The Establishment of Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe, 1944-1949

By Norman Naimark; Leonid Gibianskii | Go to book overview

1
War as Revolution 1

Jan Gross

The general thrust of my thinking on the subject matter that concerns us here is to conceive of a society's experiences of war and occupation as if they were endogenous. This may not be a particularly original insight, but it departs from routinely adopted historiographical approaches in which states or societies drawn into war or put under occupation are studied primarily as objects exposed to external, imposed, circumstances. What this means in practical terms is that we are much more likely to find political histories of occupation regimes, than social histories of countries under occupation.

And yet all social systems, at all times, operate within sets of constraints that they do not control, or cannot anticipate. 2 This is a trivial point again, and one should be reminded that in some historical circumstances (such as war between states, for example) these externalities might be uniquely non-negotiable and intrusive. But then, conversely, we might think of internal circumstances that are uniquely, so to speak, non-negotiable and intrusive. And the impact of some such factors would be no less decisive and disruptive on the course of -- [otherwise "normal"?] societal development. Pace assorted Marxist writings about the role of individual in history, no serious student of the 20th century would hesitate to list Hitler's willfulness as a major force shaping the destiny of Russia.

I would propose, accordingly, that the wartime history of Poland, for example, ought to be written within the same mind-set and methodological approach as the wartime history of, say, Germany. Even

-17-

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