Building Socialism on Abandoned Land: The Long-term Impact of Deportations in South-East Poland

Lilla salen Session 7: Historical Perspectives on Migration organized by Jonatan Andersson


Oliver Wach


This paper examines the impact of forced migration on economic and political development in the short and long term. For the first time, I use data on the ethno-religious composition of municipalities in inter-war Poland and examine the total expulsion of more than 600,000 Ukrainians and other minorities not recognized as Poles from south-eastern Polish territories after the establishment of the current Polish borders between 1944 and 1947. The study finds a long-lasting negative effect of deportation on labor market outcomes such as unemployment, however, this effect declines in importance between 1990 and 2020. The findings further suggest that one of the important mechanisms behind this effect is the increased intensity of collective farming in the areas that experienced forced migration. To investigate this further, I combine data sets from three time periods: Pre-deportation data from the interbellum period (1921-1939), data from the socialist period (1944-1989), and modern data (1990-2020). For this purpose, I vectorized a historical administrative map of municipalities from the interwar period, which allows me to assign interwar census data (1921 and 1931) to modern municipalities by intersecting historical and modern municipalities. To my knowledge, this has not been attempted before. In addition, I take data at the municipal level from statistical yearbooks of the 1980s and manually adjust them to today’s municipalities. This results in a novel dataset that combines 100 years of municipality level data for the provinces of Lublin, Subcarpathia and Lesser Poland, covering 555 contemporary municipalities. This procedure can also be applied to the other territories of present-day Poland that were part of the Second Polish Republic (1919-1939). The territories are then separated by a line that follows the so-called ‘Ukrainian Ethnic Territory’ (UET), i.e., the territory with a significant (>10%) minority of Ukrainians and other ethnic minorities. This is then being used to show that other potential confounders vary smoothly around the UET and allows to identify how municipalities that experienced deportations performed relative to similar unaffected municipalities. The fuzzy RDD approach used for this analysis allows viewing deportation as discontinuous rather than binary, considering that municipalities outside the UET also experienced small amounts of deportation. This paper will complement the previous literature in several ways: First, it examines the long-term effects of deporting a population group with lower socio-economic and educational performance, whereas most of the previous literature has focused on the opposite. Second, the study identifies the strengthening of state institutions as another important mechanism determining the legacies of deportation. In the Polish context, the state took advantage of the property rights vacuum after the deportations to expand collectivized agriculture, something that was hardly possible in other parts of the country belonging to the Second Polish Republic, where deportations did not take place. Finally, the study shows that while the effect persists for some variables in the long run, it weakens or even disappears over time.


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