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Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe

Edited by Maria Todorova, Augusta Dimou, and Stefan Troebst

Maria Todorova is Gutgsell Professor of History, Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Augusta Dimou is Associate Researcher at Humboldt University, Department of History, Berlin.
Stefan Troebst is Professor of East European Cultural Studies, Department of Slavic Studies, University of Leipzig, and Deputy Director of the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe (GWZO).

Remembering Communism examines the formation and transformation of the memory of communism in the post-communist period. The majority of the articles focus on memory practices in the post-Stalinist era in Bulgaria and Romania, with occasional references to the cases of Poland and the GDR. Based on an interdisciplinary approach, including history, anthropology, cultural studies and sociology, the volume examines the mechanisms and processes that influence, determine and mint the private and public memory of communism in the post-1989 era. The common denominator to all essays is the emphasis on the process of remembering in the present, and the modalities by means of which the present perspective shapes processes of remembering, including practices of commemoration and representation of the past.

The volume deals with eight major thematic blocks revisiting specific practices in communism such as popular culture and everyday life, childhood, labor, the secret police, and the perception of “the system”.

640 pages, cloth,
ISBN 978-96 3-386-034-2
$80.00 / €60.00 / £50.00

Contents: Acknowledgements 1. Introduction: Similar Trajectories, Different Memories
2. Experts with a Cause: A Future for GDR History beyond Memory Governance and Ostalgie in Unified Germany Thomas Lindenberger 3. The Canon of Remembering Romanian Communism: From Autobiographical Recollections to Collective Representations 4. How Is Communism Remembered in Bulgaria? Research, Literature, Projects 5. The Memory of Communism in Poland 6. Remembering Dictatorship: Eastern and Southern Europe Compared
7. Communism Reloaded 8. Daily Life and Constraints in Communist Romania in the Late 1980s: From the Semiotics of Food to the Semiotics of Power 9. “Forbidden Images”? Visual Memories of Romanian Communism Before and After 1989 10. Remembering the Private Display of Decorative Things under Communism
11. “Loan Memory”: Communism and the Youngest Generation 12. Talking Memories of the Socialist Age: School, Childhood, Regime 13. Within (and Without) the “Stem Cell” of Socialist Society
14. Remembering Communism: Field Studies in Pernik, 1960–1964 15. “Remembering the Old City, Building a New One”: The Plural Memories of a Multiethnic City 16. Workers in the Workers’ State: Industrialization, Labor, and Everyday Life in the Industrial City of Rovinari 17. “We Build for Our Country!” Visual Memories about the Brigadier Movement
18. How Post-1989 Bulgarian Society Perceives the Role of the State Security Service 19. The Afterlife of the Securitate: On Moral Correctness in Post-communist Romania 20. Daily Life And Surveillance in the 1970s and 1980s
21. From Memory to Canon. How Do Bulgarian Historians Remember Communism? 22. Theater Artists and the Bulgarian Authorities in the 1960s: Memories of Conflicts, Conflict of Memories 23. Bulgarian Intellectuals Remember Communist Culture 24. “By Their Memoirs You Shall Know Them”: Ivan and Petko Venedikov about Themselves and about Communism 25. Cum Ira et Studio: Visualizing the Recent Past
26. The Revolution of 1989 and the Rashomon Effect: Recollections of the Collapse of Communism in Romania 27. Remembrance of Communism on the Former Day of Socialist Victory: The 9th of September in Ritual Ceremonies of Post-1989 Bulgaria 28. Remembering the “Revival Process” in Post-1989 Bulgaria 29. Websites of Memory: In Search of the Forgotten Past
List of Contributors

"A powerful reminder of the continuing relevance of the Communist past and the complicated nature of its negotiation in public and private processes of remembering. Remembering Communism succeeds in drawing attention to the need to investigate areas of overlap between the two, especially since the memory of Communism continues to be highly politicized. Even more so, the volume draws attention to some of the most important loose ends in post-Communist studies: class memories, transmission of memory and historical knowledge, generationality and the impact of new media on the production and consumption of memories". - Slavonic & East European Review

"As someone based in the United States, where the word 'communism' is automatically and uncritically associated with the worst crimes of Stalinism, edited volumes like this one do much to make it safer for younger researchers to explore controversial topics and challenge the ideological status quo. The deep irony of studying the communist past is that democracy promised freedom of conscience and freedom of inquiry. Many institutions of higher learning laud the principle of academic freedom and resist political attempts to meddle in or direct scholarly pursuits. But in the case of the  twentieth-century communist past, inquiry is hardly free, and, as Todorova points out in her introduction, the majority of scholarship produced has been funded by foundations and institutions charged with investigating the crimes of communism. For pushing back against this almost exclusive focus on the negative, Remembering Communism: Private and Public Recollections of Lived Experience in Southeast Europe is a most welcome and necessary addition to the literature." - H-Socialisms, H-Net Reviews

