Convolutions of Historical Politics

Convolutions of Historical Politics

Alexei Miller
Maria Lipman
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 364
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  • Book Info
    Convolutions of Historical Politics
    Book Description:

    Thirteen essays by scholars from seven countries discuss the political use and abuse of history in the recent decades with particular focus on Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia as case studies), but also includes articles on Germany, Japan and Turkey, which provide a much needed comparative dimension. The main focus is on new conditions of political utilization of history in post-communist context, which is characterized by lack of censorship and political pluralism. The phenomenon of history politics became extremely visible in Central and Eastern Europe in the past decade, and remains central for political agenda in many countries of the regions. Each essay is a case study contributing to the knowledge about collective memory and political use of history, offering a new theoretical twist. The studies look at actors (from political parties to individual historians), institutions (museums, Institutes of National remembrance, special political commissions), methods, political rationale and motivations behind this phenomenon.

    eISBN: 978-615-5225-46-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. INTRODUCTION. Historical Politics: Eastern European Convolutions in the 21st Century
    (pp. 1-20)
    Alexei Miller

    In the early 1980s, the new West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who had a doctorate degree in history, made the revisiting of some key interpretations of the recent past a crucial element of his “moral and political pivot” policy. This policy line, effectuated under the motto of consolidating German patriotism, was aimed at fortifying his victory over the Social Democrats in official historical discourse. As the polemics stepped up, which grew into the famous Historikerstreit, or the “battle of historians,” shortly after that, opponents labeled the policy as Geschichtspolitik. (See Berger’s article in this volume.)

    In 2004, a group of...

  4. German History Politics and the National Socialist Past
    (pp. 21-44)
    Stefan Berger

    On November 10, 1988 the president of the West German Bundestag, Philipp Jenninger, gave a speech in the parliament to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Night of Broken Glass (Reichskristallnacht). During the speech, several members of parliament from the opposition—but also from the ruling coalition—left in protest. All parliamentary parties met on the following day to discuss the “scandal.” Jenninger ultimately resigned his post stating that he did not want to damage his office and that many had not understood his speech in the way that it was meant. What was he accused of? The criticism focused...

  5. Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance: A Ministry of Memory?
    (pp. 45-58)
    Dariusz Stola

    Poland was late among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe to establish a public institution to deal with the legacy of its Communist past. As elsewhere, the main reason for its establishment, and the most burning issue the institution was to tackle, was the operation of the Communist secret police and the post-1989 careers of its former secret collaborators. It was only in 2000 that construction of such institution begun. Causes of the delay were complex but three of them played key roles at three stages of Poland’s political history of the 1990s.¹

    First, in the early 1990s the...

  6. Jedwabne, July 10, 1941: Debating the History of a Single Day
    (pp. 59-90)
    Maciej Janowski

    On July 10, 1941, in the small town of Jedwabne some 150 kilometers northeast of Warsaw, a mass murder was committed. Most of the local Jewish population was led to a barn on the outskirts of the town and burned alive. Jedwabne, in the territory of Poland before 1939 and again after 1945, was occupied by the Soviet Union in September 1939 as a consequence of the dual Nazi-Soviet invasion on Poland and accompanying stipulations of the Ribentropp-Molotov pact. Just after the German assault on the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the town was occupied by the German troops...

  7. The Memory of Trianon as a Political Instrument in Hungary Today
    (pp. 91-116)
    Gábor Gyáni

    Following the political change of 1989, history came to attract more and more attention in Hungary and every other post-Communist country in Central and Eastern Europe. The emerging cult of the national past created by politicians derived not just from the negative, Communist attitude which prevailed during the decades of their rule, as has often been accused. The discourse—called at the time a “return to history”—was as much a reaction to the demands of the new democracies established amidst the circumstances of national sovereignity. The revival of historically tried methods, and the emergent discovery or invention of traditions,...

  8. The “Politics of History” as a Case of Foreign-Policy Making
    (pp. 117-140)
    Alexander Astrov

    Changes in the configurations of political power are often accompanied by shifts in the priorities of specific policies, which in turn acquire catchy marketing labels. The Russian Perestroika or “sovereign democracy,” the Estonian “tiger leap,” or the British “big society,” while never exhausting the whole of the state’s politics, sometimes succeed in fastening short-term public attention on one specific aspect. Something similar is happening in world politics, even though here there was no “transitions of power” through regular elections and successful changes of priorities are more difficult to achieve. At some point the “politics of history,” for example, clearly tends...

