New Perspectives in Transnational History of Communism in East Central Europe

by Krzysztof Brzechczyn (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection 386 Pages
Series: Dia-Logos, Volume 26


The book offers a transnational perspective on history of communism in East-Central Europe. It analyzes the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of communist systems and focuses on different forms of resistance and ways of its remembering. The transnational look is manifested through an analysis of the usefulness of the models applied in research of the past, an investigation of some historical phenomena in the context of mutual relations between particular countries (e.g. Poland and East Germany), republics of Soviet Union (Lithuania, Moldova, and Russia) and between the East and the West relations (peace movement in Poland and Netherlands). Moreover, selected aspects of the past (consumerism in Bulgaria or economic management in Romania) are analyzed with the use of categories useful in transnational research.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Biographical Notes
  • The Transnational Perspective in Research on Communism: Foreword
  • Part 1 Political Dimensions of Communism
  • Between Modernization and Enslavement: The Historiosophical Implications of Two Approaches to the Social Divisions in Real Socialism
  • State Terror in Soviet Moldavia, 1940–1989: Categories of Victims, Repressive Methods and Punitive Institutions
  • Integration through “Militarism” in the Warsaw Pact: The East German and Polish Leaderships as Soviet Allies
  • Entangled Histories of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party and the French Communist Party after the Invasion of Czechoslovakia
  • Part 2 Ideological Dimensions of Communism
  • Decadent Ideocracies? Specifics and Changes of Regime Legitimation in Real Socialist Countries
  • Lithuanian Soviet Writers and “Titular Literature”: Three Generations in a Changing Environment
  • Prevailing Romantic Elements of Hungarian Nationalism at the End of the Socialist Era – Their Origin and Influence on Nationalism
  • Part 3 Economical and Social Dimensions of Communism
  • Inventing the Socialist Consumer: Worker, Citizen or Customer? Politics of Mass Consumption in Bulgaria, 1956–1968
  • Mis/Managing Industrial Labour Productivity by the Late 1950s: Work, Collective Consumption, and Technologies of Nation Building in Romania
  • Intimacies under State Socialism? Poles Emotional Self-Realization in the 1960s
  • Part 4 East-Central States and Societies in Transnational Context
  • A Transnational Movement Breaking Down the Blocs? The “Alliance” Between the Western Peace Movement and the Polish Opposition in the 1980s
  • “Consumption of Revolutionary Ideas”: New Left and Student Criticism in Slovenia 1971–1974
  • The ‘Program of Society’s Self-Organization’. The Political Thinking of Petr Uhl
  • Part 5 Memory and Narratives of East-Central Communism
  • A Study of Memory Politics as a Research Program for a Transnational History of Communism in East-Central Europe
  • The Second World War in Belarus: A Fundamental Event for National Building and International Relations
  • Russian and Ukrainian Struggles over ‘Historical Narratives’: Post-Imperial versus Post-Colonial Perspectives
  • Index

Biographical Notes

Uwe Backes is a deputy director at the Hannah Arendt Institute on Totalitarianism Research and teaches political science at the University of Dresden, Germany. He studied political science, history, and German language and literature at the University of Trier, Germany (Ph.D. 1987). He defended his post-doctoral dissertation at the University of Bayreuth in 1997. He was a Feodor Lynen Grantee of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Centre d’Étude de la Vie Politique Française (CEVIPOF) in Paris (1997/1998) and a Heisenberg Grantee of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in 1998/1999. He was a visiting professor in Paris-Nanterre, Eichstätt, Nancy and Strasbourg. Important publications in English: Communist and Post-Communist Parties in Europe (ed. with Patrick Moreau, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008); Political Extremes (Routledge, 2010); Right-Wing Extremism in Europe (ed. with Patrick Moreau, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012); Ideocracies in Comparison (ed. with Steffen Kailitz, Routledge, 2016).

