Archive for the ‘Ben’ Category

Slavic Civilization

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Robert A. Rothstein. “Slavic Civilizations and Ethnic Consciousness.” In Slavic and East European Journal. Vol. 16, 1972.

Robert A. Rothstein considers in what ways American culture has changed in terms of ethnic consciousness.  In a way, this process is similar to that found in the nationalization of previously non-nationalistic individuals, the illusory realization of an identity defined by group agreement.  In a way, this is the nationalization of Americans, except these Americans are being nationalized (though usually not in a terribly militant way) to their ancestor’s nations.  (more…)

Sabrina Ramet’s The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Euope Since 1989

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

Sabrina Ramet begins her book by defining the Radical Right.  She identifies a number of characteristics which include authoritarianism, traditionalism, organized intolerance, and nationalism.  Her thesis in this book is to show that the Fuhrer has no clothes.  She shows how various radical right movements in the Balkans and Eastern Europe have risen, what their underlying ideology is, and how they function in such a way as to attract a modern constituency.  (more…)

Solidarity and Anti-Politics in Poland.

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Ost, David. Solidarity and the Politics of Anti-Politics: Opposition and Reform in Poland Since 1968. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1990.

In Solidarity and Politics and Anti-Politics, David Ost (more…)

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Jan T. Gross’s book, which investigates the massacre of 1,600 Jews in Jedwabne, Poland, by their neighbors, brings up troubling questions about the dark side of humanity and to what extent humans are capable of evil and how group-think can utterly paralyze the ability of individuals to practice moral judgment.  In this post, I wrestle with the psychology of the dark side of humanity in an attempt to understand Jedwabne.  I use litarary and cultural criticism as a tool to this end. (more…)

Nationalism, Communism, and Economic Nationalism in EEU

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Jelinek, Yeshayahu. “Nationalism in Slovakia and the Communists, 1918-1929.” Slavic Review 34, no. 1 (1975): 65-85.

Berend, Ivan T. “The Failure of Economic Nationalism.” Revue Economique 51, no. 2 (2000): 315-322. (more…)

Of Statues and Traditions in Hungary.

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Bucur, Maria, and Wingfield, Nancy M., eds. Staging the Past: The Politics of Commemoration in Habsburg Central Europe, 1848 to the Present. Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2001.

Essay discussed: “The Cult of March 15: Sustaining the Hungarian Myth of Revolution, 1849-1999″ by Alice Freifeld.


Serbian Politics and “Neither Absolutism nor Anarchy”

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

  In Politics as Development: The Emergence of Political Parties in Nineteenth-Century Serbia, Gale Stokes explores the development of the Serbian political system and parties.  Although Serbia followed a different path toward liberalizing politics, as it moved toward independence from Ottoman rule and not from Hapsburg rule, there are remarkable similarities to the developments described in Cohen’s article.  Cohen’s article surprised me concerning the flexibility of the Hapsburg empire toward popular politics.  It added a new dimension in regard to understanding the dynamics of empires and how an absolutist system can slowly yield power to individuals and groups. (more…)

A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russia.

Wednesday, September 12th, 2007

A History of the Gypsies of Eastern Europe and Russiaby David M. Crowe (1995).

A History of the Gypsiesis a sympathetic portrait of the Roma of Eastern Europe and Russia from the beginning of their migration to the area to post Soviet “New Europe.”  The introduction to this volume is an overview of the history in question, and each consecutive chapter focuses on the history of particular regions or countries and the experience of the Roma within those regions.  The regions include Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Russia, and Yugoslavia.

In consideration of what assumptions David M. Crowe has in this book toward the idea of nationhood, it appears he has many.  Beginning from the introduction, he assumes that the regions above named are nations and that the Roma are a nation.  Knowing something of the various tribes and language groups among the Roma, it is peculiar that Crowe does not make any attempt to point to the inherent diversity in this multifaceted ethnic conglomeration.  He also does not discuss any aspect of being a Roma that would tie all of them together.  The Roma enter the narrative as a fully formed idea of a group of people. 

