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Postsocialism: Politics and Emotions in Central and Eastern Europe

Maruška Svašek
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In many parts of post-socialist Europe the tumultuous political and economic developments have generated strong emotions, ranging from hope and euphoria to disappointment, envy, disillusionment, sorrow, loneliness, and hatred. Yet these aspects have been largely neglected in analyses of the profound transformations that have taken place in Central and Eastern Europe since 1990. Based on a wide variety of ethnographic case studies focusing on Russian, Siberian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Slovenian, Croatian, Czech, and Polish communities, this volume proves the significance of emotions to post-socialist political processes as an inherent part of the transformations and sheds new light on the impact of local, national, and transnational political forces that have given rise to the resurgence of nationalist sentiments, increasing poverty and marginalization, conflicts arising from the restitution of state property, constitutional changes, and economic deprivation.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-559-8
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Postsocialism and the Politics of Emotions
    (pp. 1-33)
    Maruška Svašek

    This book intends to demonstrate that emotions are inherent in political dynamics. It opens up a theoretical debate on the significance of emotional dynamics to political processes in the context of postsocialism, and offers intruiging ethnographic analyses that explore the dialectics of emotional and political change and continuity in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovenia. While some chapters analyse small-scale dynamics on the level of village politics, others investigate political relationships in rural areas, border regions, towns and cities. A number of chapters have a broader scope, and explore local reactions to and participation in globalising...

  4. Chapter 1 Nostalgia and the Emotional Economy: a Comparative Look at Rural Russia
    (pp. 34-52)
    Patrick Heady and Liesl L. Gambold Miller

    An emotion that emerges again and again in accounts of the postsocialist world is nostalgia. In many countries large parts of the population are prone to claim, with obvious feeling, that this or that aspect of life was better before the collapse of the communist regimes. A full understanding of the specific characteristics of postsocialist emotional life requires, therefore, a conception of the sources and functions of nostalgia. Anthropologists are well placed to investigate this question, since ethnographic techniques of indepth interviewing and participant observation are ideally suited to gather both the content of memories and the variety of ways...

  5. Chapter 2 Social Suffering and Political Protest: Mapping Emotions and Power among Pomaks in Postsocialist Bulgaria
    (pp. 53-73)
    Dimitrina Mihaylova

    The Bulgarian mountainous borderlands along the state border with Greece underwent significant socioeconomic and political transformations during the socialist period. The socialist state had transformed the isolated and infertile mountain borderlands of southeastern rural Bulgaria into a symbolic ‘head’ of national territory because it was the land along the state Cold War frontier with Greece. The region was viewed and treated as a national economic treasure because of the production and export of tobacco, the main source of hard currency at the time. Special economic incentives such as tax reduction, special border overhead payment, higher salaries and free utilities, were...

  6. Chapter 3 Sentiments and/as Property Rights: Restitution and Conflict in Postsocialist Romania
    (pp. 74-94)
    Filippo M. Zerilli

    While doing fieldwork in Bucharest in the torrid August of 1999, I participated in a protest meeting in Revolution Square, organised by Associația Chiriașilor (a national association of tenants living in nationalised houses). I was recording the event with a videotape and suddenly a woman came to me and indicated what would have been most relevant to any film: just around the corner an old tenant lying on the pavement had just had a heart attack and was obviously suffering. Around him a group of people was evidently worried; some were screaming, a woman was weeping. I decided not to...

  7. Chapter 4 Postsocialist Ownership: Emotions, Power and Morality in a Czech Village
    (pp. 95-114)
    Maruška Svašek

    The two quotations above indicate that changing property relations can trigger strong emotional reactions. The first speaker is a Dutch investor who, over the past eight years, has been buying numerous buildings and large plots of land in and around Vesnice, a Czech village in the West Bohemian border region. The second speaker is one of the Czech inhabitants of Vesnice, who is extremely worried about the increasing influence of the Dutchman in the village and the surrounding area. As this chapter will demonstrate, both speakers and a number of other persons have been engaged in passionate discussions about the...

