Eugene M. Kulischer

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Eugene M. Kulischer (1881–1956) was a Russian American sociologist, an authority on demography, migration, and manpower, and an expert on Russia. Kulischer coined the phrase “displaced persons[1] and was among the first to seek to document the number of persons lost in the Holocaust as well as the subsequent relocation of millions of Europeans after World War II.


Born in Kiev in 1881 he died in Washington D.C, on April 2, 1956. Like his father, Michael Kulischer a noted Russian historian, he insisted that no migration occurs in isolation. Along with his brother Alexander, he worked on Kriegs-und Wanderzüge, Weltgeschichte als Völkerbewegung (War and Migration; World History as Peoples' Movements), (Berlin-Leipzig, Walter de Gruyter, 1932) and Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917-1947. They were intended to show that migrations and wars go hand-in-hand.

In a way, Kulischer was himself an example of a displaced person. Following the Russian Revolution (1917), he fled Russia for Germany in 1920. Following the collapse of the Weimar Republic, he fled Germany for Denmark. In 1936 he went to Paris. In 1941 — at the age of 60 — Kulischer "crossed clandestinely the demarcation line between the occupied and the unoccupied parts of France" and went to the United States; his brother Alexander, "when crossing the demarcation line, was arrested by Pétain's gendarmes and died in a concentration camp.” [2]


In the United States Kulischer “served successively as consultant or staff member of the International Labor Office, the Office of Strategic Services, the Bureau of the Census, the Department of the Army, and the Library of Congress. His major works include The Displacement of Population in Europe (Montreal, 1943), and Europe on the Move (New York, 1948)”.[3] At the heart of Kulischer's work is a simple axiom: individual short-distance movements in their combined action create great population shifts.[4] An expansion of that concept is his oft quoted dictum:

“The migratory movement is at once perpetual, partial, and universal. It never ceases, it affects every people, but at a given moment it sets in motion only a small number of each population; hence the illusion of immobility. In fact, there is never a moment of immobility for any people, because no migration remains isolated”.[5]

With that paragraph Kulischer created a bridge linking the migration of individuals and the demographic fact of great migrations. Kulischer and his brother, along with millions of others, tried to put Europe as far behind them as they could on the eve of World War II. All of them had their own reasons. Some left because of their ethnicity, others because of their religion. Some left because of their politics, and others because they feared the upheaval they were sure was looming on the horizon. For Kulischer and his brother the reason was close at hand. Not only were they Jewish, they forecast the outcome of World War II based on demographic trends. They reasoned that Russia and Germany were on a collision course and Germany would lose.[6]

“Man's history,” Kulischer remarked, “is the story of his wanderings”.[7] From the standpoint of the sociology of knowledge he added, “Most scholars are rooted in their environment. They differ in their ability to outgrow it”.[8] By combining those two statements we have Kulischer and a great many of his peers who lived as exiles abroad and grew as they moved, for instance Austrian Social Scientists in Exile 1933-1945.[9]

As Jackson and Howe recently observed in evaluating the impact of migrations:

"E. M. Kulischer once reminded his readers that in A.D. 900 Berlin had no Germans, Moscow had no Russians, Budapest had no Hungarians, Madrid was a Moorish settlement, and Constantinople had hardly any Turks. He added that the Normans had not yet settled in Great Britain and before the sixteenth century there were no Europeans living in North or South America, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa."


Eugene M. Kulischer published several books, a selection:

  • 1932. Kriegs- und Wanderzüge. Weltgeschichte als Völkerbewegung. Witk Alexander Kulischer. Berlin/Leipzig 1932.
  • 1943. The Displacement of Population in Europe. Montreal 1943.
  • 1948. Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917-1947. New York 1948.


  1. ^ A. J. Jaffe (April 1962), “Notes on the Population Theory of Eurgene M. Kulischer”. In: The Milbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 2:187-206.
  2. ^ Eugene M. Kulischer (1948), Europe on the Move: War and Population Changes, 1917-1947. Columbia University Press
  3. ^ Obituary (April 1956), "Eugene M. Kulischer." Population Index, Vol. 22:100
  4. ^ Europe on the Move, 1948
  5. ^ Europe on the Move, p. 9
  6. ^ Europe on the Move, p. vi
  7. ^ Europe on the Move, p. 8
  8. ^ Jaffe, quoted on page 193
  9. ^ Müller, Reinhard and Christian Fleck (2000), "Österreichische Soziologinnen und Soziologen im Exil 1933 bis 1945", University of Graz.

Further reading[edit]

  • A. J. Jaffe (1962). “Notes on the Population Theory of Eugene M. Kulischer”. In: The Milbank Memeorial Fund Quarterly, Vol. 40, No. 2. (April 1962). pp. 187–206.
  • Richard Jackson and Neil Howe (2008). [1]. In: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century. Washington 2008, p. 15.