Jens Boysen is a historian, a philologist and a political scientist with a focus on Germany and Central and Eastern Europe. In 1991–1997, he pursued master’s programs in history, politics, and Slavic studies in Frankfurt/Main and Dublin. In 1998, he received a postgraduate degree from College of Europe Warsaw-Natolin, and in 2008, a PhD from Tübingen University. He worked at College of Europe Bruges/Belgium, Leipzig University, Fraunhofer Centre for Central and Eastern Europe in Leipzig, German Historical Institute Warsaw, and Technical University Chemnitz. He is presently affiliated with the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

Krzysztof Brzechczyn is a titular (full) professor of humanities, employed as a professor ordinarius at the Institute of Philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and the Institute of National Remembrance, Poznań Branch. He is an author of the following books (in Polish): Historical Distinctiveness of Central Europe. A Methodological Study (Poznań: Humaniora 1998), Troubles with Poland. Selected Political Essays (Poznań: WiS 1998), On the Multitude of Developmental Lines in Historical Process. An Attempt at Interpretation of Evolution of Mexican Society (Poznań: AMU Press 2004), On the Evolution of the Social-Political Thought of Solidarność in the Years 1980 1981 (Poznań: WN WNS UAM 2013), and numerous papers in Chinese, English, German, Italian, Polish, and Romanian. He edited Modeling in History (Amsterdam-New York: Rodopi, 2009), Thinking about Provincialism in Thinking (with K. Paprzycka, Amsterdam-New York: Rodopi, 2012), Idealization XIV: Models in Science (with G. Borbone, Leiden-Boston: Rodopi/Brill, 2016) and Towards a Revival of Analytical Philosophy of History: Around Paul A. Roth’s Vision of Historical Sciences (Leiden-Boston: Rodopi/Brill, 2018). His fields of interests are current history, intellectual history, philosophy of history, political and social philosophy, methodology of history and theory of historiography.

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Igor Cașu is a senior lecturer and director of the Center for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes & Cold War at the State University of Moldova, Chișinău. He received his PhD in history from Jassy University (fall 2000) and was a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University (February–August 2016). In 2010, he served as a vice chairman of the Presidential Commission for the Study and Evaluation of the Communist Totalitarian Regime in the Republic of Moldova. Among his research interests, there are Soviet nationalities policy and political repressions, and violence and resistance in Soviet Moldavia during Stalinism and after 1953. Some of his recent publications are “The Fate of Stalinist Victims in Soviet Moldavia after 1953: Amnesty, Pardon and the Long Road to Rehabilitation,” in: Kevin McDermott, Matthew Stibbe, eds., De-Stalinising Eastern Europe. The Rehabilitation of Stalin’s Victims, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, and The Class Enemy. Political Repressions, Violence and Resistance in Moldavian (A)SSR, 1924 1956, Chișinău: Cartier, 2015, with an introduction by Vladimir Tismaneanu (in Romanian). He is working now on a book on postwar famine in Soviet Moldavia, 1946–1947 to be published in Romanian, English and Russian. Email: igorcasu@gmail.com

Dirk Mathias Dalberg studied political sciences and Eastern European history in Leipzig and Prague. He holds a PhD in political sciences from Technical University Dresden (2011). From 2016 to 2018 he has been a Marie Curie fellow at the Institute of Political Sciences of the Slovak Academy of Sciences in Bratislava. From 2012 to 2015, he completed a post-doc project at the University of Pardubice (the Czech Republic). From 2008 to 2012, he taught political sciences at the University of Applied Police Sciences in Saxony. His research is mainly on the history of political ideas, democratic theories, and political cultures in Central Europe.

Dalberg has authored two monographs: Die nichtpolitische Politik. Eine tschechische Strategie und Politikvorstellung 1890-1940 (Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag 2013) and Vaclav Havels Politikbegriff und politische Strategie in den Jahren 1969 bis 1989 (Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag 2014), and edited a book titled Migration and Asylum (Rothenburg, Oberlausitz 2016). He also edited a book on terrorism (2019). He has contributed articles on Egon Bondy, Karel Kosík, Miroslav Kusý, Emanuel Rádl, Gerhart Hauptmann, and Hugo von Hofmannsthal to collected volumes and journals, such as Forum für Osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte and Studia Politica Slovaca.

Vilius Ivanauskas is a senior research fellow in Lithuanian Institute of History. In 2012–2013, he was a Fulbright visiting scholar in UC Berkeley (USA), and he also was a visiting fellow at The Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Germany in 2015. His latest publications include: “From Establishment to Dissent: The Cases of the Litterateurs Tomas Venclova and Zviad Gamsakhurdia in Soviet Lithuania and Soviet Georgia”, Histoire@Politique, no. 35, 2018, and books (in Lithuanian): Lithuanian nomenklatura within the bureaucratic system: between stagnation and dynamic, 1968-1988 (Vilnius 2011) and Framed Identity: Lithuanian Writers in “Friendship of Nations” Empire (Vilnius 2015). His research interests are Soviet intellectuals, ethno-particularism in Soviet peripheries, party and cultural elites in Lithuania, and national revolutions in the late 1980s.