"The two main premises of the volume, generally shared by almost all of the authors, are that there was 'no single idea of socialism' and 'that there is no single practice of communism'. This is exactly the point in which lies one of the main intellectual provocations of the book. Its most vivid example is the unanimous decision to use the terms communism and socialism as synonyms, sharply distancing this historical sequence eastern Europe from the idea of a socialism that is functional in liberal democracies.
The second provocation of the editors and authors comes from their interest in the relationship between individual and public memory, which is realized in a methodologically- peculiar intellectual experiment. The contributors used the prologues to their texts to present their personal memories on life in socialist societies. Being different by gender, profession, nationality, and generation, the authors included their private perspectives and in so doing problematized the unquestionable historiographical premises of objectivity and distance. They became '“an embodiment of memory'.” - Slavic Review

"It is very difficult to imagine large numbers of Germans becoming nostalgic for the Nazi period, and German advertisers using Nazi imagery to tap into this nostalgia for marketing purposes. But nostalgia for the Communist period persists and, in some places, continues to grow more intense.
In their edited collection Remembering Communism, Maria Todorova, Augusta Dimou, and Stefan Troebst focus on how Southeast Europe has wrapped and unwrapped its Communist experience. Ostalgie — nostalgia for the old German Democratic Republic — has been popularized in the West through such films as Goodbye, Lenin and tourist attractions like the GDR Museum. Lesser known are the comparable nostalgias in the rest of the region." - Los Angeles Review of Books

"Discussing memories and experiences of communism in Southeastern Europe and outlining their manifold relationships both with the present and the future, this volume offers a complex picture that prevents normative and hegemonic interpretations of socialism. This makes this book important, both academically and politically, for at least two major reasons. First, the volume clearly shows that remembering socialism is a way to construct a publicly legitimate alternative to the present. This opens an extremely important horizon of possibilities for the citizens of post-socialist societies of Europe and their political subjectivities. Second, by challenging and dismantling firm dichotomies and one-sided interpretations that became canonical within the totalitarian paradigm this volume speaks against revisionist practices and the rewriting of history of antifascism in this part of Europe." - H-Soz-Kult

"Dieser umfangreiche Sammelband erforscht die Erinnerung and den Kommunismus, indem er zwei Zugänge bzw. Zwei Gruppen von Theorien – einerseits über Erinnerung, andererseits über Kommunismus – verbindet. Im Mittelpunkt stehen Bulgarien und Rumänien, weil sie bisher im Vergleich zu anderen ehemals sozialistichen Staaten Europas wenig erforscht sind. Gemeinsam ist den Forschungsarbeiten, dass sie in die Perspektive aus der Gegenwart betonen. Die Aktualität und Prozesshaftigkeit der Erinnerung an den Kommunismus stehen somit im Zentrum." - Religion & Gesellschaft in Ost und West

"La mai bine de doi ani de la publicarea sa, în decembrie 2014, lipsa de reacții autohtone din jurul ultimului volum din seria „Remembering Communism”, editat de Maria Todorova (împreună, de această dată, cu Augusta Dimou și Stefan Troebst) rămâne surprinzătoare, cu atât mai mult cu cât (post)comunismul românesc este, aici, bine reprezentat prin contribuții din sfera istoriei culturale semnate de Cristina Petrescu, Radu Petrescu, Smaranda Vultur, Cătălina Mihalache, Andi Mihalache, Simina Bădică și Corina Cimpoieru. Spre deosebire de volumele pe temă îngrijite anterior de Todorova cel de față acordă un spațiu extins României și Bulgariei, alături de cazul Germaniei reunificate (ca paradigmă a gestionării moștenirii comuniste) și al Poloniei (ca poveste de succes a raportării la trecut). În cele 600 de pagini ale sale, tomul grupează articole comprehensive și bibliografic unitare, urmărind construcția memoriei comunismului la nivelul diferitelor subcâmpuri ale vieții sociale (instituții de stat, școală, muzee, mass-media, forme de contra-cultură), al mediilor socio-profesionale și al generațiilor biologice." - Blogul Revistei Cultura

"Сборникът включва няколко рубрики – популярна култура и всекидневие, спомени за социалистическото детство, що е социалистически труд, неотмиращия проблем за тайните служби, ' културния фронт' тогава и сега, паметта за изключителни събития и за „системата“ като такава. Текстовете в сборника са не просто много на брой (29, някои автори с по два текста), но и авторите им прилагат различни теоретични и методологични подходи, независимо от усилията на Мария Тодорова чрез серия от конференции и семинари да ги направи съпричастни на сходни парадигми в полетата на паметта, историите на живота като исторически извор, субективността и саморефлексията. В допълнителен опит за сближаване на позициите, Тодорова инициира упражнение по саморефлексия, което тя счита за отличителна черта на сборника, но в което се включват само част от авторите му – преди да започнат да пишат, те отговарят на въпроса какво ги е накарало да се занимават с избраната от тях тема. Както Мария Тодорова признава – предупреждавайки ни, че това не е оправдание, в екипите участват изследователи от различни поколения, някои от които са достатъчно наясно със западните академични дискурси, без обаче да се чувстват напълно комфортно в тях, за разлика от по-младите колеги, обучавани в университети със сходни програми. Същевременно, подчертава Мария Тодорова, е от изключителна важност да чуем гласовете, намеренията и мислите на източноевропейските учени ' на собствената им почва', макар и те понякога да се разминават със западните научни стилове." - Култура