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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 V. Four Historiographies in the Context of the Region


Chapter V Four Historiographies in the Context of the Region Every characteristic discussed above with respect to select Marxist historiographies also applies, to different degrees, to other countries in the region which I did not discuss in this work. The most obvious similarities pertain to structural and organisational aspects, as pointed out by Rafał Stobiecki.919 After the war, the Party’s educational institutions were established in every East Central European Communist country. Their goal was to prepare future Marxist teaching staffs. Some of the older institutions were universally dismantled and replaced with new entities, Marxist from the ground up. The same methodological grounds often led to analogous conclusions. Finally, Stalinist history-writing everywhere “treated as its main goal the elimination of all other, competing methods of writing history.”920 All of these traits perfectly illustrate the theoretical similarities among various Stalinist historiographies. If anything, the idea of blaming the Stalinist system for the drive toward centralisation seems less compelling – not because there was no such connection, but more for the fact that, in the postwar world, similar phenomena transgressed the boundaries of political blocs. After the war, centralisation was accepted as the proper course of scientific development by non-Communist scientists as well.921 Next to general characteristics shared more or less widely across Communist countries, one could name a few more specific traits, pertaining not only to the structures, but also to the content of historical analyses. The onset of Stalinism sparked the typically short-lived domination of Marxist interpretations of national histories that...

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