Archive for the ‘William’ Category

Bosnia: A Short History

Sunday, December 2nd, 2007

Bosnia: A Short History by Noel Malcolm

Noel Malcolm’s work Bosnia: A Short History is a brief, yet expansive, history of the Eastern European country, inextricably linked with the devastation in the former Yugoslavia. However, Malcolm approaches the region from a much different perspective than many of his contemporary scholars. Malcolm perceives the region not as an inevitable cauldron of political instability and violence, rather as one that was plunged into violence, counter to most of it history. Malcolm’s observations are comprehensive, drawing on all sorts of academic disciplines, like archaeology, to demonstrate his thesis. Ultimately, Malcolm concludes the aggression evident in the region is NOT a result of “ancient, tribal loyalties” but rather as a result of pre-meditated Serbian propaganda and aggression. (more…)

A Carnival Atmosphere

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

A Carnival of Revolution by Padraic Kenney

            Padraic Kenney’s work, A Carnival of Revolution, challenges some of the long-held beliefs about the fall of Communism in 1989. Approaching the collapse of Communism from an almost personal perspective of those taking part, Kenney argues that the fall of Communism was really not the surprising, spontaneous implosion sparked by outside forces. Nor was there truly a lack of political subversion and counterculture in those Eastern European countries, like Czechoslovakia, that seemed to suddenly erupt in revolutionary verve. What Kenney argues is that, in fact, the ideological underpinnings of these revolutionary movements had actually been long nurtured in the crumbling political societies of these communist countries. Additionally, the primary actors in this drama were not, as traditionally argued the intelligentsia, but more of a grass roots, personal movement that slowly came to realize the Soviet governments were not pushing back as vigorously as they once had. Steadily emboldened by this realization, common people created fertile ground for the revolutionary “end-games” that were about to unfold. (more…)

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…)

1968: Change remaining the Same

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

1968: The Year That Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky

            Mark Kurlansky’s narrative of the year 1968 is compared to the revolutions that swept through 1848, but Kurlansky clearly distinguishes these two years. 1968 saw global revolutionary activity, instead of only European revolutions, with a more spontaneous and disparate collection of reasons. Focusing on events in across the globe, the book compares the events of the “Prague Spring” that swept through Czechoslovakia, and student rights’ movements in Poland. Through his very readable chronicle of these two venues, Kurlansky leaves little doubt as to the true state of the Warsaw Pact countries and their relation with the Soviet Union. (more…)

Neighbors – Village Holocaust

Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan T. Gross

Neighbors is a chilling book recounting the slaughter of all but seven Jewish residents of the town of Jedwabne, Poland on July 10, 1941. Despite having historical roots in the community for hundreds of years, and apparently a period of relative harmony in the years during the turn of the century, Gross illuminates the wholesale destruction of the Jewish community following the German invasion of Poland/Russia.

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Interwar Hungarian Education and Officer Corps

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Hungary’s National Minority Policies, 1920-1945 by G.C. Paikert & Army Officers and Foreign Policy in Interwar Hungary by Thomas L. Sakmyster

Hungary between world wars was a country torn between two views of itself. Still bitterly stung by the Treaty of Trianon which lopped off approximately 60% of Hungary’s pre-war boundary, the Hungarian government struggled to find a place in the new world, or dwell on the past. Two articles examined these strained feelings, investigating the role of multicultural education and ever-increasing role of fascist leaning army officers in the post-war civilian government.

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Closely Watched Trains – Thumbs Up

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

Closely Watched Trains, Directed by Jirí Menzel (1966)

Closely Watched Trains traces the young life of green train dispatcher Milos Hrma in the barely twenty year old Czechoslovakian state during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Looked at through the lens of World War I and its aftermath (the theme of this week’s readings), Closely Watched Trains portrays the Czechoslovakian state as torn between the familiarity and relative security of the Hapsburg Monarchy and the emergent predatory nationalism of countries like the German Reich.

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Staging the Past and Collective Identity

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

In Staging the Past: The Politics of Commemoration in Habsburg Central Europe, 1848 to the Present, Maria Bucur and Nancy Wingfield present a collection of essays centered on the role of nationalism and cultural identity during and after the Hapsburg Empire’s reign. These essays focus on three things: 1) efforts by the Hapsburgs to create a common cultural identity and shared national memory; 2) the cultural fluidity and ambiguity of national symbolism at the state level, with interesting commentary on the co-opting of “national” symbols for various political purposes; 3) the examination of the cultural leftovers of the previous periods, and how they were used for the ends of communist governments. (more…)

Contrasting Voices – The Decline and Fall of the Hapsburg Empire, 1815-1918

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

The Decline and Fall of the Hapsburg Empire, 1815-1918 by Alan Sked

Sked challenges several long-held notions of the century that preceded the end of the Austro-Hungarian era. The pattern of Sked’s book is to present the main historiographical arguments of different elements of the Empire and deliver a verdict on their worth. Contrary to common conceptions that the Empire was living on only under its own inertia, experiencing a decade’s long decline and inevitable disintegration, Sked argues that the Hapsburgs were far from any dire situation in 1914. Dissecting much of the conventional wisdom regarding the Hapsburgs, Sked concludes that only the loss of World War I destroyed the Empire. The war was not the final straw that brought about the final end, according the Sked, which so many historians have argued.

Prince Metternich, State Chancellor to the Hapsburg Empire up until the eve of the revolutions of 1848, much maligned, with a narrow foreign policy, but the only available option for the Hapsburgs. Unacceptable debt levels greatly affected military readiness, making intervention a mostly empty threat. Austria-Hungary was thus handcuffed to employ its military only when the conservative political order was challenged, largely justifying Metternich’s emphasis on treaties and agreements. While problematic, the Hapsburgs were left with few other options.

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Brubaker and Anderson

Tuesday, September 4th, 2007

Roger Brubaker’s work, Nationalism Reframed, attempts to move past simple conceptions of ascendant or shrinking modern nationalism, to a more nuanced expression of various nationalisms’ types and structures. Drawing on considerable research on the growth and evolution of nationalism in Germany and East Central Europe, focusing mainly on the late 19th century and the interwar period, Brubaker attempts to show inexact, but valuable parallels to contemporary events in former Soviet Union and its successor states. Brubaker argues, mostly successfully, that a more sophisticated understanding of the four distinct forms of nationalism he lays out in Nationalism Reframed, will provide greater opportunity to understand a region saturated in a decades repressed nationalism.

Brubaker explains at length four types of nationalism, which serving various purposes, can be conflicting and lead to tension between countries, or groups within countries. Whether the focus of the specific nationalism is inward, as it primarily was in interwar Poland, or external, as it was for interwar Germany, nationalism continues to be the driving force for political action in the Eastern Europe today. Reinterpreting events that led up to World War I and II through his defined nationalisms, Brubaker compares the situations of ex-patriot post World War I Germans in Poland, with that of Russians now living in Soviet successor states. He also keenly compares the nationalizing nationalisms of the “new” successor states, with the “new” Poland of interwar Europe. His focus on the mixing an “unmixing” of populations, and its potential for future conflict showed a balanced and perceptive insight in contemporary East European politics. (more…)