Czech-German Relations and the Politics of Central Europe: From Bohemia to the EU
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It might have been partly an instinct of self-preservation after decades of historiography subjected to political norms of the moment and paying a high price for that. It might also be revealing of a more serious problem: twelve years after the fall of communism there is still no major systematic study of the history of Czechoslovak communism has been published let alone provoked a wide-ranging debate on the subject in the scholarly community.
This hopefully may be changing now. When signing the law declaring communism a criminal regime Vaclav Havel considered it had essentially a declarative purpose and expressed the hope it would close a chapter and allow the Czechs to adopt a more forward-looking attitude.
But one thing is to open police files for investigation of past crimes, another thing is to open and make good use of communist archives for the purpose of writing a new history of the period. The former unfortunately does not necessarily lead to the latter. Two important criticisms of the new official version of post-war history as presented in the law of July were made, both incidentally coming from prominent Czech exiles in Italy. The leaders associated with the Prague Spring, Dubcek, Smrkovsky Kriegel or Hajek are put in the same category with Husak, Bilak, Jakes who liquidated the democratic reforms and imposed a had-line repressive dictatorship.
Such reading of history, Pelikan argued, is utter nonsense. One kind of orthodoxy and lack of tolerance is being replaced by another. It is a sign of the uprooting of communist totalitarianism from the history of the West and moves it to a chronicle of mere crimes of the Twentieth century, it is its russification, reduced to crimes against Western civilization. It fails to understand its deeper sources and thus misses the opportunity to really learn anything from it [ 31 ]. First, there is the assumption of the externality of totalitarianism.
If the cause is external there is little incentive to examine the inner sources and responsibilities. The second assumption is to present the totalitarian period en bloc. At first it was ; then with the creation in of the Center for the Documentation of the Violence against the Czech Nation the period was extended from thus including the democratic interlude of most recently the Memorial association, created at the initiative of prominent members of parliament, includes in one totalitarian period the Nazi and Communist domination of to How a democratic state in the middle of Europe threatened by a totalitarianism of the right became vulnerable in a sort of compensation to totalitarianism from the Left.
A European visionary in XVth century Bohemia?
From this perspective, it is the War and the complete collapse of the old social order more than the nitty-gritty of communist tactics in February , which matters, for the understanding of the formation of the communist system. This connection between war and revolution in bringing about totalitarianism after the two World Wars had been stressed by the philosopher Jan Patocka as well by Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
It remains one of the major issues for Central European historiography today. To focus the historiographical interpretation of the slide from one totalitarianism to another could imply but need not! What is arguable at a certain level of generalisation does not quite fit the actual experience of Czech society that rejected outright the first totalitarianism while, at least initially, welcoming the other.
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There was an actual history of communism in Central Europe and in the Czech lands in particular, with different phases whose political and moral significance is by no means identical. Take the period is it merely the link between two totalitarian regimes or is it a democratic experience that separates them? It seems like a self-evident proposition: it is perfectly legitimate to compare totalitarian regimes and the crimes they have committed.
But we also need to reintroduce the meanders of history, the resistance or adaptation of society that was not only the passive, innocent object of totalitarian manipulation. There is a diversity of the communist experience in post-war East-Central Europe, with the national specificities that should be of interest to historians. In contrast to Poland where most of the society felt it had moved in from one occupation to another the Czech case is remarkable in more ways than one.
It is a country where the Communist Party had half a million members in , one and a quarter million members in and two and half million members in December , i. The main reason for that, he pointed out, was not unrelated to their own past as conformist communists historians under the old regime. Jaroslav Panek, the chairman of the Czech historical society answered that such political attacks come from people who have so yet to prove themselves professionally.
It is too early to say whether this first attempt at moral and political introspection within the historical profession will eventually produce a more far-reaching reassessment of post-war Czech history. In the two decades before independent dissident intellectuals carried out a lively debate about history while professional historians were silent or silenced. For more than a decade now the historians have been free at last but there was little or no debate to speak of, which left the field open for political instrumentalization of the issue of the coming to terms with the communist past.
That era is not quite over yet. Who is responsible? Nations, like individuals need to be able to look at themselves in the mirror. Historical narratives are such a mirror, and historians the psychoanalysts of their nations. In the Czech case should we start searching in the Russians , or in the Czech Communists , or in Franco-British betrayal to Hitler , or even in i.
