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The Nation Should Come First

Marxism and Historiography in East Central Europe


Maciej Gorny

By the second half of the 1940s, newly conquered nations of Central and Eastern Europe were expected to adjust multiple professions, including those related to the historical sciences, to the Soviet model. However, Marxism, soon to become the only acceptable methodology, was no longer understood in the same way as in Bolshevik Russia. Its Soviet variation borrowed heavily from the tradition of Russian historiography and the Russian national tradition. The variations formulated in the satellite countries were also less likely to break away from existing traditions than to revise and re-evaluate them, along with the perspectives on Russia’s role in the history of Central and Eastern Europe.


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Introduction. Writing Comparative Histories of Historiography


Introduction Writing Comparative Histories of Historiography In her recently published, brilliant book about Romantic-era historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe, the Hungarian historian Monika Baár comes to the conclusion that the presumed differences between these historiographies and their supposed detachment from dominant Western European historiographies were not as compelling as had been heretofore believed. Similarities are so frequent, and so deeply ingrained, that “on closer inspection the historical narrative reveals the existence of a general template of national historiography in our era, which comprised a core story and numerous omnipresent tropes.”1 Not only do national historiographies share similar narrative patterns – they also relate to the same myths and images. For example, one of the things they share is the belief in the uniqueness of their own story. Romantic-era historiography, which in Central and Eastern Europe is associated with founding father figures or innovators who reframed the task of the historian, shaped our ways of thinking about the past. In time, Romantic narratives came to be criticised and opposed, but the voices rejecting the domination of national historiography by the Romantic idea can often be seen singing the same tune. While taking positions similar to the ones chosen by Romantic historians, the critics also employed similar arguments. At first, Marxism served as an inspiration for a research attitude opposed to the early 19th century modes of historical thinking. Since the late 19th century, it has inspired social scientists. Its influence in Central and Eastern Europe peaked in the 1960s....

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