Archive for the ‘BethG’ Category

The Balkans After the Cold War

Tuesday, December 4th, 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Gallagher, Tom. The Balkans After the Cold War:  From Tyranny to Tragedy. New York:  Routledge, 2003.

In contrast to the Lampe book, Yugoslavia as History: Twice There was A Country, where Lampe tends to lean towards the belief that the breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable, and tends to blame outsiders for imposing their will on Yugoslavia, (AND, ultimately for the disastrous and bloody breakup of the country), Tom Gallagher, in The Balkans After the Cold War, asserts that the disaster in Yugoslavia was purely the fault of insiders (2). “Yugoslavia unravelled as a functioning entity between 1985 and 1991 largely as a result of decisions taken by internal political actors, not as a result of unfriendly external actions” (2). 


A History of Kosovo

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Vickers, Miranda. Between Serb and Albanian: A History of Kosovo. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.

How timely that in today’s issue of the Washington Post, The Outlook Section, Richard Holbrooke pontificates on the state of affairs in the Balkans, and how Europe, East Europe, the United States and Yugoslavia all contributed to the simmering turmoil that is happening in Kosovo now (“Back to the Brink in the Balkans,” B7). Holbrooke argues that it’s probably long overdue for Kosovo to declare its independence from Serbia, but he also recognizes that when independence is declared, it will probably send the entire region back into bloody chaos (Post B7). As Holbrooke was involved in the original Dayton Peace Accord, he is well informed of the situation in the region. Holbrooke argues that a whole new bloodbath in Bosnia can be avoided (when Kosovo secedes) if the Bush administration puts this issue on the front-burner, and works with Putin to prevent any further bloodshed (Post B7).


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…)

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.


Kurlansky’s Revolutionary 1968!

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

23 October 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Kurlansky, Mark. 1968: The Year That Rocked the World. Ballantine Books: New York, 2004.

Kurlansky has written a comprehensive, creative and intriguing book on “the year that rocked the world, 1968.” Far from what I expected, the book seems to cover, literally, all of the events that rocked the world in 1968, from beginning to end. This is a fantastic worldwide perspective of events that seem disparate, or rather separate and distinct. However, Kurlansky demonstrates that they are not separate and distinct, but altogether related, interconnected by this new capability of instant worldwide information via satellite. Kurlansky covers everything from the Civil Rights movement to the Equal Rights movement, the presidential campaign, election, and assassination of King and Kennedy in the U.S. to the student protest movements in Vietnam that turn into student protest movements in France, Poland, Czechoslovakia. He covers the Prague spring that turns into the Soviet invasion of later that year, he discusses the rebels in Latin America, including Castro in Cuba and Che Guevara, as well.


Fear of Nazis or Anti-Semitism? or Both?

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

17 October 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Gross, Jan T. Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. New York: Penguin Books, 2002.

“Leaders of the Jewish community delivered silver candlesticks to the Catholic bishop of Lomza and sought assurance that he would not permit a pogrom in Jedwabne and would intervene with the Germans on behalf of the Jewish community” (42).

Interestingly, this was the passage that stood out to me the most, even after reading the graphic descriptions and depictions of the massacre, the brutality that neighbors inflicted on neighbors, and the sheer cruelty and lack of humanity on that horrible day in June 1941. This passage illustrates the long and short of the book: greed, corruption, distrust, tenuous loyalties (at best), and outright lies. This is the image that sticks with me after reading Gross’s book: a Catholic bishop taking a bribe to protect the lives of his Jewish neighbors, promising to protect them, when in reality he had no such intention; he was going to let the Jewish community be brutalized, but he was also going to get what he could get out of it.


“Exile and Identity” by Jolluck

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

9 October 2007

Beth Gryczewski

Jolluck, Katherine R. Exile and Identity: Polish Women in the Soviet Union During World War II. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002.

Katherine Jolluck, in her book, Exile and Identity, illustrates an aspect of Polish-Russian relations during World War II that has been oft overlooked, until recently. As Jolluck points out in her introduction, many historians have concentrated on the military, political, foreign relations, and economic aspects of World War II to the detriment of “society and culture” (xii). In addition to concentrating on those aspects of the history of WWII, Jolluck points out, historians were also pre-occupied with the “barbarity and enormity” of the Holocaust (xii). So, the exile and treatment of Polish women at the hands of the Russians in concentration camps, in jail or in the Gulag were largely ignored until very recently.


Questions on Nationalism vs. Patriotism

Friday, September 28th, 2007

Last night’s discussion about America’s July 4th celebrations did not seem on target, for me, for some reason. I have not been able to figure out what was bothering me until just now. I am going to try to articulate what I mean, accurately:

While the class was analyzing a typical July 4th parade, it seemed to me that we were describing patriotism, not nationalism. Some patriotic Americans celebrate the 4th of July because they love their country, and they want to commemorate the event. However, I don’t think that is the same thing as nationalism. In fact, I’m not sure that Americans have experienced nationalism in a very, very long time (at least since the Revolutionary War, perhaps the Civil War).


The Politics of Commemoration

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Beth Gryczewski

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.

Bucur and Wingfield have compiled a series of essays on a common theme of nationalism via commemoration. The book is an interesting compilation of essays that describes different means of commemoration that somehow attempt to legitimate (or do actually legitimate) a country’s nationhood. The commemoration involves everything from rituals or ceremonies/celebrations to memorial statues in city centers or cemeteries. Of all the essays in the compilation, the two that are most interesting to me are “The Nationalization of East Central Europe” by Jeremy King and “Reasserting Empire” by Daniel Unowsky.


Highlighting a Question

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I noticed that several people have written about the Jewish question insofar as it relates to nationalism in Eastern Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. My question in my original post is about Polish nationalism and how in Poland, questions of nationalism and the inclusion of Jews evolved from an all-inclusive mentality on the part of the Poles, to a feeling of exclusivity and even hostility against the Jews because they were perceived by the Poles as refusing to assimilate, and as refusing to recognize Poland as their nation. The Poles eventually began to see Jews as “other”. I guess I’m struggling to understand why the Poles turned against the Jews in this manner when it was in fact the Russians who were making the Poles miserable (during the 19th century).  I see that other people read about the Jewish struggle to assimilate (especially in Czech and Vienna), and was just wondering if you all had any thoughts or insights from your readings.