Archive for the ‘Poland’ Category

Final Paper – Religion in ECE Nationalism

Thursday, December 13th, 2007


Religion’s Role in Yugoslavia and Poland in the Twentieth Century: Evolution of Ethnoreligious Nationalism

by Gary E. Wightman

6 December 2007


Dr. Mills Kelly

Hist 635


            Religion has played an important role in national politics in East Central Europe during the twentieth century, at times serving the desires of the Church at the national or Papal level, at times serving the desire of the national leaders, at times serving the desires of both the Church and national leaders, and at times serving the advantages of one party at the disadvantage of the other party. Regardless of the benefactor or loser, the Church has been a factor in the nationalism equation during the 1900s,. Indeed, some outsiders have blamed religion as a major catalyst or contributor for some of the wars or atrocities during this period, such as the Holocaust and the Ustashe campaigns during World War II, as well as the Yugoslavian conflict in the 1990s, although some historians of late have refuted this statement to some degree regarding the Yugoslavian conflict. For instance, Donia and Fine in Bosnia and Hercegovina: A Tradition Betrayed, argue that the conflict is not a product of centuries of bad blood over religious conflict and wars in former Yugoslavia. The meaning of  nationalism of the nineteenth century has evolved into ethnonationalism for East Central Europe during the twentieth century in an effort to further refine the definition of Self and Other. Religion has not been relegated to insignificance during this evolution of nationalism. Indeed, religion has played an important role in the evolution of nationalism, so much so that some historians refer to the evolution of nationalism as ethnoreligious nationalism. To investigate this transformation and assess the role and impact of religion on nationalism in East Central Europe, and therefore, on communism, this paper will consider several events during the twentieth century, specifically focusing on the Polish struggle against the Communist regime during the 1980s and conflict in Yugoslavia since World War II. (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…)

A Carnival of Revolution

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Kenney, Padraic. A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

In the course on 1989 that some of us took this summer with Dr. Kelly we read A Carnival of Revolution, I found it to be very interesting and engaging but at times was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of names, organizations, and acronyms that Kenney deals with.  While this aspect of Kenney’s book is tough for the reader to deal with, it is necessary to accurately convey how opposition movements multiplied, and spread throughout Central European society.  Crossing the borders of nations, generation, and gender, there was an opposition movement for everyone and everyone could resist their respective regimes in their own meaningful way.  (more…)

D.C. band Soulside in Poland during 1989

Friday, November 16th, 2007

For anyone who is interested, I found some footage of one of my favorite punk bands from D.C., Soulside. According to the clip, they were the first U.S. band to ever play in three different cities in Poland. This was all filmed before the fall of Communism. Enjoy!

Kenney and his Carnival

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Kenney, Padraic. A Carnival of Revolution: Central Europe 1989. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Padraic Kenney, in A Carnival of Revolution, investigates the grassroots movement in the mid- to late 80s, which brought down communist regimes in Central Europe (3). Kenney aims to demonstrate that the people, regular, ordinary people, were speaking out against communist governments in subtle ways, “long before 1989” and glasnost and Gorbachev (3). In fact, part of Kenney’s point is that the revolution would not have occurred in 1989 (or ever?) without these various, subtle (many not-so-subtle) campaigns against the regimes in different countries. Kenney concentrates his investigation on four countries: Poland; Czechoslovakia; Hungary; and GDR, and parts of Yugoslavia and the western part of Ukraine (3). These countries, collectively, are considered by Kenney to be “Central Europe.” (more…)

Blog Post 8 – “Eastern Europe in Revolution”

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Ivo Banic, ed., Eastern Europe in Revolution (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1992), 58, 59.

Eastern Europe in Revolution is a work compiled with essays that put the events of 1989 into a conceptual framework. Scholars contribute essays that each deal with an individual country in Eastern Europe. The essays analyze the political changes throughout Eastern Europe that signaled the collapse while trying to put into context why communism failed. For the beginning reader, Eastern Europe in Revolution provides a decent overview of the social and political climate that culminated in the fall of Communism in 1989, and shortly after.


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…)

Jan Gross does it again, this time in Fear.

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Gross, Jan T. Fear: Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz. New York: Random House, 2006.

Jan Gross succeeds in one-upping his previous essay on Polish anti-Semitism (Neighbors) in his new investigation into another Polish town’s anti-Semitism, one year after World War II was over. In Fear, Gross attempts to understand what would make a quiet, peaceful town turn into a place of brutal and callous killing in a matter of hours. This is an interesting book because Gross actually does propose an answer to the confounding questions that arise: Why would neighbors kill neighbors? Why brutally and callously kill babies, innocent children, women and old people in such a horrible yet gleeful manner? This is a question that I asked with respect to the former Yugoslavia, as well. Although the answer that Gross provides for the Polish question is probably not applicable for the Yugoslav question, it does provide insight into motives that might translate to all instances of mass murder.