And each of the above-mentioned answers is politically loaded. The historian is thus placed in front a gratifying yet uncomfortable role: he is to provide the tools to confront the communist legacy and at the same time help to recompose a traumatised identity, to chose a usable past for a democratic future. In so doing the task of the Central European historian today is not completely dissimilar to that of the French historians helping the society at large cope with the past of the wartime Vichy regime. Tr nsit online , Nr. All rights reserved. This work may be used, with this header included, for noncommercial purposes.
No copies of this work may be distributed electronically, in whole or in part, without written permission from Transit. Emingerova and L. Benjak, Mlady Svet, Transitional justice has been a fast growing industry in the social sciences particularly in the United States. Some historians have been sacked from their jobs in the post purges, a decimation of the profession particularly in the Czech lands.
See V. Precan ed.
Acta Persecutionis, World Congress of Historians, Le livre noir du communisme , Paris, R. Laffont, , p. The rehabilitation law was voted in by the Federal Parliament on April 23, It covered illegally sentenced persons invalidating retrospectively the law on political offences between February and December Lustrace lustration is a vetting procedure based on the examination of secret police records to check whether a person aspiring to hold certain post had been among the or so informers of the StB secter police.
The idea of the lustration process came out of a Parliamentary inquiry into the origins of the events of November The enquiry was inconclusive but recommended lustration for all Parliament members and high government officials. See the transcript of the talks between the Civic Forum and the Communist leadership in Vladimir Hanzel ed. Zrychleny tep dejin , Prague, OK Centrum, Adam Michnik said at a conference in Salzburg in March My blackest dream is that we will take all our Communists and send them to Siberia.
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And then what will we have? The book is a collection of testimonies of people considering themselves as wrongfully included in the police file. The lustration law was extended by parliament in for another five year period and was recently renewed again.
May Vachalovsky and J. Bok, eds. Kato: pribeh opravdoveho cloveka , Prague Havel, Vazeni obcane, projevy cervenec cervenec , Prague, Lidove Noviny, p. There have been recent attempts to bring to justice those communist leaders still alive who had taken part on August Jakes and J. Lenart are the only survivors of that meeting.
But there is a snag: the plan actually failed and the Soviets eventually had to negotiate with Dubcek who was kidnapped and taken to Moscow as a prisoner. Rupnik and C. Marcou eds. Des partis comme les autres?
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Stedman Jones-R. A fairly comprehensive dossier on the subject can be found in the journal Soudobe Dejiny nr. Translation in Czech language. Why is Hungary, the first communist country to dismantle the Iron Curtain, now busy building a fence in order to keep refugees out? The answer is: domestic politics. Read more.
Since late October, Bulgarian students, demanding the resignation of the government, have occupied and blockaded lecture halls at universities in Sofia and beyond. The students' actions have come following more than four months of continuous anti-government demonstrations which were provoked by the cynicism of the country's political class and its perceived endorsement of widespread state-sponsored corruption.
The failure of the West after the fall of the Soviet Union was first indifference and then the inflation of our expectations beyond what was politically conceivable for the post-Soviet states, writes the American political adviser and analyst Bruce P. What should be the objective of the West is an extended period of limited engagement with the most promising of the post-Soviet states taking place in areas of agreement: trade, security, conflict resolution.
This could help to shape new states — possibly even European states — in the post-imperial twilight.
A European visionary in XVth century Bohemia? – Kafkadesk
Zum anderen versucht sie, sich selbst — in einem Verfassungsbildungsprozess — radikal neu zu definieren, sich in eine neuartige politische Einheit zu verwandeln. Die Erweiterung … Read more. Das politische Leben der letzten Jahre in Polen ist faszinierend und beunruhigend zugleich. Even compared to other socialist countries, the Polish path of transformation from one system to another was exceptional.
Political scientific literature indicates that the kind of breakthrough initiated by the Round Table talks was the one based on negotiation and a settlement among the elites. The agreement we are talking about is of course the … Read more.
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Tr nsit Online Authors Bradley F. Abrams History, Stanford University Read more. Seit wirkt er freischaffend als Sozialwissenschaftler und Publizist. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte sind Diskurs- und Kulturgeschichte der deutschen Zweistaatlichkeit und der ostdeutschen Transformation sowie die Generationengeschichte der DDR und Ostdeutschlands. History, Oxford Read more.