  8. Chapter 5 Claiming Ownership in Postwar Croatia: the Emotional Dynamics of Possession and Repossession in Knin.
    (pp. 115-137)
    Carolin Leutloff-Grandits

    During the wars in the Yugoslav successor states in the 1990s, ethnic engineering and ethnic ‘cleansing’ became a powerful strategy for political actors seeking to reorder the society nationally and socially (Denich 1994; Grandits and Leutloff 2003; Hayden 1996). On all sides of the front lines, hundreds of thousands of civilians from the opposing national groups were expelled and their houses were destroyed or redistributed to members of other national groups. Notions of private or socially owned property were neglected in this nationalistic approach. Houses became national homes, and the land became national territory and homeland. After the end of...

  9. Chapter 6 ‘The First Europeans’ Fantasy of Slovenian Venetologists: Emotions and Nationalist Imaginings
    (pp. 138-158)
    Zlatko Skrbiš

    Nationalist historiography cannot fully be appreciated without taking into account the political realities that fuel the need for the reevaluation of specific ethno-national histories. In this chapter I illustrate the convergence between the new political realities and the accompanying need to redefine the identity of a nation, by elaborating on the case of Venetological theory among Slovenians, a theory that emerged in the mid-1980s. Venetologists, the advocates of this theory, sought to rewrite the history of the Slovenian nation by arguing that Slovenians are indigenous to the European continent and thus unrelated to any surrounding ethnic groups.

    During this period,...

  10. Chapter 7 Strategies of Resistance in the Polish Campaign against EU Membership
    (pp. 159-177)
    Justine Golanska-Ryan

    Because of its economic and political advantages, integration with the European Union (EU) seems to be, a priori, a good thing for the postcommunist states of Eastern Europe. However, even if EU membership is seen in this way by the main political parties and the majority of the population, there is, almost invariably, some resistance. Although Poland is the largest of the countries that joined the EU in May 2004, approximately 23 percent of the population (with the right to vote) voted against the accession. This was disregarded by the proactive parties as unimportant, and yet it means that almost...

  11. Chapter 8 The Misgivings of Democracy: Personal Resentment and Alternating Power in a Czech Village
    (pp. 178-195)
    Birgit Müller

    The distinctions between right and left, between political objectives that are pro-market or pro-communism are blurred in Czech village politics today. Political fights there are intensely linked to relations of love and hatred dating far back into the communist era and to moral convictions and material interests going beyond conventional political-ideological boundaries. Having ‘a communist past’ as well as being at present a member of the Communist Party matters in the unfolding struggle for power in the village, but it does not correspond to political convictions generally attributed to communism, such as a critical attitude towards privatisation, markets and foreign...

  12. Chapter 9 The Dynamics of Trust and Mistrust in Poland: Floods, Emotions, Citizenship and the State
    (pp. 196-213)
    Don Kalb and Herman Tak

    In July 1997 a heavy downpour hit Poland and the Czech Republic. Followed by continuous rainfall, it caused the flooding of alluvial areas and the breaking of dikes, in particular in the mountains and swamp areas of Lower Silesia.¹ In Poland, 1,358 villages and towns – 2.1 percent of the national territory – were flooded, 160,000 people fled their houses, and fifty-four casualties were registered.² This calamity made headlines in the European media for weeks. National governments sent help, and the European Commission offered financial support. A collective panic spread in Poland. The outside world got the impression that at...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 214-220)
    Alaina Lemon

    After reading these essays, it might seem crudely commonsensical for me to repeat their point that politics are sentimental: they lucidly demonstrate this many times over. Moreover, the specific cases taken up by each one deliver conclusions that should not be limited to understanding change in East Europe after state socialism. They should render it almost absurd to argue that politics anywhere actually are maintained indifferently, rationally, or through calculations even of enlightened interest. However, rather than reiterate these contributions, in this afterword I will take a different tack, and look in directions the essays point to but do not...

  14. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. Index
    (pp. 227-234)