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Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

EDITED BY GYÖRGY PÉTERI
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrdxc
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    Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union
    Book Description:

    This volume presents work from an international group of writers who explore conceptualizations of what defined "East" and "West" in Eastern Europe, imperial Russia, and the Soviet Union. The contributors analyze the effects of transnational interactions on ideology, politics, and cultural production. They reveal that the roots of an East/West cultural divide were present many years prior to the rise of socialism and the cold war.

    The chapters offer insights into the complex stages of adoption and rejection of Western ideals in areas such as architecture, travel writings, film, music, health care, consumer products, political propaganda, and human rights. They describe a process of mental mapping whereby individuals "captured and possessed" Western identity through cultural encounters and developed their own interpretations from these experiences. Despite these imaginaries, political and intellectual elites devised responses of resistance, defiance, and counterattack to defy Western impositions.

    Socialists believed that their cultural forms and collectivist strategies offered morally and materially better lives for the masses and the true path to a modern society. Their sentiments toward the West, however, fluctuated between superiority and inferiority. But in material terms, Western products, industry, and technology, became the ever-present yardstick by which progress was measured. The contributors conclude that the commodification of the necessities of modern life and the rise of consumerism in the twentieth century made it impossible for communist states to meet the demands of their citizens. The West eventually won the battle of supply and demand, and thus the battle for cultural influence.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7391-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: THE OBLIQUE COORDINATE SYSTEMS OF MODERN IDENTITY
    (pp. 1-12)
    György Péteri

    Few today would deny the importance of the study of images, perceptions, and mentalities on which the modern social order rests. A possible approach to these entities leads through an understanding of the processes of mental mapping. In 1905, Endre Ady wrote,

    Ferry-land, ferry-land, ferry-land . . . even in its most daring dreams it is only roaming back and fro between two shores. From East to West or, rather, the other way around. [. . .] Sporadically, there have already been souls who have engaged with the West. [. . .] Some 10,000 people have run ahead. They have...

  2. CHAPTER 2 WERE THE CZECHS MORE WESTERN THAN SLAVIC? Nineteenth-Century Travel Literature from Russia by Disillusioned Czechs
    (pp. 13-35)
    Karen Gammelgaard

    During the second half of the nineteenth century, three Czech travelers, all of them gifted writers, visited Russia. Their encounters with Russia caused disillusionment. The travelers struggled with presenting their disillusionment to their compatriots, since it contested the literary elite’s image of the Czech nation. This image was constructed on the belief that the Czech nation shared a heritage (cultural and linguistic) and perhaps therefore aims with the great eastern Slavic nation, Russia.

    Karel Havlíček Borovský (1821–56) left Prague in November 1842 and went to Lwów, from which he planned to enter the Russian empire. Passport formalities forced him...

  3. CHAPTER 3 PRIVILEGED ORIGINS: “NATIONAL MODELS” AND REFORMS OF PUBLIC HEALTH IN INTERWAR HUNGARY
    (pp. 36-58)
    Erik Ingebrigtsen

    Studies in the history of public health often refer to clearly identifiable national models of public health organization in various countries.¹ Drawing on Daniel T. Rodgers’s study of transatlantic exchanges within the field of social policy, it can be argued that the first decades of the twentieth century mark a period when national models in the field of public health, too, were in a state of constant flux.² Opposing a predominant scholarly focus on the disuniting effects of heightened nationalism, Wolfram Kaiser has argued, “it is precisely in the second half of the ‘long nineteenth century’ that political transfer boomed...

  4. CHAPTER 4 DEFENDING CHILDREN’S RIGHTS, “IN DEFENSE OF PEACE”: CHILDREN AND SOVIET CULTURAL DIPLOMACY
    (pp. 59-86)
    Catriona Kelly

    Across europe during the decades after 1900, issues relating to children’s place in society began occupying a place of unprecedented importance in political discussion and in state planning. Concrete manifestations of the new trend included an increasing concern for child welfare or, to use the term often favored at the time, “children’s rights”; a sharpening recognition of “children’s needs” as a specific area of legislative and budgetary policy; and a growing emphasis on the requirement that the state should intervene in family relationships to ensure that children were properly treated.¹ A landmark, in terms of international relations, was the first...

  5. CHAPTER 5 EAST AS TRUE WEST: REDEEMING BOURGEOIS CULTURE, FROM SOCIALIST REALISM TO OSTALGIE
    (pp. 87-104)
    Greg Castillo

    Depicting the postwar world as sundered and under siege, Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech of March 1946 catapulted the phrase “Iron Curtain” into public discourse and U.S. foreign policy. Churchill warned of a West jeopardized by communist infiltrators—a far cry from the Eastern menace posed by the Golden Horde of yore. The literary heritage of former Oriental perils lived on, however, in the “Sinews of Peace” address, as György Péteri has observed. Invoking images far more visceral than those of mere doctrinal difference, Churchill characterized communist “fifth columns” as a barbarian invasion’s “challenge and peril to Christian civilization.”...

