Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

A Memorial in Hungary

Monday, December 17th, 2007

This post is about a memorial dedicated to WWI veterans in Dunapataj, Hungary. While I was there a few weeks ago, I wrote some notes about it and copied down its inscription, with the intention of commenting on it in the blog.  I realize that it is a little late to post, but I promised myself at the beginning of the semester I would write something that involves translating Hungarian. This is my last chance, so here goes. (more…)

My Trip to Hungary

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

                I’m writing this blog post about my trip to Hungary about a month ago. I wish I could say that I was on vacation, but I went for a funeral. Still, I noticed a few things there that relate to our class, so I thought I would write about them in the blog. First, I should give a little background.

                I stayed in a small town Dunapataj (pronounced with a y-sound at the end, not with a hard j-sound) in the south of Hungary. I should also mention Ordas (pronounced Ordush, with a sh-sound at the end), which is next door. They have grown together. I have family and friends in both, with my grandparents’ house in Dunapataj. The topics that follow have to do with both towns, their inhabitants, and small town life in Eastern Europe, which fascinates me. (more…)

Rocking the State

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

Ramet, Sabrina Petra ed. Rocking the State: Rock Music and Politics in Eastern Europe and Russia. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

In Rocking the State, Sabrina Ramet compiles a comprehensive account of the socio-political effects of music in the last several decades of communist rule in the Eastern Bloc (with the exception of Albania and Romania which had no political music scene to speak of) and the Soviet Union.  The essays in Rocking the State revolve around the conflicts between proponents of a non-official youth culture and the cultural-commissars of the communist states.  Rocking the State is an appropriate follow up to A Carnival of Revolution as they both center on the destabilizing effects of youth-movements on their respective regimes.  Ramet and her contributors take their analysis of the youth driven musical movements further than the introduction provided by Kenney, addressing the trajectory of music through the eighties into the early nineties from an unofficial catalyst for political and social change into the arena of commodity rock.  Alex Kan and Nick Hayes clearly resent this metamorphosis asking: “Does anybody care if Poles can Rock and Roll with the best of Michael Bolton?” (53) (more…)

Padriac Kenny’s Carnival of Revolution

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

By Laszlo Taba

Kenney, Padraic. A Carnival of Revolution:  Central Europe 1989 (2002)

                I have been waiting to read A Carnival of Revolution all semester. I read it for another of Dr. Kelly’s classes, and this time around I enjoyed it more and found it more thought provoking than before, especially after all of the readings and class discussions this semester.  I will keep my general comments about the book brief, as everyone in the class has read it.

                Kenney describes the Central European revolutionary movements in an interesting way. Unlike other books discussed this semester (Eastern Europe in Revolution), Kenney does not confine his discussion to top down analyses that focus on elite politics or economies. He approaches the revolutions from the bottom up, on revolutionary movements and even on single individuals.  For instance, in chapter one he introduces Wladyslaw Frasyniuk. Frasyniuk was an important member of Solidarity and played an important role in the revolutionary movement in Poland, but he is not as well known as, say, Pope John Paul II or Ronald Reagan. (more…)

The Walls Came Tumbling Down, by Gale Stokes

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

The Walls Came Tumbling Down, by Gale Stokes 

Written in 1993, Gale Stokes’s The Walls Came Tumbling Down is an early effort to explain why the collapse of the Soviet bloc nations, which came as such a shock to most of the world in 1989, was actually a long time coming.


Stokes divides the era of Communist Eastern Europe into two halves: pre-1968 and post-1968. The argument is that from the end of World War II until 1968, whatever opposition there was within the bloc countries was almost entirely aimed at reforming and perfecting the socialist system, and that the idea of ending socialism was not even a consideration. But the events of 1968, culminating in the invasion of Czechoslovakia, convinced the oppositionists that reform was not possible. This was the start of “anti-politics”.