The same can be said about the host nations in whose countries the Roma reside.  Rather than noting that the idea of nations did not exist in the eleventh century when the Roma began to move into Europe, Cowe discusses when the Roma entered areas apparently using their current nation-state designations.  He appears somewhat pleased at the tolerance of Europeans at the beginning, not explaining that Europeans at the time often lived in multi-ethnic countries without nationhood as a defining element.  According to Cowe, the real trouble began at the invasion of Europe by the Ottoman Empire in the 1400’s and the Reformation during the 1500’s. 

How the Ottomans affected the plight of the Roma can be explained by the fact that the Roma tended to adopt the religion of the dominant class in society.  Once the Ottomans took over European territory, many of the Roma in that territory converted to Islam in an attempt to remain at peace with their rulers.  Since most of their European cohabitants were Christians and opposed to Ottoman rule, the Roma’s conversion was seen as an attempt to side with the oppressor group. 

Although Cowe does not explain it in such terms, the trouble which began with the Reformation may have had to do with a nationalizing tendency in the religious conflict.  One of the reasons the German princes took sides with Luther was that they no longer wanted to send church taxes to Rome, nor did they wish to deal with bishops and clergy appointed by Rome.  Instead, they preferred a religious system that delineated the religious lines with state lines.  Although nationalism as such did not yet exist, the national churches of the principalities throughout Europe differentiated between those who were in and those who were out.  As this affected Anabaptists and Jews–who were effectively outside of any ruler’s religious preference, it also affected the Roma. 

One ironic aspect of this book was that although Cowe discusses the relations of nations toward the Roma, he goes through the rise of nationalist movements with the assumption that the nations have already existed from the beginning.  This appears to indicate a presumption of nationhood, and thus would fall in line with the notion of nationalist activists as “awakeners.”  It goes unexplained why nationalist movements resulted in the intensified persecution of the Roma–the answer being that the nations assumed that a certain territory was only for their own ethnicity.  While the Roma did not have a territory, it resulted that the spread of nationalism also spread an irrational persecution and later genocide of the Roma. 

Roma nationhood appears to arise from a uniform policy within states toward Roma, and the resulting need for the Roma to band together for their own good.  In one instance, Cowe records how a group of Roma tribes petitioned the Bulgarian parliament for equal rights with Bulgarian citizens–the petition contained a signature from the leader of each Roma tribe.  Although the parliament rejected the petition, it appears persecution forced the Roma to recognize a united purpose.  This is significant considering that even today many Roma do not recognize certain other tribes as Roma, some tribes have long standing feuds (which tends to be common among them throughout Europe), and tribes may be so different in language that they do not understand each other. 

Theories of Nationalism

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Theories of Nationalism by Anthony Smith (1983).

Since I do not yet have Nationalism Reframed, I decided to take the initiative to participate in this class blog discussion by reviewing one of the books in the additional book list.

In Theories of Nationalism, Anthony Smith attempts to take a more complex and sociologically driven view of nationalism. Along the way, he continuously cites and critiques the writings of E. Kedourie. It almost seems as though Smith is writing his book in response to Kedourie.

Smith explains that Kedourie takes a highly negative view of nationalism, where Kedourie simplifies nationalism to the core principles of language communities and concludes that nationalism inevitably leads to the submission of individuals to the collective and to violent disagreement with neighbours. Kedourie understands past conflicts as driven by material interest, and thus open to compromise, while nationalistically driven conflicts are based on principle and thus uncompromising and unresolvable without the complete annihilation of the offending party.

Smith disagrees with this view and points out that nationalism is only a new system of principles in a historical line of many principled wars including the Crusades, Wars of Religion (1600’s), Greek and Roman wars glorifying their gods, and Medieval wars on the principles of glorifying a king. The ultimate disagreement to which Smith returns often and which appears to be the heart of this book is that nationalism is not exclusively based upon language but can also include sociological, political, religious, institutional, and philosophical aspects. While Kedourie condemns nationalism, Smith wishes to approach it through moral ambiguity, perhaps as an amoral system that can result in either good or evil ends. (more…)