  6. CHAPTER 6 PARIS OR MOSCOW? WARSAW ARCHITECTS AND THE IMAGE OF THE MODERN CITY IN THE 1950S
    (pp. 105-130)
    David Crowley

    In 1934, the architects Szymon Syrkus and Jan Chmielewski presented their plans for the future of Warsaw at a meeting of the Comité international pour la résolution des problèmes de l’architecture contemporaine (the International Committee to Resolve Problems of Modern Architecture), a key Modern Movement forum (and the elected executive body of CIAM, the Congrès internationaux d’architecture moderne [International Congresses of Modern Architecture]). Their plan for “Warszawa funkcjonalna” (Functional Warsaw) extended, like an unfolded map, on a countrywide and even international scale (fig. 6.1).¹ The city’s functions were to be distributed along an extensive strip with nodes indicating the sites...

  7. CHAPTER 7 IMAGINING RICHARD WAGNER: THE JANUS HEAD OF A DIVIDED NATION
    (pp. 131-152)
    Elaine Kelly

    Over the course of its turbulent history, the German nation has defined itself time and again in terms of a constructed Other. The Other—depicted variously as a political, ideological, or racial opposition to the existence of the imagined German Self—has served as a common enemy against which the nation can unite, essentially a vehicle for promoting national spirit. Discussing the historically exclusive nature of German nationalism, Christian Joppke observes, “the German concept of nation thus became more like a weapon than a unifying symbol, the property of some but not of others.”¹ Implicit in this is the perception...

  8. CHAPTER 8 FROM IRON CURTAIN TO SILVER SCREEN: IMAGINING THE WEST IN THE KHRUSHCHEV ERA
    (pp. 153-171)
    Anne E. Gorsuch

    In 1957, the Soviet newspaperKomsomol´skaia pravdarailed against the Hollywood filmSilk Stockingsfor its “cheap, vulgar” portrayal of Soviet tourists to Paris. Not only were they poorly dressed, but they were purported to know nothing even about “ordinary silk stockings.”¹ Notably,Komsomol´skaia pravdadid not question the idea of Soviet citizens traveling to Paris, nor that they should be dressed in a contemporary and elegant manner while there. Instead, the newspaper objected to the Hollywood portrayal of Soviet citizens as uneducated about universally accepted norms of “Western” culture. In contrast, Soviet films of the same era portrayed their...

  9. CHAPTER 9 MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL . . . IS THE WEST THE FAIREST OF THEM ALL? CZECHOSLOVAK NORMALIZATION AND ITS (DIS)CONTENTS
    (pp. 172-193)
    Paulina Bren

    Against the backdrop of Stalinist show trials, intellectual censorship, and sealed-off borders, Czechs and Slovaks during the 1950s watched as the “West” was transformed from the once familiar to the imagined. This shift was a particularly heavy blow for the Czechs who, until then, had considered themselves to sit squarely within the tradition of West European culture and thought, sharing in the positive attributes that came with it. Yet Western Europe and its concomitant values had seemingly slipped from their hands and moved irreversibly to the other side of the Iron Curtain. When they looked into their collective mirror, it...

  10. CHAPTER 10 WHO WILL BEAT WHOM? SOVIET POPULAR RECEPTION OF THE AMERICAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION IN MOSCOW, 1959
    (pp. 194-236)
    Susan E. Reid

    The u.s. industrialist Norman K. Winston, special adviser to the American National Exhibition held in Moscow from 25 July to 4 September 1959, had predicted toThis Weekmagazine earlier that year:

    We know the life we have is good. By the end of the summer, the millions of Russians who have seen our exhibit will know it too. . . . Unless I am a completely inept judge of human nature, that experience is going to stir not only hearts but also desires. Let it. Let the Russians want what we have. Let them clamor for it from their...

  11. CHAPTER 11 MOSCOW HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS LOOK WEST: ATTITUDES TOWARD U.S. JOURNALISTS IN THE 1960s AND 1970s
    (pp. 237-257)
    Barbara Walker

    Key to the attitudes of Moscow human rights defenders toward the U.S. journalists who reported on their activities was the profound isolation of Soviet citizens from the West, indeed from the rest of the world, which was a major component of Stalinism and post-Stalinism. It made those comparatively few foreigners who came to the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s stand out vividly among the Soviets even in cosmopolitan Moscow. For reasons closely associated with that isolation, dissident attitudes toward the journalists were distinguished by a peculiar intensity, whatever direction they might take. Some dissident-journalist associations triggered great enthusiasm;...

  12. CHAPTER 12 CONCLUSION: TRANSNATIONAL HISTORY AND THE EAST-WEST DIVIDE
    (pp. 258-268)
    Michael David-Fox

    This volume has presented ten chapters on the cultural and transnational history of Russia/USSR and East Central Europe. Four of them centered on the USSR, two on East Germany, two on the Czech lands or Czechoslovakia, one on Hungary, and one on Poland. Long gone are the days when Russia and Eastern Europe were regularly studied in tandem and formed part of a more or less coherent area studies field. Since the breakup of the communist bloc in 1989, geopolitical, institutional, and academic imperatives have pushed the Russian and East European fields apart. The direct cross-fertilization present in this collection...