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Sarolta Klenjánszky received her PhD degree from Sciences Po Paris and from Eötvös Lóránd University in Budapest in 2013 and has accomplished several visiting fellowships abroad. Her research is on the history of political and cultural relations between Eastern Europe and Western Europe in the Cold War period. In particular, she has studied the Hungarian communist party’s relations with the French communist party, which is also the subject of her book under preparation.

Dorota Malczewska-Pawelec is an associate professor at the Institute of History, at the University of Silesia in Katowice, in Poland. Her research interests are modern and contemporary history of Poland, Polish historiography in the 19th and 20th centuries, collective memory. Her major publications are Bogusław Miedziński (1891–1972). Polityk i publicysta (Łódź 2002); Rewolucja w pamięci historycznej. Porównawcze studia nad praktykami manipulacji zbiorową pamięcią Polaków czasów stalinowskich (co-author: Tomasz Pawelec) (Kraków-Katowice 2011); Dialog o Śląsku. O (nie)zmienności obrazu krainy i jej mieszkańców w polskich syntezach dziejów narodowych epoki zaborów (studium historiograficzne) (Katowice 2012).

Mara Marginean is an associate research fellow in history at Romanian Academy, Cluj Branch. Her areas of specialization are 20th-century European history; urban history; social history: standard of living, including institutions, academic approaches and practices; knowledge production and transfer during the Cold War; visual culture in the 20th century. Her recent book, Ferestre spre furnalul rosu. Urbanism si cotidian in Hunedoara si Calan, 1945–1968 (Windows towards the Red Furnace. Urbanism and Daily Life in Hunedoara and Calan, 1945–1968, Iasi: Polirom, 2015) explores the social implications of industrialization in Romania during the first two decades of the communist rule.

Christie Miedema studied history in Utrecht, Siena, and Berlin. She wrote her PhD dissertation Vrede of vrijheid? Dilemma’s, dialoog en misverstanden tussen Nederlandse en West-Duitse linkse organisaties en de Poolse oppositie in de jaren tachtig (Peace or Freedom? Dilemma’s, Dialogue and Misunderstandings between Dutch and West German Left-Wing Organizations and the Polish Opposition in the 1980s) at the Institute for German Studies at the University of Amsterdam and defended and published it in 2015. Since 2015, she has been researching the emergence of Amnesty International in Eastern Europe in the 1970s and 1980s in the context of the Working Group Human Rights in the 20th century, funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.

Jakub Muchowski is an adjunct professor at the Department of History of Jagiellonian University and an assistant editor of Historyka. Studia Metodologiczne. His research focuses on the theory of historical writing, intellectual history, postwar social history, holocaust and genocide studies, the history of human rights, and historical justice. He has authored Polityka pisarstwa historycznego (Politics of Historical Writing, Toruń: UMK Press 2015) and Historyka Shoah (Historics of Shoah, Warszawa: PWN 2006).

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Tomasz Pawelec is a professor of history, head of the Section of Methodology, Didactic and Historical Culture at the Institute of History at the University of Silesia in Katowice in Poland. His research interests are historiography in Poland and in the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries, the interrelations between history, psychology and psychoanalysis, modern and contemporary history of Poland and East-Central Europe, and collective memory.

His major publications are Myśl metodologiczna Marcelego Handelsmana (Lublin, 1994); Psyche i Klio. Historia w oczach psychohistoryków (Lublin, 2002)– editor and translator; Dzieje i Nieświadomość. Założenia teoretyczne i praktyka badawcza psychohistorii (Katowice, 2004); Rewolucja w pamięci historycznej. Porównawcze studia nad praktykami manipulacji zbiorową pamięcią Polaków czasów stalinowskich (co-author: Dorota Malczewska-Pawelec) (Kraków-Katowice, 2011); and Z drugiej strony Atlantyku. “Młodsza Europa” w dawnych syntezach amerykańskich (Cieszyn, 2013).

