Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Reading Padraic Kenney’s A Carnival of Revolution : Central Europe 1989

Friday, December 14th, 2007

Posted by Misha Griffith.

Ernest Rutherford, the Nobel Prize winning physicist, once remarked “In science there is only physics; all the rest is stamp collecting.” (more…)

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…)

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…)

Heavenly Serbia

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide. By Branimir Anzulovic, New York and London: New York University Press, 1999. Pp. xiv, 233. $24.95

“What went wrong?”

It is the obligatory question when it comes to genocide and one that will be heard more often as research and debate surrounding the subject continue their crescendo as genocide becomes more, not less common as human civilization advances into the 21st century. As with revolutions, there is no one cause propelling a wave of genocidal violence. However, it can generally be agreed upon is the propellant role played by national myth. As genocide is a violent manifestation of a drive to assert not only dominance of one group over another but superiority, inevitably collective national myth becomes not only the driving force behind the fervor required to commit acts of mass murder, but to justify them afterward. Heavenly Serbia is Branimir Anzulovic’ effort to explain in a modern context the role played by near ancient Serbian national mythology in fueling the genocidal violence of the 1990’s. (more…)

Reading for November 29, Richard Holbrooke, To End A War, 1998

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Posted by Misha Griffith

I must admit political and diplomatic history is not my cup of tea. I find it fascinating, in the same way I find advanced physics and quantum mechanics fascinating, but it leaves me more bewildered than enlightened. Richard Holbrooke, in his portrayal of his peace-making excursions in the Balkans, wrote a rousing tale of diplomats moving delicately through warring regions and the mine fields of diplomacy. (more…)

To End a War: Richard Holbrooke

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Richard Holbrooke presents To End a War as a memoir of his experience as the chief US official negotiating the end of the Bosnian war from August 1995 until the Dayton Peace Agreement in November 1995 and through the first two years of implementation.  His narrative reads like a thrilling drama that meticulously details his shuttle diplomacy across the Balkans and the tense twenty days of negotiation in Dayton.  Holbrooke presents the case of Bosnia as crucial to formulating US policy in Europe following the Cold War and stands by the Dayton Agreement as the best outcome possible given the circumstances and actors.


The Three Yugoslavias and how they failed

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Kraman: Reading Response #10, November 20, 2007


Sabrina P. Ramet, The Three Yugoslavias, State-Building and Legitimation, 1918-2005. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.


            In successfully completing the third edition of her 1918-2005 history of Yugoslavia over a twenty-two year period and finally landing in Trondheim, Norway after moving twelve times in six years, Sabrina Ramet, now a professor of political science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, certainly deserves a well done for persistence and perspicacity. Her stated objective, however, is to determine why the people of Yugoslavia have repeatedly failed to create a stable multi-ethnic, multi-cultured state, when, in her view, a number of other Western countries have overcome the difficulties inherent in achieving such stability. Taking the example of the United Kingdom, it must be noted that the amalgamation of Britons, Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans into the English people with a stable government – except during the PM’s question period — was a bloody business that extended over many centuries. The Celts of Wales and Scotland aren’t yet fully convinced that amalgamation is in their best interest.

In 1918, the creation of Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia was an artificial top down promotion by expatriate Slavic intellectuals in exile in England and the United States during the Great War. Their proposals may have been accepted by the Allied powers as anti-German and anti-Habsburg actions — as much for purposes of propaganda as for purposes of Wilsonian self-determination. Like the other boundary making decisions and province consolidation decisions that followed the Great War, the Yugoslav decisions were fraught with perils that are still with us today.

            Ramet’s work obviously required pains taking analysis of what must have been mountains of documents and data that she hauled around during her Hegira from Hokkaido to Trondheim and to many places in between. In the end, Ramet doesn’t assign personal responsibility for Yugoslavia’s three failures to achieve stability to any of the leaders. In her final words, she concludes that the leaders were practicing illegitimate politics, when the “solution is to foster legitimate politics.” A small ending indeed for a monumental work.

Given all the work she put into the work over such an extended period, it would have been interesting to see her assessment of any changes in the direction or trajectory of the work or the results of her analysis that were based on new information becoming available or the events of time.   


A Carnaval of Revolution

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Kraman: Reading Response #9, November 13, 2007

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

To do the research for his bottom up analysis of the sudden and total collapse of the Communist Block in 1989, Padraic Kenney, a professor of History at Indiana University at Bloomington, went to see and talk to the people in the individual countries who were the small bits in the mosaic of the popular rejection of the Communist style of political governance and economic management. Kenney has named the anti-communist revolution “a carnival” because the people – citizens, bureaucrats, and security forces alike – were no longer able to take Stalinism and the modified ‘isms of his successors seriously, and all were confronted by the total failure of central economic planning to meet the needs of the people. The true believers from the 1917 Russian Revolution were gone and Stalin, in his paranoia, quickly purged any rising star in the Soviet Union. As physical fear of authorities and secret police dissipated, it was replaced by the good-natured humor and disrespect that was exemplified by the small crowd in Wrocław, Poland on February 16, 1988. Kenny, however, dates the beginning of his Carnival Revolution from the post-Chernobyl demonstrations in Poland in 1986 to the Velvet Revolution in Prague in 1989.

While there can be no question that putting an end to the Russian Communist dictatorships in Eastern Europe was a good thing, there are many questions that remain to be answered. Is democratic capitalism – western style – the best form of government for the several Communist Block countries, since none of the countries has had much experience or any tradition in that form of government? Is authoritarian capitalism a viable possibility in the countries that have now joined the European Union. The Czechs and the Slovaks finally split from their tribal marriage that was not made in heaven. Can such mini-countries survive governmentally and economically between the capitalist democracies of the West and the Russian capitalist autocracy of the East? Keeney notes that revolutions open up a range of new possibilities, but most of the problems and concerns from before the revolution — that may have been the cause of the revolution — carry over to be resolved by the new regime. One that has experience in the overthrow of government, but usually has little or no experience in governance.

Sunday’s New York Times is full of interesting articles

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Where to start–they have an excellent background interview with the Plastic People of the Universe in reference to Tom Stoppard’s latest play “Rock ‘n’ Roll.” However, because of the Stagehands’ strike, this is not a great time for a field trip. Another two part video clip deals with the Baltic States and their relationship to Russia. These states are not in our sphere of study, but they are suffering from some of the same problems. Also, the footage is so beautiful I really want to visit.

A couple of good cold war commercials

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

Gorbachev at Pizza Hut

Soviet fashion show