Of Red Dragons and Evil Spirits

Post-Communist Historiography between Democratization and New Politics of History
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256 pages

The collection of well-researched essays assesses the uses and misuses of history 25 years after the collapse of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe. As opposed to the revival of national histories that seemed to be the prevailing historiographical approach of the 1990s, the last decade has seen a particular set of narratives equating Nazism and Communism. This provides opportunities to exonerate wartime collaboration, casting the nation as victim even when its government was allied with Germany. While the Jewish Holocaust is acknowledged, its meaning and significance are obfuscated.

In their comparative analysis the authors are also interested in new practices of ‘Europeanness’. Therefore their presentations of Slovak, Hungarian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian and Slovenian post-communist memory politics move beyond the common national myths in order to provide a new insight into transnational interactions and exchanges in Europe in general. The juxtaposition of these politics, the processes in other parts of Europe, the modes of remembering shaped by displacement and the transnational enable a close encounter with the divergences and assess the potential of the formation of common, European memory practices.

PREFACE / INTRODUCTION Oto Luthar: “Red Dragon and the Evil Spirits”

CHAPTER 1 Daniela Koleva: On the (In)convertibility of National Memory into European Legitimacy: The Bulgarian Case

CHAPTER 2 Ljiljana Radonić: Equalizing Jesus’s, Jewish and Croat Suffering—Post-Socialist Politics of History in Croatia

CHAPTER 3 Michael Shafi: Wars of Memory in Post-Communist Romania

CHAPTER 4 Todor Kuljić: Reflections on the Principles of the Critical Culture of Memory

CHAPTER 5 Miroslav Michela: The Struggle for Legitimacy: Constructing the National History of Slovakia After 1989

CHAPTER 6 Ferenc Laczó: Victims and Traditions: Narratives of Hungarian National History After the Age of Extremes

CHAPTER 7 Šačir Filandra: Instrumentalization of History in Bosnia and Herzegovina

CHAPTER 8 Oto Luthar: Post-Socialist Historiography Between Democratization and New Exclusivist Politics of History

"The volume surveys eight national contexts from East Central and Southeastern Europe in an attempt to reconstruct the defining features of the contemporary politics of the past. As the authors suggest, falling short of the hopes and expectations of many in the aforementioned two regions, instead of a process of democratizing the narratives about the past, there is a return to or rather no change in the dominance of nation-centered narratives. Of Dragons and Evil Spirits as a whole has the virtue of addressing some time-specific aspects of contemporary politics of history. Scholars and policy makers may learn important lessons from the cases presented."
"Of Red Dragons and Evil Spirits proves comparative research to be relevant and exciting. With the overarching aim to contribute to surmounting the ‘bloc division of Europe, which still persists in viewing the East as a monolith’, this edited volume sets about to a) point out divergences in the memory cultures in postsocialist countries, and b) assess the potential to form common European memory practices. It thus analyses the changing mnemonic landscapes on two levels: within Eastern Europe and in Europe as a whole. With nationalist historical revisionism as a common thread running through the bulk of the case studies, the message is in fact one of a shared postcommunist memory culture. The authors identify the road to EU membership as the catalyst of how the attempt to establish a European memory canon failed. In combination, the case studies provide the reader with a nuanced view on ‘all- Europeanness’ when it comes to memory. Even in the absence of a shared European... more