Past in the Making: Historical Revisionism in Central Europe after 1989

Past in the Making: Historical Revisionism in Central Europe after 1989

Past in the Making: Historical Revisionism in Central Europe after 1989

Past in the Making: Historical Revisionism in Central Europe after 1989


Historical revisionism, far from being restricted to small groups of 'negationists, ' has galvanized debates in the realm of recent history. The studies in this book range from general accounts of the background of recent historical revisionism to focused analyses of particular debates or social-cultural phenomena in individual Central European countries, from Germany to Ukraine and Estonia. Where is the borderline between legitimate re-examination of historical interpretations and attempts to rewrite history in a politically motivated way that downgrades or denies essential historical facts? How do the traditional 'national historical narratives' react to the 'spill-over' of international and political controversies into their 'sphere of influence'? Technological progress, along with the overall social and cultural decentralization shatters the old hierarchies of academic historical knowledge under the banner of culture of memory, and breeds an unequalled democratization in historical representation. This book offers a unique approach based on the provocative and instigating intersection of scholarly research, its political appropriations, and social reflection from a representative sample of Central and East European countries.


“Some of us might have noticed we had stopped going in a straight line
and were turning in a circle. It also struck me several times
that time was fading in the pale light, turning more translucent,
losing its color and taste again, and I was horrified by that.”

Jáchym Topol, City Sister Silver (1994)

The year 1989 is usually considered a watershed in the history of Central and Eastern Europe, and rightly so. It not only marks a basic change in the organization of political, economic, and social life, but also serves as an elementary signpost in the making or remaking of individuals' life stories— a basic orientation point in the chaos of the running waters of time. Just as there are multiple stages and periods in an individual's life, the different time-lines overlap in the social space and collective consciousness, resulting in a multiplicity of time experience and significance—captured so imaginatively in the novel, City Sister Silver, a brilliant story of dislocation and bewilderment following the demise of the state-socialist monolith by the Czech writer Jáchym Topol. This temporal fuzziness and diversification successfully discredits the naïve linear model of history and challenges the simplified politico-economic story of the fall of an authoritarian, collectivist regime and the (re)turn to free liberal democracy.

The new era in Central and Eastern Europe, which started in late 1989, is characterized by multiple “posts” (denoted by, in particular, the coincidence of the period of post-Communism with the high point of globalizing postmodernism), with all the possible consequences that this overlapping has for the ways in which the history of the last 60 years or so has been reflected on, commented on, and elaborated in the countries concerned. For it is not merely political expediencies in combination with the allegedly neutral curiosity of historical scholarship that shape the general outline of the historical image of the authoritarian and totalitarian past. in fact there are many more players from civil society in the game now, free to express themselves and to propose projects at will (if they manage to collect the necessary funding). It is a state of affairs that has altogether changed the not-so-old situation in this part of the world: the basically transparent (if often misleading) contraposition of the official state-funded machine producing historical legitimacy against the smaller, rather than larger, circle of dissidents, émi-

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