Storms over the Balkans during the Second World War – book launch

CEU professors Balázs Trencsényi (who is also the leader of the “Democracy in History” working group at CEU’s Democracy Institute) and Constantin Iordachi presented a new book by Professor Alfred J. Rieber at CEU’s Budapest campus on October 18 in dicussion with the author.

In his book, Rieber provides a new interpretation of the history of the Balkans during the Second World War by exploring the tangled political rivalries, cultural clashes, and armed conflicts among the great powers and the indigenous people competing for influence and domination. The study takes an original approach to the region based on the geography, social conditions, and imperial rivalries that spans several centuries, culminating in three wars during the first half of the twentieth century. Against this background, Rieber focuses on leadership – personified by Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Churchill, and Tito – as the key to explaining events. For each one the Balkans represented a strategic prize vital for the fulfilment of their ambitious war aims. For the local forces the destabilization of the war offered the opportunity to reorder societies, expel ethnic minorities, and expand national borders.

New workshops of the ‘Mapping Crisis’ project

After the winter break, the project “Mapping Crisis Discourses in East Central Europe, 1918-2020” continues with its series of workshops where the project participants showcased the initial findings of their studies on their research topics.

January 28, 2022

Liisi Keedus (Tallinn University) and Johannes Bent (Tallinn University): “Encounters with “German Crisis Literature”. Hungarian and Romanian Reviews of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West.

Balázs Trencsényi (Central European University): Framing the Crisis of Capitalism – National Asymmetries and Transnational Connectivities in Interwar Europe

April 8, 2022

Tjaša Konovšek (Institute for Contemporary History, Ljubljana): Crisis as Political Critique: Slovenia, Post-Communism, and the Conservative Turn.

Julius Horvath (Central European University): Differences in Czech and Slovak Responses to Economic Crisis in Former Czechoslovakia.

Historians and Transitional Justice – Conversation with Vladimir Petrović

The second event of the History as Democracy? project was held online, and moderated by PhD candidate Marko Milošev on 13 December, 2021.

Working through the legacy of the authoritarian regimes became a global promise with the end of the Cold War. From South American military juntas to Eastern European communist nomenclaturas and war criminals of the Yugoslav wars and Rwanda, a number of measures were introduced to such an end, ranging from international and national trials and truth commissions, lustrations for perpetrators and reparations for their victims. Under the umbrella term transitional justice, such a toolkit was promising not only to punish past violations, but also to consolidate democratic order through stabilizing its institutions, fostering rule of law, promoting human rights, putting an end to impunity, and preventing future abuse of power. As we know only too well now, this path proved to be anything but straightforward. Powerful tensions arose between the concepts of justice, truth, peace, and reconciliation. They came to full prominence with global erosion of liberal democratic values and resurfacing of power politics. Against this global backlash, together we will examine its local dynamics, discussing specifically the roles historians did and did not, could have and still can play in this process of massive reexamination of the past.       
Vladimir Petrović researches mass political violence and strategies of confrontation with its legacy. He graduated from Comparative history of Central and Southeastern Europe at the Central European University. His book The Emergence of Historical Forensic Expertise: Clio takes the Stand (Routledge, 2017) examines the role of historians and social scientists as expert witnesses in some of the most dramatic legal encounters of the 20th century. Petrovic was himself working in this intersection between history and law, both in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and in the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office. He published extensively on ethnic cleansing in the Balkans and attempts to undo its legacy, as well as on the history of nonalignment during the Cold War. He is a Senior Researcher at the Institute for Contemporary History in Belgrade.

Memory Politics and Democracy: Remembering Civil Wars in Austria, Spain and Greece

The History as Democracy? event series was launched on October 28, 2021 at the CEU campus in Budapest wth the roundtable titled “Memory Politics and Democracy: Remembering Civil Wars in Austria, Spain, and Greece”. Roundtable participants were Julian Casanova (University of Zaragoza, Spain; CEU, Vienna), Kostis Karpzilos (Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI), Athens) and Florian Wenniger (Institute for Historical Social Research (IHSF), Vienna), while the moderator was Elisabeth Luif (CEU).

Civil Wars have not only significantly shaped the European continent of the 20th century, their complicated legacy also follows us into the 21st century. The question of how to interpret and remember these conflicts remains contested until today. Such controversies are not confined to history in a narrow sense but are connected to present-day political conflicts and reflect different understandings of democracy. In the kick-off event of our public series, we will take a comparative look at the civil wars in Austria (1934), Spain (1936–39), and Greece (1946–49). We have invited three eminent specialists to give a short overview on ongoing public and historiographical debates for each country case. Then, we will discuss together what our role as historians is, not only for investigating the past, but in current debates, and how history as an academic discipline and public discourse may contribute to open and democratic societies.

Julián Casanova is Professor of Contemporary History at the University of Zaragoza and Visiting Professor at the Central European University in Vienna/Budapest. Kostis Karpozilos is the director of the Contemporary Social History Archives (ASKI) in Athens. Florian Wenninger is the Director of the Institute for Historical Social Research (IHSF), Vienna. Elisabeth Luif is a doctoral candidate at the Department of History at Central European University, Vienna/Budapest.

Mapping Crisis: Project Workshops

A series of online workshops organized as a part of the Mapping Crisis project, where members present the initial findings of their research.

June 11, 2021

Suzana Vuljević (Columbia University): “Order Amid Chaos: The Crisis of Spirit and Pan-Balkan Solutions”

Olga Byrska (EUI): “Crisis and revolution. The case of Jerzy Borejsza”

October 8, 2021

Lucija Balikić (CEU): “Discourses of crisis of the national body in youth organizations of interwar Hungary and Yugoslavia (1930–1944)”

Isidora Grubački (CEU): “Feminist discourses on political crisis in Yugoslavia in the 1920s”

November 5, 2021

Martin Babička (University of Oxford): “Sulphurous Atmosphere: Ecological and moral crisis around 1989”
Una Blagojević (CEU): “The Cunning of Crisis and the Yugoslav Marxist Humanists”