'Go with the hare's ticket': mobility and territorial policies in Ober Ost (1915–1918)

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This paper argues that German occupation, through its military state of Ober Ost, fundamentally transformed Lithuania and Courland in 1915–1918. The German occupiers were determined to solve the refugee crisis, resulting from Russian evacuation policies, and the ensuing social and economic disorder by controlling all transport of people and goods. External borders were hermetically closed and internal district borders used to supervise and control movement within Ober Ost. These measures, however, impeded economic recovery entirely and had a disastrous impact on the everyday life of the population as well as on the image of the German occupiers. Large parts of the population resorted to smuggling to make a living. Increasingly, mobility policy was used to control repatriation – especially in the case of Courland, which became earmarked for annexation. Ultimately, German defeat meant that Ober Ost movement policies provided Lithuanians with a territory that was completely transformed and disengaged from the former imperial space, while at the same time impeding Latvian state formation. The Lithuanian state was thus able to inherit core strategies of territorialization from the occupation regime, such as economic monopolization and Ober Ost’s specific border policies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-170
Number of pages20
JournalFirst World War Studies
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jan 2016


  • Ober Ost
  • Lithuania
  • mobility
  • territory


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