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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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Chapter II. The Organisation of Historical Sciences and the Creation of Early Postwar Narrations


Chapter II The Organisation of Historical Sciences and the Creation of Early Postwar Narrations The impact of war and occupation between 1939 and 1945 on historical scholarship varied considerably from country to country. Polish historiography suffered heavy losses in academic personnel. Moreover, with the death of Marceli Handelsman in 1945, postwar historiography was deprived of its most innovative theoretician. However, the reorganisation of research and education progressed even in an almost totally devastated Warsaw. Influential figures in the field of history, such as Tadeusz Manteuffel, the first postwar director of the Historical Institute of Warsaw University and, in subsequent decades, the first director of the Institute of History within the Polish Academy of Sciences, were also in contact with the new political leaders from the Communist Party. None of the other historiographies examined here had to deal with such a drastic collapse of infrastructure and such devastating human losses. Slovak historians actually profited from the violent dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The subsequent expulsion of Czech professors from the only Slovak university in Bratislava opened positions for their Slovak colleagues during wartime. After 1945 only a small group of nationalist historical propagandists fled the country to avoid the approaching Soviet army. The rest proved to be much more self- confident and sceptical towards the idea of Czechoslovak unity than had been the case during the interwar period. Though the Czech universities were closed under German occupation, historians were allowed to perform research and publish their findings, and the Czech Academy for Sciences...

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