In the Shadows of War

Russian and Belarusian migrants and their identity construction in Lithuania and Poland after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Project manager

Florence Fröhlig


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type



The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, provoked an unprecedented level of forced migration from Ukraine but also from Belarus and Russia. Little is known about Belarusian and Russian war migrants and their identity construction in times when their citizenship and nationality are widely associated with military aggression, imperialism, and the lack of political agency.

With a theoretical approach based on translocalities and conviviality, this project aims to give insight into how Belarusian and Russian migrants justify their emigration and conceptualize their new status in Lithuania and Poland, two neighboring EU countries, to which they fled. This dual theoretical lens will be used to analyze 40 qualitative interviews with Russian and Belarussian migrants in both countries, the identity reconstruction of these two exiled groups in relation to their homelands, their host societies, and other migrants (including Ukrainian war refugees). Secondly, the project will collect survey data to examine how the host societies whose national memory is marked by Russian imperialism and who bear the direct impact of Russia’s aggression, perceive these migrants.

By addressing the ethnic reconfiguration of the Baltic region in the shadow of the war in Ukraine, this project will show how East Europeanness is simultaneously maintained and rethought in relation to the European West but also to Russia.

Florence Fröhlig (docent),

Olga Sasunkevich (docent),

Maarja Saar (Phd)

Research area / geographic area

Ethnology Historical Studies Baltic Sea region and Eastern Europe Baltic

Contract ID


Project time

2024 — 2027


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