Forgotten landscapes? Settlement desertion and cultural landscape transformations: the case of the Czech borderland
Charles University, Faculty of Science, Department of Social Geography and Regional Development, The Research Centre for Cultural and Historical Geography, Albertov 6, 128 43, Prague 2, Czechia
For a landscape to become cultural, it has to be inhabited. Settlements are established by people for people, they are used by them and become part of their identities. Settlements evoke a certain sense of home and stability. However, cultural landscape is subject to constant transformation and (re)interpretation, settlement desertion or abandonment being an inevitable part of these processes. Deserted settlements are thus often perceived as a symbol of extreme discontinuity in landscape cultivation. Despite this, once abandoned and destroyed, deserted settlements often do not transform into completely forgotten places, as their remnants and ruins or memories and ideas connected with them are integrated in ongoing social and cultural activities. Thus, the story of settlement desertion is not only the story of loss, destruction and oblivion. Through their material inertia or through practices of remembrance, abandoned settlements may become part of local and regional heritage or of community identities, and may be integrated in the activities of those people that strive for the maintenance of a relationship to the once lived-in landscape. In the Czech borderland, more than 2 000 settlements have been deserted due to various reasons during the second half of the 20th century. The lecture aims not only on discussion of diverse causes and consequences of settlement desertion in the Czech borderland. Attention will be also paid to the present condition and meanings of abandoned settlements, of their remains and ruins.
The presented research has been supported by the Czech Science Foundation project No. P410/12/G113 “Historical Geography Research Centre”.