Refugees and citizens in East-Central Europe in the 20th century

Pieter Troch

Pieter is a social historian of the Yugoslav twentieth century. He obtained a PhD in East-European Languages and Cultures from Ghent University in 2012 with a study on Yugoslav nation-building in the domain of education and associational life in interwar Yugoslavia. A thoroughly revised version of the dissertation was published by IB Tauris in 2015. After finishing his PhD, he worked in civil society in Serbia and Kosovo in the fields of minority protection and transitional justice. In February 2017 he returned to academic research as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships programme of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. At the IOS, Troch conducted a micro-historical study of social change in the city of Mitrovica in northern Kosovo during the 1960s. His research focused in particular on the socialist transformation of society, local economic policy and factory management, and urban development.

Within the UnRef project, Troch studied emigration from Kosovo to other Yugoslav republics from the 1960s until the early 2000s. He scrutinized two particular research topics. Firstly, Serbs and Montenegrins emigrated from Kosovo to (primarily) narrow Serbia from the 1960s onwards. This became an issue of extreme political relevance and sensitivity in the 1980s, and one of the central pillars of Serbian nationalism in the late 1980s and 1990s. Post-conflict migration of Kosovo Serbs from inner Kosovo to Serb-majority enclaves (particularly the North of Kosovo) can be seen as a continuation of this movement, albeit under completely different political conditions. The issue of Serb emigration from Kosovo remains a Leitmotiv of contemporary Serbian understandings of nationhood and citizenship. I suggest a detailed historical analysis of this under-researched topic, focusing on the legal framework for internal migration in Socialist Yugoslavia, the non-governmental social structures impacting emigration from Kosovo, and the politicisation of this theme in the 1980s up to the present.

His second research topic concerned the expulsion of Kosovo Albanians and other minority communities to former Yugoslav republics (primarily Macedonia and Montenegro) in 1999. The convoys of Kosovo Albanian forcibly fleeing Kosovo were highly mediatised, but the institutional and social structures behind this refugee movement have not been analysed in international research. He is particularly interested in the legal framework behind this movement, the engagement of civil society, and the impact of forced migration on understandings of Kosovo Albanian nationhood and citizenship.

Pieter participated in the Unlikely Refuge? project until August 2020.