Borderlands and Border Identities

History and the collective memory of a population are sometimes stronger reference points in the construction of identity than regulations and restrictions. Above, the regional identity of the Austrian–Italian borderland population was highlighted. While the border and with it the political regime changed several times over the past century, the population continued to identify with local customs and was also able to protect their local dialects and customs. A similar situation prevailed in Lwiw (Lemberg; Lwow), a city in the central part of western Ukraine that was part of the Austrian–Hungarian Empire in the nineteenth-century. Those born there at the beginning of the twentieth century experienced various regimes. They were Austrians before World War I and became Poles afterward. The city was occupied by the Soviets in 1939, by the German army in 1941, and from 1944 until 1991, it was under Soviet control again. Since 1991, it has been the largest city in western Ukraine. Today, most inhabitants speak Ukrainian in Lwiw, while in Kiev the inhabitants speak Russian. A walk through the city provides an experience of these changing political and cultural influences, which have been codified in street names and signs and architecture as well as in less material forms such as poems and narratives. Although it was strictly forbidden in Soviet times to speak German and Polish and to refer to their eras, the language and customs from both traditions have still survived and flourished. As in Ambos Nogales, such populations develop a regional identity as 'border people', which can be stronger than the changing national identities.