  9. The ‘Nationalization” of History in Ukraine
    (pp. 141-174)
    Georgiy Kasianov

    Developments marking the “nationalization” of history/historiography in Ukraine in the late 1980s and early 1990s unfolded in a way that was basically quite similar to analogous processes in other post-Soviet republics.² Historians initially focused their attention on historical “blank spots” that were found mainly in the Soviet period. Revising the Soviet version of the history of that period also provided the basis for its rejection. The subject under discussion was, of course, the crimes of Stalinism, banned or persecuted individuals, and national tragedies.

    It was the attitude to the Soviet (Communist) historical legacy that became the point of departure for...

  10. The “Politics of Memory” and “Historical Policy” in Post-Soviet Moldova
    (pp. 175-210)
    Andrei Cusco

    The connection between history, politics and “collective memory” in Eastern Europe is particularly complex, multi-layered and fragmented. This state of affairs led, among other things, to the active involvement of professional historians in various nation-building projects and, more broadly, in the politicization of the past. The latter tendency serves as a legitimizing strategy for the intellectual and political elites within the post-Soviet space. The case of the Republic of Moldova confirms this general assessment, but is further complicated by the endless debates concerning the national identity of the country’s majority ethnic group. There is no consensus within Moldovan society on...

  11. Interventions: Challenging the Myths of Twentieth-Century Ukrainian History
    (pp. 211-238)
    John-Paul Himka

    I was asked to reflect on my experiences as a challenger of nationalist historical myths, in this case, Ukrainian myths about traumatic aspects of the twentieth-century.¹ By myths here I mean unexamined components of an ideologized version of history, articles of faith more than of reason. In this essay, I will first try to explain my motivations for challenging such myths, even though I realized it would cause considerable discomfort both to my targeted audience and to me. Then I will describe and evaluate the strategies I chose for my interventions. This will be followed by a description of the...

  12. Caught Between History and Politics: The Experience of a Moldovan Historian Studying the Holocaust
    (pp. 239-252)
    Diana Dumitru

    In 2003, while a visiting fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I managed to read Jan Gross’ Neighbors.¹ Gross’ study is focused on a single event, which occurred on July 10, 1941, when in a Polish town, Jedwabne, local Poles murdered the entire local Jewish population—men, women, and children—without mercy, using “primitive, ancient methods and murder weapons: stones, wooden clubs, iron bars, fire, and water.”² After reading this book I wondered what happened in the summer of 1941 in Moldova—the country where I was born—and how my compatriots behaved towards Jews, after...

  13. The Turns of Russian Historical Politics, from Perestroika to 2011
    (pp. 253-278)
    Alexei Miller

    The relationship between history and politics in Russia experienced many dramatic changes since the beginning of Perestroika over 25 years ago. One such dramatic U-turn began in 2009–2010. The purpose of this article is to analyze the causes of the surge of historical politics in Russia at the beginning of the 21st century, and its current revision.

    It is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future that public interest in history in Russia will be anywhere near the level that was typical of the perestroika era. At that time, new trends had a clear political relevance, such as the discovery...

  14. Politics of History in Turkey: Revisionist Historiography’s Challenge to the Official Version of the Turkish War of Liberation (1919–1922)
    (pp. 279-308)
    Şener Aktürk

    History writing has been highly politicized and closely monitored in Turkey, not only during the authoritarian founding period of the Republic (1923–1950) under the one-party dictatorship of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), but also in the sixty years since Turkey’s transition to multiparty democracy (1950–2010). On the other hand, Turkey has not been a totalitarian state, even during the period of one-party rule, and definitely not since the 1950s, and this allowed for continuous traditions of revisionist historiographies, which flourished in particular since the end of the last period of military government in 1983.

    Despite Turkey’s pluralistic civil...

  15. The Politics of History in Contemporary Japan
    (pp. 309-346)
    Jeff Kingston

    Japan’s shared history with Asia is a continuing source of tensions, recrimination and denial featuring inadequate efforts in Japan to acknowledge and atone for its imperial aggression in the region. As in many other countries, the shameful past is often minimized, mitigated, glorified and otherwise distorted in service of contemporary political agendas. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that opinion polls over the past twenty years show that most Japanese accept Japan’s war responsibility, acknowledge past misdeeds and favor further and fuller atonement. Thus there is a lack of consensus within Japan about its shared history with Asia, a...

  16. List of Contributors
    (pp. 347-348)
  17. Index
    (pp. 349-356)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 357-357)