Éva Petrás studied at Pécs University with specializations in history and English and subsequently received her MA degree in modern history at Central European University (1995). Between 1995 and 2000, she studied at European University Institute in Florence, where she obtained her PhD in the department of History and Civilization in 2003 with a thesis titled Splendid Return. The Intellectual Reception of the Catholic Social Doctrine in Hungary, 1931-1944. Until 2008, she worked as a researcher in Budapest in EÖKIK (European Comparative Minority Research Institute). Since 2009, she has been working in the Historical Archives of the Hungarian State Security (ÁBTL), Budapest. Her publications include studies and monographs in comparative minority research, church history in the 20th century and, recently, the history of the Hungarian state security.

Oleksii Polegkyi is a Bayduza post-doctoral fellow at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta in Canada as well as member of Political Communication Research Unit at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. He was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg (iASK), Hungary, in 2016 and took part in the Taiwan Fellowship program in 2017. He earned his PhD in political Sciences from the University of Wroclaw, Poland, and the University of Antwerp, Belgium. He received an MA in philosophy from the T. Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine. His research interests include post-communist transformations in Eastern Europe, European integration, foreign policy, and identity building in the post-Soviet states.

Jure Ramšak is a research fellow at Science and Research Centre Koper, Slovenia. He received his PhD in history in 2013 and has since completed two post-doctoral projects. Currently, he is the principle investigator on a project about the engagement between Marxism and Christianity in Slovenia, 1931–1991. The main scope of his research interest includes political, economic, and intellectual histories of postwar Yugoslavia. Ramšak has authored two monographs (one published in 2015, the other scheduled for 2019), co-edited a book of testimonials (2014), and ←12 | 13→contributed articles to collected volumes and leading peer-reviewed journals, such as Journal of Church and State, Religion, State and Society, and Südost-Forschungen.

Elitza Stanoeva holds a PhD in history from the Technical University of Berlin (2013). Currently, she is a research associate at the European University Institute in Florence. Her latest publications include: “Ideology and Urbanism in a Flux: Making Sofia Socialist in the Stalinist Period and Beyond”, Southeastern Europe 41:2/2017, pp. 112–140; “Bulgarien: Politik der Nostalgie”, Transit: Europäische Revu 50/2017, pp. 192–205 (English version published in Eurozine, August 31, 2017, and available at: http://www.eurozine.com/bulgarias-post-1989-demostalgie/); “Bulgaria’s 1,300 Years and East Berlin’s 750 Years: Comparing National and International Objectives of Socialist Anniversaries in the 1980s”, CAS Working Paper Series 9/2017; and a monograph in Bulgarian titled Sofia: Ideology, Urban Planning and Life under Socialism (Sofia: Prosveta, 2016). Her ongoing research is focused on détente and East-West economic cooperation, Cold War tourism, and memory politics in public space.

Anna Zadora holds a PhD in history. She is a researcher at the University of Strasbourg and a member and an expert of numerous international research networks: Social Psychological Dynamics of the Narrative Transmission of History, COST/Institute Georg Eckert European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group “Identity”, Academic Network “Heritage in Education”, International Association of Comparative Education, International Research Association for History and Social Science Education, and Association of Historical Research in Education. Her research focuses on identity, nationalism; memorial, social and political transformation of the post–Soviet Bloc, historical consciousness, educational systems, history, and identity teaching. Her publications include: “History of the War and Wars of History: Teaching the Second World War and the Holocaust in Post-Soviet Belarus”, Journal of War & Culture Studies, vol. 9, no. 1 (2016), and “Identity Building and History Teaching: The Poles as the Significant Other for the Belarussians”, Education and Society, vol. 33, no. 2 (2015).

Krzysztof Brzechczyn

The Transnational Perspective in Research on Communism: Foreword

Abstract: In the ‘Foreword’ the status of the transnational history in research of communism in East-Central Europe is defined. First of all one should differ the transnational approach form the comparative one. In the comparative history the national states are perceived as distinct and separate objects of historical analysis. Comparative perspective is based on looking for developmental similarities or differences between the chosen society with the compared ones. This method is to be lead to a better reconstruction of its history. The transnational perspective assumes the emergence of phenomena and social processes independent from the national level, but influencing the development of the national societies. Therefore without transnational perspective one cannot understand the national histories. In the further parts of ‘Foreword,’ the popularity of transnational history is considered and its main research areas in the history of communism in East-Central Europe is presented.

