Archive for the ‘MattK’ Category

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…)

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…)

Fantasies of Salvation

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Tismaneanu, Vladimir. Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998.

Vladimir Tismaneanu characterizes the political and social landscape of post-communist Eastern and Central Europe as stretched between two poles of thought: that of the communist-era dissidents, encouraging pluralism, the development of civil society, adhering to the principles of the Enlightenment; and the opposing side is what Sabrina Ramet focuses on in The Radical Right, agents of organized intolerance, a collectivist, chauvinistic movement, promoting ideas of ethnic or racial purity.  Fantasies of Salvationpairs up well with Ramet’s The Radical Right, and could almost serve as an extended introduction. Where Ramet has organized a collection of essays that detail the radical right movements in former communist Central and Eastern European countries, Tismaneanu provides the background on the methods and tools such as scapegoating myths, hypernationalist rhetoric, and historical manipulation that have become powerful tools for social mobilization in a post-communist setting. (more…)

National Identity: Ceausescu v. Intellectuals

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Verdery, Katherine. National Ideology Under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in Ceausescu’s Romania. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

For my post this week I’ll focus on a theme in Verdery’s book that I hope to elaborate on for my paper next week.  Last week I posted on Trond Gilberg’s Nationalism and Communism in Romania which, among other things addresses the ways in which the Ceausescus repressed the intellectual community in Romania and sought to supplant those hostile or unsupportive of the RCP line with pseudo-intellectuals willing to take direction from the Party.  Both of these books deal with the concept of National identity in Romania and its importance to members of all different strata of society.  (more…)

Ceausescu’s cult of personality

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Gilberg, Trond. Nationalism & Communism in Romania: The Rise and Fall of Ceausescu’s Personal Dictatorship. Boulder: Westview Press, Inc., 1990.  

The good thing about being the “dear leader” and holding absolute control over all political and economic aspects of a state is that when things go wrong, blame can be spread over all the intermediary functionaries who were too inept to implement the flawless plans of the leader.  The bad thing about it is that when the pedestal you’ve built yourself begins to break apart it’s going to be an ugly fall.  Trond Gilberg provides an in depth look at Ceausescuism in Nationalism and Communism in Romania.  Ceausescuism can be described as a blend of Marxist elements and traditional Romanian nationalism shaken up and implemented by a delusional paranoid sociopath.  Characteristic elements of Ceausescuism are: a populist emphasis, a strong leader, Romanian nationalism and chauvinism, isolationism and autarky, personality cult and megalomania, and a bit of Marx. (49-56)  (more…)

Mr. Rogers would be very upset

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

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

Reviews of Neighbors. Slavic Review 61, no. 3 (Fall, 2002): 453-489.

Jan Gross has written a provocative account of the massacre of the Jewish population of Jedwabne, Poland in 1941.  Gross’s intention with Neighbors was to challenge the accepted historiography of WWII, portraying the experiences of the Jewish populations as distinct from the non-Jewish populations (Gross, xviii).  Gross places Neighbors within the emerging genre of Holocaust studies which confronts the “ ‘perpetrators-victims-bystanders’ axis” (Gross, xxi), questioning how distinct and mutually exclusive these categories are.  (more…)

The Radical Right

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Ramet, Sabrina P., ed. The Radical Right in Central and Eastern Europe Since 1989. Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

Sabrina Ramet has pulled together a collection of essays discussing the variety of radical right political trends and organizations that have emerged in Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of communism.  This is really a collection of case studies on Central and Eastern European politics post 1989; Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Russia, and Ukraine all receive treatment.  Ramet opens this collection with a chapter that attempts to nail down a definition for the radical right, and the characteristics of this movement.  The difficult nature of this task is demonstrated later as the multiple permutations of radical right politics take shape in the variety of different political, economic, and social settings of Central and Eastern Europe.  Essentially, Ramet takes a definition for organized intolerance (born from cultural irrationalism, intolerance for others, and anti-popular rule) and adds the desire for a return to the traditional values of the Nation/community, and the imposition of these values upon the entire Nation/community (Ramet acknowledges debate on the distinction between radical right and organized intolerance, and several contributors remark on the difficulty of using directionally based linear classifications for political movements.  This becomes evident in the case of Serbia and Hungary where the radical right is used to make the ruling parties appear more moderate). (more…)

Staging the Past – Rural Myth and National Identity in Poland

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

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

In Staging the Past, Maria Bucur and Nancy Wingfield gather a collection of essays focused on the “development of nationalism from the perspective of collective memory and cultural practice.” (2) 

I think the most interesting aspect of collective memory is its nature as a contested space, subject to interpretation and manipulation.  There will always be competing interests seeking legitimacy by laying claim to historical events or figures.  It is beneficial to approach the study of nationalism from “the perspective of collective memory” because it lays bare the fluid and contested nature of nationalism, and the difficulties in controlling or directing nationalist sentiments. (more…)

The Politics of Terror

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Perry, Duncan M. The Politics of Terror: The Macedonian Liberation Movements of 1893-1903. Durham: Duke University Press, 1988.

In The Politics of Terror, Duncan Perry documents the events that gave rise to the different and competing liberation movements of Macedonia, the evolution of these movements and their use of violence and terror as a tool to achieve Macedonian independence. Perry distinguishes between the Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (MRO) and the Supreme Macedonian Committee, one as a domestic movement (MRO) and the other as an organization formed by Macedonian nationalists based in Sophia. A crucial element to the rise of Macedonian liberation movements was the competing Greek, Serbian, and Bulgarian national interests. Seeking to encourage the people living in the Macedonian territory to embrace their respective nationalisms, these competing powers established schools and religious institutions in the territory to reinforce their beliefs. Perry establishes that peasantry in Macedonia had no national consciousness, basing their identity on local, socioeconomic, or religious criteria. The emerging educated class became aware of the problems and deficiencies of life in Ottoman Macedonia and the need for autonomy, the return of students from studies abroad added to the sense of injustice and a desire for change, at least among the educated class. (more…)

The Serbs

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Judah, Tim. The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

In The Serbs: History, Myth, and the Destruction of Yugoslavia, Tim Judah traces the history of the Serbs in an attempt to understand the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Serb/Croat/Bosnian Muslim conflicts of the nineties.  Judah acknowledges that when discussing the wars in Yugoslavia it is “unfashionable to link the past and the present,” (p. xi) as one may be accused of profiling the peoples of the former Yugoslavia, or one may oversimplify the causes of the conflicts to inherited “ancient ethnic hatred.”  In Judah’s account, the history of the Serbs was easily exploited by power seeking leaders who manipulated the state controlled media, creating a climate of fear by portraying the Croats as bloodthirsty Ustashe and the Bosnian Muslims as murderous Turks.  Judah does not absolve the Serbian population of responsibility, repeatedly mentioning the abandonment of “their critical faculties” (p. 199) in favor of faith in their leadership.  Judah provides a brief overview of Serbian history, highlighting moments and incidents that would later become tools for Milosevic to incite a radical Serbian nationalism.  (more…)