This course aims at the problematization of selected key topics of the 19th-century Eastern European history and in particular at critical reflection on the notion of a borderland as contested polycentric and culturally diverse space. The conceptual repertoire of cultural and social history, comparative and case studies on the regions that once belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, then were partitioned by Habsburg and Romanov monarchies, and nowadays constitute Belarus, Lithuania, and Ukraine shall help to go beyond either traditional linear nation-state-centered paradigm or reduction of borderlands to the peripheral zones framed by imperial centers. Instead, the local agency and responses to the Austrian or Russian imperial policies, national inventions of tradition, and complicated trajectories of cultural transfers will be in the focus of the course. The competing projects of nation-building, in particular attempts of educated elites at shaping new “high” cultures, and the growth of urban sphere will be reconsidered through the prism of cultural politics. In general, the course will explore the mechanisms of the cultural construction of modern social, national and regional identities still before the main waves of political violence by Soviet and Nazi regimes profoundly transformed the region.