Key words: communism, comparative history, East-Central Europe, transnational history

Viewing the past from the perspective of a nation and a state, or indeed a nation-state, became the dominant and natural constructive axis of European historiographical narratives in the 19th century. During that time, nation-states came to be formed in Western Europe and a network of state archives and institutions of higher education made the profession of a historian an activity for which the state paid a regular salary and provided appropriate tools (archival resources).

At the turn of the 21st century, that seemingly natural constructive axis has been more and more often complemented with a transnational perspective, and such key terms as class, gender, civil society, or religious community have been used as analytical categories. Proof of the growing popularity – one might say it has become fashionable – of historical research which transcends national borders is the discussion in “The American Historical Review,”1 as well as the numerous conferences where transnational research is presented. This popularity has led to some conceptual chaos in scientific studies, and ‘transnational’ history has been confused with comparative, international, world, or global history. The search for the right definitions of those concepts and for differentiations between them has become a research problem in the history of historiography and in the methodology of history.

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The key issue appears to be the differentiation between comparative history and transnational history. In comparative history, the existence of nation-states is assumed and they are understood as separate and usually isolated subjects of historical analysis. The aim of the comparison, consisting of a search for similarities or differences between a country and one or more other countries, is to more accurately re-create or explain the history of the former. One example of a historical event which can be studied from the comparative perspective is the acceptance of Christianity by Slavic countries in the 10th century. Although the reasons for that event were mainly internal (the strengthening of patrimonial monarchies), a comparison of the course of the Christianization of Poland with that of Russia in the 10th century makes it possible to re-create the process in Poland with greater precision despite the scarcity of source data, and to propose a more credible interpretation of historical figures’ actions. In that specific case, it can be assumed that the similarity of social and civilizational structures of the compared societies increases the probability that the same causes led to similar results in the course of the Christianization of the compared countries.

On the other hand, transnational history postulates the coming into existence of social phenomena and processes which operate independently from the existence of nation-states and societies, and which are not subject to the factors determined at the level of nation-states, but which nonetheless influence the course of historical events in particular nation societies. Without transnational history, then, we cannot understand particular national histories.

One example of such a transnational phenomenon is labor migration in the 19th and the first half of 20th century. The condition for the existence of that migration was the excess of employees and the resulting level of unemployment in countries which sent their labor force abroad, combined with the demand for additional labor force in countries which accepted the employees. The relations between supply and demand on the transnational labor market shaped the size of the labor migration in the countries which exported and imported labor forces, as well as national job markets.

The visible increase in the profile of transnational studies could be seen as a sign of the times for the historiography of the 21st century, which needs ought to be read and interpreted correctly. This popularity of transnational research results from:

the processes of globalization and integration (expansion and deepening of the integration of the European Union), because of which external factors have a greater influence on nation-states; as a consequence, new research tools are needed to study that influence and the past,

enlivened international scientific exchange, thanks to which a researcher’s ethnic or national roots longer need to define the boundaries of his or her research interests; in the case of Polish history, some proof of this can be seen in the Polish Studies Association, the cyclical Congress of International Researchers of Polish History, or the sizable number of international authors interested in the Polish Solidarity movement,

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a generational exchange: after 1989, a new generation of researchers emerged, who had grown up in a post–Cold War world in which old divisions between the East and the West were in the past what utilized the use of comparisons and analogies between seemingly dissimilar cases natural,

the digitalization of archives, which eliminated geographic barriers to data access. Transnational studies no longer have to be based on second-hand sources, and

the digitalization of library resources and the popularization of electronic books and scientific journals, which has eliminated geographical boundaries for library queries,

cognitive causes: new research perspective provides the context for phenomena which have so far only been analyzed in isolation.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (May)
real socialism ideocracy class state terror opposition dissidence
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2019. 386 pp.

Biographical notes

Krzysztof Brzechczyn (Volume editor)

Krzysztof Brzechczyn is employed at the Institute of Philosophy at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and the Institute of National Remembrance. He has authored several books and papers in different languages. His fields of interests are current history, intellectual history, philosophy of history, social philosophy, and theory of historiography.


Title: New Perspectives in Transnational History of Communism in East Central Europe
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388 pages