shaped, facilitated or hampered by international efforts and how far they in turned shaped international policies, especially concerning the control of prostitution and of the movement of women. The research for this project was funded by the Thyssen Foundation and carried out by Dr Jasmin Nithammer and ran from May 2018 to April 2021.
  • ‘Hinterlands and Hypertrophies. Assessments of the “Viability” of Empires and Nation-States in Central and Eastern Europe, 1900 – 1930's’ (as principal investigator). Together with Dr Jonathan Gumz, I analyse the origins, development and impact of the concept of “viability” and its practice in early 20th century Central and Eastern Europe. The project is thus meant to establish a starting point for a historiography of modern state assessment and its practitioners. Viewing a state through the lens of “viability” (from German: Lebensfähigkeit, literal translation “the ability to live”) meant interpreting it as a living organism – be it in the form of the allegedly overstretched and disaggregating Habsburg and Romanov Empires, of hydrocephalic post-war Austria, of incoherent post-partition Poland or of acephalic Lithuania. Our project investigates how the circulation of knowledge and practices associated with “viability” lent the concept a dynamic character that changed over time. The project was funded by an AHRC Early Career Standard Research Grant from September 2017 to January 2020.
  • ‘Practices and Perceptions of Property Redistribution in Poland and the Baltic States, 1917 – 1934’ (as principal investigator). This project looks at the development of property distribution and its connection with state building in the former borderlands of the German and Russian empires following WWI – specifically Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. The project is funded with a British Academy Small Research Grant for the time period April 2015 – March 2017.
  • ‘Borders, Maps and Congresses. The New Order of East Central Europe from the Legacy of the Empires, 1917 – 1923.’ This project, which was co-ordinated by the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder, looked at the interplay of international diplomacy, practices of rule and spatial imaginaries in the drawing of borders after the First World War. The project ran from 2013 to 2016 and was funded by Viadrina University.
  • ‘Population displacement and its political and cultural heritage in 20th century Lithuania’ (Gyventojų dislokacija ir jos politinis bei kultūrinis palikimas XX amžiaus Lietuvoje). This project, which was co-ordinated by the University of Vilnius, examined the impact of displacement, refugee crises and deportations on Lithuanian society across the 20th century. The project, which was funded by the European Structural Fund, started in 2013 and concluded in 2015.


Highlight publications

Richter, K 2013, Juden, Christen und die “Emanzipation” der Bauern. Antisemitismus in Litauen, 1889–1914. Metropol.

Richter, K 2020, Fragmentation in East Central Europe: Poland and the Baltics, 1915-1929. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198843559.001.0001

Recent publications


Richter, K & Nithammer, J 2023, 'Polish Conductresses and the Insecurities of Female Labour Migration to France, 1925-1929', European History Quarterly.

Richter, K 2023, 'The Catastrophe of the Present and that of the Future: Expectations Towards European States from the Great War to the Great Depression', Contemporary European History. https://doi.org/10.1017/S096077732200100X

Bresciani, M & Richter, K 2023, 'Trieste and Danzig after the Great War: Imperial Collapse, Narratives of Loss, Reconfigured Globalization', The Journal of Modern History, vol. 95, no. 3, pp. 557-595. https://doi.org/10.1086/726394

Richter, K 2021, 'Economic empowerment in empires and nation states: East Central Europe from the 19th century to today', Baltic Worlds, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 7-13. <https://balticworlds.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/BW-4-2021-OA-PDF.pdf>

Richter, K & Hein-Kircher, H 2020, 'Too Small to Succeed? East Central Europe and the Historical Study of State Assessment', Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung, vol. 71, no. 4.

Richter, K 2018, '“An orgy of licence?” democracy and property redistribution in Poland and the Baltics in their international context, 1918–1926', Nationalities Papers, vol. 46, no. 5, pp. 791-808. https://doi.org/10.1080/00905992.2017.1350840

Richter, K 2016, ''Go with the hare's ticket': mobility and territorial policies in Ober Ost (1915–1918)', First World War Studies, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 151-170. https://doi.org/10.1080/19475020.2015.1088395

Richter, K 2015, '"Eine durch und durch demokratische Nation": Demokratie und Minderheitenschutz in der Außendarstellung Litauens nach 1918', Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 194-217. https://doi.org/10.25627/20156429859

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Richter, K 2017, 'A mass which you could form into whatever you wanted': Refugees and state building in Lithuania and Courland, 1914–21. in Europe on the move: Refugees in the era of the Great War. Cultural History of Modern War.

Richter, K 2016, Displacement without moving: Border Changes and Practices of Population Politics in Lithuania (1916 – 1923) . in Population Displacement in Lithuania in the Twentieth Century: Experiences, Identities and Legacies. Brill, Leiden, pp. 62-88.

Richter, K 2014, ''Horrible were the avengers, but the Jews were horrible, too'': an anti-Jewish riot in rural Lithuania 1905. in R Nemes & D Unowsky (eds), Sites of European Antisemitism in the Age of Mass Politics, 1880-1918 (Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry). Brandeis University Press.


Richter, K 2015, 'Ihr hattet nie ein Pogrom in den Vereinigten Staaten?': Amerikanische Presseberichte über kollektive Gewalt gegen Juden in der Ukraine. in M Kohlstruck, S Schueler-Springorum & U Wyrwa (eds), Bilder kollektiver Gewalt - kollektive Gewalt im Bild: Annäherungen an eine Ikonographie der Gewalt. Für Werner Bergmann zum 65. Geburtstag. Metropol Verlag, pp. 167-180.

Richter, K 2014, 'Ein Schatten über dem ganzen Land': Wirtschaftliche Emanzipation und die 'Judenfrage' in Litauen, 1883–1914. in M Hettling, MG Mueller & G Hausmann (eds), Die 'Judenfrage' – ein europäisches Phänomen?. Metropol Verlag, pp. 321.

Richter, K 2014, Horrible Were the Avengers, but the Jews Were Horrible, too.’: Contemporaries Interpret the Anti-Jewish Riots in Dusetos. in D Unowsky & R Nemes (eds), Sites of European Antisemitism in the Age of Mass Politics, 1880 – 1918. Brandeis University Press, pp. 199-214.


Richter, K & Safronovas, V (eds) 2015, Contact Zones in the Historical Area of East Prussia: Kontaktų zonos istoriniame Rytų Prūsijos regione. Acta historica universitatis Klaipedensis, vol. 30, vol. XXX, Klaipeda.

View all publications in research portal


Nationalism, ethnic conflict, Eastern Europe, Poland, Ukraine, Baltics, populism, Germany, Russia



  • Minorities policy
  • State formation
  • Peacekeeping
  • Conflict resolution
  • Nationalism