chapter  4
24 Pages

Maturation of the Border, Professionalization of Shuttle Trade (1994–2007)

Using the organic metaphor of ‘life cycle’ in relation to the development of borders over time, Baud and van Schendel (1997) suggest singling out two stages at which a border becomes a reality – the stage of an adolescent and the stage of an adult borderland. The first one, they argue, designates a period when the border is already ‘an undeniable reality but its genesis is still recent, and many people remember the period before it existed’ (Baud and van Schendel, 1997, p. 224). During this period, according to the authors, social networks start ‘to be confined by the existence of new border’ however, they ‘still form powerful links’ across it. The second stage of the adult borderland refers to the moment when the border becomes an unquestionable social reality, it is perceived as ‘eternal’ and ‘deeply embedded’ in the social life of the border region (Baud and van Schendel, 1997, p. 224). At this stage social networks ‘implicitly accept and follow the contours of the border’ (ibid.) and even if cross-border links continue to exist, ‘they are increasingly viewed as problematic’ (ibid.). Baud and van Schendel (2007, p. 225) themselves admit the discussable character of their model caused by its ‘evolutionary and deterministic implications’. Therefore, it would be too speculative to apply this ‘life cycle’ model to the history of the Belarus-Lithuania borderland unconditionally. On the one hand, the border between Belarus and Lithuania has already become a social reality and, even though most people still remember their life before the border, its existence barely causes any doubts or questions. On the other hand, even today cross-border social networks continue to play an important role in the region and do not entirely coincide with the line of border demarcation. Hence the distinction between the adult and adolescent life cycles of the borderland are not followed here literally but ideas about the maturation of the border, which is understood here as the development and clarification of border regulations, their acceptance by the local population and the discursive formulation of the border importance, is important. All these significant changes were taking place during the second stage of the border development in 1994-2007. Therefore, this chapter considers the main aspects of the period of the Belarus-Lithuania border maturation and how the social stratification which the development and strengthening of the border had brought into life influenced the practices of shuttle trade in the Ašmjany region.