Relict boundaries and their significance for spatial differences in development processes in Central and Eastern Europe

The historical background is one of the main reasons for the differences in the current development situation of individual territories. Political divisions and their consequences connected with functioning in different political, economic and social conditions, in line with the principle of path dependence, becoming deep-seated determinants of developmental processes, stressing the fact that ‘history matters’ (Peters, Pierre and King, 2005; Boas, 2007). The research on relict boundaries and their significance in the spatial differentiation of socio-economic phenomena covers both theoretical and empirical aspects (Hartshorne, 1933; Kolossov, 2005; Prescott and Triggs, 2008).

Central and Eastern Europe is of special interest for research on the impact of historical conditions, evident in the influence of relict boundaries, on the present-day differentiation of economic and social processes. This area has experienced especially challenging political divisions and as a consequence can be called a testing ground for studies on relict and phantom boundaries (Lowis, 2017; Hirschhausen, 2017). The studies are primarily based on descriptive methods, which take advantage of analyses

Does history matter? 187 of historical and contemporary sources (desk research). Detailed methodology differs depending on the scale of research. Analyses related to macroscale systems most often apply identification and interpretation of the spatial arrangement1 of values of simple indicators which define the economic, social and environmental impact of spatial units and of the political behaviour of their residents (e.g. Kowalski, 2000; Kosmala, 2003; Biondich, 2011; Janczak, 2015; Zamfira, 2015). Within microscale systems, the dominant methods and techniques of direct studies include, for example, inventories, interviews, questionnaires etc. (Sobczynski, 1984; Lowis,

  • 2017) . Moreover, some studies apply the synthetic indicator method (e.g. Bahski, Kowalski and Mazur, 2009) and methods of analyses of connections and relations based on models of correlation and regression, supposed to confirm in econometric terms the coexistence of certain phenomena or the existence between them of causal relations (Grabowski,
  • 2018) . The spatial scope of these surveys allows for the identification of several sub-areas, which are the subject of detailed inquiries concerning Central and Eastern Europe.

The first of them is the territory of Poland,2 which was also analysed in the pioneering work by Richard Hartshorne (1933), who examined the consequences of changes of boundaries in Upper Silesia in the first period of delineating the borders of the Second Polish Republic (1918-1939). The results obtained helped the author come up with a critique of the then political divisions, which showed the impact of relict boundaries, and were a kind of testing ground for this new current of research. Hartshorne pointed out that:

the political boundaries, representing diplomatic compromises, add to the confusion, geographically, by neglecting for the most part any one geographic boundary, and thereby developing a new one and, in particular, by cutting through the very type of cultural landscape least suitable for boundary location.

(Hartshorne, 1933: 224)

One should indicate a few principal lines of research on regularities related to the historical background of the spatial differences in Poland, taking into account the relict boundaries. Analysis of spatial diversity of electoral behaviours and their determinants is the basic direction of research. In his analysis, showing Poland’s electoral geography in the 1989-1998 period, Mariusz Kowalski points out the ‘historical and cultural, or developmental and cultural conditions affecting political divisions’ (2000, 8). The author’s results are confirmed, too, by the outcomes of earlier analyses of economic prosperity and social mobilisation, by Grzegorz Gorzelak and Bohdan Jalowiecki (1998). They point to the mutual overlap in space of social and economic determinants, taking into account both the economic and social aspects related, for example, with the presence of religious minorities

(e.g. Orthodox Church in Eastern Podlasie) and ethnic minorities’ (e.g. German minority in Opolskie, Kashubs). Regularities are likewise identified in the work by Banski, Kowalski and Mazur (2009), analysing the electoral preferences of residents in Polish rural areas. The results obtained in the course of research lead to the following conclusion:

among the determinants of electoral behaviour, the social and professional profile of the population and the broadly understood historical and cultural conditions are of fundamental importance [...]. The electoral behaviour of some regional groups forming ‘pockets of difference’ makes it difficult to unambiguously assess the impact of particular determinants on electoral preferences. However, research to date shows that these conditions are clearly related to each other, and these relationships seem to be stronger in rural areas than in urban areas.

