Stereotypes during the Decline and Fall of Communism

By György Hunyady | Go to book overview

5

The domain of historical periods

Beliefs about 20th-century history

Premises and rationale

What antecedents did our research regarding the conception of historical periods have in social psychology? This question can be answered very briefly. There is practically no literature on this topic even today. This seriously negative statement is both reinforced and denied by the comprehensive work of Schwarz, Wanke, and Bless (1994). Reinforcement lies in the fact that they also missed the systematic research of the central core of this topic, that is, the investigation of the perception and evaluation of social changes. But its negation lies in the pure existence of their work and in its citations expressing the demand for, scattered antecedents of, and professional chance of extending the trend of social cognition over this field, too. The ‘end of communism in Eastern Europe’, and particularly the unification of Germany gave an opportunity for and prompted this kind of research while they also provided the object and population to be investigated.

Naturally, the timeliness of the topic was absent in the 1960s and 1970s, at the beginning of our investigations. Although the end of the cold war brought about considerable transformations in world politics, it was not evident that a historical change took place and a new epoch began. However, a continued socio-cultural inspiration, and an even more prolonged tension or ‘eternal challenge’ inherent in the relationship between historical and psychological cognition were still present.


The social role of historical cognition

We began to investigate the image of historical ages in public thinking in the 1960s and 1970s, partly for socio-cultural reasons. The conscious and repressed questions of the historical past did engage the attention of Hungarian intellectual thinking, and in some or another form was present in the minds of the members of the developing middle classes. This could be and had to be investigated in public thinking. It was no coincidence that the level of historical knowledge (Angelusz, 1980; Békés, 1980; Eperjessy

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