The author’s explanation of how anti-politics developed is very interesting. Since there was no chance of reform, and no way to resist the power of the state (backed by the Soviets), then there was no hope in any normal political opposition. Out of this hopelessness came the idea that the only thing to do was to live life “as if”, to go through life making moral choices and be unafraid of the consequences. And since the Communists claimed to be the sole keepers of truth and justice, living by your own rules, even in the tiniest instance and regardless of what ‘your rules’ might be, was in and of itself an act of opposition. By turning the idea of opposition from a political task to a moral one, the oppositionists did not have to agree on what the “correct” political solution might be. They just had to agree that the existing regime was a false one. This allowed people with widely divergent political leanings to be on the same side and to face down the regime together.


Eastern Europe in Revolution, after the fact

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Eastern Europe in Revolution ed. Ivo Banac.

            Eastern Europe in Revolution, published in 1992, presents a thoughtful recounting on the transitions from communism to miscellaneous political structures, as well as some as yet unfulfilled predictions about the future of the former satellite republics. Banac has collected individual chapters which recount the conditions and results in each country, rather than essays which generalize the situation of the entire region. This approach allowed greater comparison between countries, as each essay focuses on unique conditions of the countries. (more…)

Matt Hobbs – Reid & Crowley’s “Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe”

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

Susan Reid and David Crowley’s Style and Socialism: Modernity and Material Culture in Post-War Eastern Europe

The study of material culture is a subset of the wider field of cultural history. While a cultural historian will “read” the texts of various events, places, and subjects such as fairs and expositions, r the development of specific themes within a culture’s art, the material culture historian will look at the physical aspects of these same things. To continue the examples used, the material culture historian may be more interested in the commemorative trinkets produced for the exposition than in attendance or specific exhibits, or the actual physical production, exhibition, and/or sale (consumption) of art of a specific genre within a culture. It is important to remember that historians in this field are not antiquarians or appraisers. There interest in the physical ephemera of past times is important only because it tells us about the people of that time, not the physical items themselves. Style and Socialism is a collection of essays from historians of Eastern Europe who specialize in material culture, and what it can say about the societies of the Soviet bloc during the 1950s and 1960s.


A Return to Diversity and the Pitfalls of Historical Surveys

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

By Laszlo Taba

Joseph Rothschild and Nancy Wingfield, Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II (1999)

Joseph Rothschild’s and Nancy Wingfield’s Return to Diversity: A Political History of East Central Europe Since World War II is well written, though it shares some of the typical problems of historical survey literature. For an area of history that is complex and difficult to explain, they do an admirable job of organizing their subject. The problems with the book predominantly have to do with its structure.


Those Silly Hungarians

Sunday, October 14th, 2007

Hello everyone.

Before I get to the main reason for this post, I’d like to say that I’m sorry to hear about Dr. Rosenzweig’s passing. I never met him, but he sounds like a great person and a great scholar. For those who were touched by him, I’m sorry.

The main reason for this post is an article I read on the Treaty of Trianon in a newsletter my father gets from the Hungarian Reformed Federation of America. If you’re curious, their homepage is here, though I cannot find a link to the current edition of the newsletter there. At any rate, the article is a great example of the typical reaction Hungarians have to Trianon and of Hungarian nationalism. I’d love to hear what the rest of the class has to say about it. I’ve typed the text word-for-word below. (more…)

Matt Hobbs – Sugar’s “Native Fascism in the Successor States, 1918-1945″

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Native Fascism in the Successor States, 1918-1945 (Peter Sugar, ed.)

The collapse of the Habsburg monarchy after the First World War produced a multitude of states in East Central Europe.  Some of these countries were the rebirth of states that had existed in the past (Poland), some were multinational themselves (Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia), and others were mere “rump states,” shadows of their former selves (Austria, Hungary.)  All of them faced similar challenges in postwar Europe.  Economies were struggling, or occasionally being united under a common state government for the first time; a large influx of veterans returning to private life, in both defeated and victorious states; and attempts to leave the monarchy of the Habsburgs behind and establish democracies.  In many ways, these successor states shared this situation with the two main Central powers of World War I, Germany and Italy.  Likewise, they all saw the development of significant domestic fascist parties.  Native Fascism in the Successor States sets out to “investigate what features of the fascism of Eastern Europe differed from those observed elsewhere and what common characteristics these local manifestations had that could be tied, at least to some extent, to their common Habsburg inheritance” (147.)