(Banski etal., 2009: 503)

The spatial distribution of political support variability in rural areas is very interesting. This variability depends on the system of beliefs, symbols, values and behaviours of social capital, different in the areas inhabited by persons displaced and settled there after 1945 and in the areas inhabited by the indigenous population. As a result, as Banski et al. indicate, inhabitants of rural areas in Western Poland ‘follows more economic considerations, hence the changeability and lack of support for the options which were earlier in power and have “compromised” themselves’, while Poles living in Eastern Poland ‘take into consideration ideological (political) aspects to a greater extent’ (2009: 499). Similarly, in his research, Tomasz Zarycki (2015) links the differences in political behaviour in terms of the division of Polish territory between the three annexing powers in the nineteenth century to the contemporary structure of electoral support and to the diversity on a local scale of the three capitals, which are important factors of economic, social and cultural development. A very interesting and methodologically original study of the regularity of spatial diversity of electoral behaviour in Poland during the last parliamentary elections in 2015 in the context of the impact of relict boundaries and the formation of their phantom equivalents is provided by Grabowski (2018). A third noteworthy current of research is that analysing the interdependencies and differences between the position of relict boundaries (Kosmala, 2003), paleo-boundaries (Matykowski, 2004) and symbolic boundaries and contemporary administrative divisions (Matykowski, 2009). Here, the authors point to the consequences of a lack of alignment of these borders on the process of development of economic regions and the degree of their closure.

Ukraine, which Huntington (1998) treats as an example of a country divided by a developmental gap, is especially tried by history (Magocsi, 2010) and is the second major geographical focus of studies on relict boundaries. Analyses relating to this area are both comprehensive approaches taking into

Does history matter? 189 account general tendencies and dependencies that result from the relations between electoral behaviours and the position of phantom borders (Putrenko, 2013), as well as detailed analyses carried out on a microscale of individual villages located in historical borderland areas (Lowis, 2017). The results of the studies justify the following conclusion:

geographical conditions and local events play a central role in the definition of regional cultural specificities, without it being possible to assert that these spaces possess specific properties or identities. The events that occurred in concrete places and spaces serve to create symbolic spheres that take on meaning or to which meaning is attributed a posteriori,

(Lowis, 2017: 14) stressing the significance of historical conditions for today’s developmental potential.

The third area is the selected countries of Central and Eastern Europe with ethno-political relations within their borders, which are confirmed by the results of studies on the conflict-generation potential of changes in the administrative divisions of the area, for example, regarding the ethnic diversity of Transylvania (Kiirti, 2001). The results of the analysis of relations between the distribution of ethnic minorities in Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia and the diversity of electoral behaviours and socio-economic conditions indicate the importance of intra- and interethnic relations (Gherghina and Jigliiu, 2011) in shaping spatial regularities. They are expressed in the emergence of phantom boundaries strictly corresponding to the spatial range of occurrence of a given minority, regardless of the degree of ethnic homogeneity of a given state (Zamfira, 2015). Against this background, other contemporary analyses deserve attention, which, based on the experiences of the indicated areas characteristic for political divisions in Central and Eastern Europe, using a proven methodology and based on the identified regularities, relate them to the relatively recent divisions.

In most of the above analyses, the basic determinant of the current economic and social situation is the historical identity of a given territory and its relations to the relict border (Cox, 1968). In the case of political behaviour, attention is also drawn to the regularities, according to which areas with a higher level of modernisation and urbanisation show a higher degree of spatial homogeneity of behaviour, for example, related to elections, usually in favour of a more liberal or middle-of-the-road option (Campbell et al., 1996; Cox, 1969-, Grabowski, 2018). In this way, as assumed in this study, political behaviour becomes an indicator of the history-determined economic and social situation. This is particularly evident in the last decade in which, as Andres Rodriguez-Pose claims: ‘persistent poverty, economic decay and lack of opportunities are at theroot of considerable discontent in declining and lagging-behind areas the world over’ (2017: 189). This is testament to the inefficiency of earlier developmental intervention (Rodriguez-Pose and Garcilazo, 2015; Fratesi and Rodriguez-Pose, 2016) and may trigger deeply rooted populism, evident in electoral behaviour in economically less well-off areas, whose development is often ‘locked’ in their history. This makes it even more difficult for these territories to break the closed circle of poverty, which regrettably becomes their permanent feature in many locations worldwide (Bachmann and Sidaway, 2016; Gros, 2016; Rodrik, 2017). The regularities arising from the lack of social approval for the growing development gaps take the form of a certain revenge of the ‘places that don’t have a future’, which do not want to remain ‘places that don’t matter’ (Rodriguez-Pose, 2017).

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