Russian, German, Polish, Lithuanian, Belarusian and Soviet Cartographic Visions and Territorial Projects of Vilnius Region 1795-1939

Tomaš Nenartovič M.A.

It is commonly perceived that scientists played an important role in the formation and development of nations. In particular, geographers, ethnologists, statisticians and others describe and/or determine boundaries by subsequently publishing them in media such as maps, textbooks, atlases, etc. This was especially done during the age of nationalisms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Undoubtedly this data had significant influence in building not only the first rudiments of national scholarships, but also in the legitimization of national territorial claims after the First World War.
The project addresses the Balto-Slavic area, which during the Tsarist period was known as the “North-Western provinces” and after 1918 split into a number of geopolitical units. The so-called “Vilnius region” and its numerous cartographic mental maps form the main research object of this project. Thus, contemporary scientific descriptions such as “Polish”, “Lithuanian”, “Belarusian“, “Soviet-Belarusian”, “Russian” and “German” can be perceived to a great extent as ethno-geographic and ethno-cartographic constructs, which were built in accordance to scientific, political, cultural and other traditions in the respective states. Therefore, the main aim of my project is to discuss the importance and influence of scientific geographical knowledge for political decisions. It is also important to consider national, linguistic and religious notions put forward in the arguments that were used in the territorial discussions, due to the fact that the region was a large multi-confessional and multi-ethnic border area. Therefore, a comparative transnational perspective is indispensable in tracing these ethno- and geo-political discourses. The main structure of my project consists of: media analysis, term history, institution history and experts’ history.