The “Mapping Crisis-Discourses in East Central Europe, 1918-2020” research project lasted for two years (2021-22) and was hosted by the Democracy Institute of the Central European University. It was itself a result of (institutional) crisis prompted by the recent expulsion of CEU’s teaching programs from Hungary. The situation was further aggravated by the COVID-19 crisis throughout most of the research phase, turning the planned workshops into never-ending zoom meetings. Militating against all these hardships, the participants created an intellectual community, involving leading authorities on the intellectual history of East Central Europe and dynamic younger scholars, bringing new insights and also new questions rooted in their own formative experience of crises.

The organizing team at Central European University (Vienna) and Democracy Institute (Budapest) included Balázs Trencsényi (Professor, History Department, lead researcher of “Democracy in History workgroup at Democracy Institute), and Ph.D. candidate historians Isidora Grubački, Lucija Balikić , Una Blagojević and Orsolya Anna Sudár.

The project’s main result is the “Never-Ending Story? Crisis Discourses in East Central Europe, 1918-2020” volume forthcoming by Routledge in early 2024. Consisting of two parts (I.Interwar Crises of the Body and the Soul and II. Crisis of Transitions From and to Socialism), this book provides long-term historical perspective on perceptions of crisis in East Central Europe and coping strategies.

Partners: CEU Democracy Institute and Intellectual History in East Central Europe


Edited by Balázs Trencsényi, Lucija Balikić, Una Blagojević, and Isidora Grubački



Part I. Interwar Crises of the Body and the Soul

  • Balázs Trencsényi: “Crisis without Catharsis? Crisis Discourses and the Problem of Modernity in Interwar East Central Europe”
  • Johannes Bent and Liisi Keedus: “Encounters with ‘German Crisis Literature’. Hungarian and Romanian Reviews of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West”
  • Suzana Vuljević: “Order Amid Chaos: The Crisis of Spirit and Pan-Balkan Solutions”
  • Lucija Balikić: “Coming of Age with Crisis: Discourses on the National Body in Youth Organizations of Interwar Yugoslavia and Hungary”
  • Kristina Andělová and Isidora Grubački: “Whose crisis? Feminism and democratic thinking in interwar period. Yugoslav and Czechoslovak entanglements”
  • Katherine Lebow: “Subjects of Crisis: Sociology, Autobiography, and the Great Depression in 1930s Poland”

Part II. Crises of Transition To and From Socialism

  • Olga Byrska: “Crisis, Revolution, Reconstruction? Immediate post-war debates on social and political transformation in Poland, 1944-46”
  • Julius Horvath: “Market Crisis and National Happiness: Study of the Slovak and Czech Responses to Crisis in the 20th Century”
  • Una Blagojević: “The Cunning of Crisis and the Yugoslav Marxist Humanists”
  • Stevo Đurašković: “Predrag Matvejević: Crisis of the Socialist Yugoslavia as a Crisis of Yugoslav Identity”
  • Benedek Pál: “Between Crisis and Reform: Critical Discourses on the Future of State Socialism in Hungary, 1980–87”
  • Marko Zajc: “Is Yugoslavia Without Crisis Even Possible? The Discourse of Crisis in the Political Thought of the Slovenian Intellectuals in the Second Half of the 1980s”
  • Viola Lászlófi: “The Crisis of Biopolitics or Biopoliticizing the Crisis? Discourses on Public Health (Care) and the Informal Payment in Late Socialist Hungary”
  • Martin Babička: “Sulphurous Atmosphere: Moral and Ecological Crisis around 1989”
  • Tjaša Konovšek: “Crisis as Political Critique: Slovenia, Post-communism, and the Conservative Turn”

Having a complex history, “crisis” has emerged as one of the pivotal notions of political modernity. Thus, reconstructing the ways the discourse of crisis functioned in various contexts and historical moments gives us a unique insight not only into a series of conceptual transformations but also the underlying logic of key political and intellectual controversies of the last two centuries. Studying the ways crisis was experienced, conceptualized, and negotiated can contribute to the understanding of how various visions of time and history shape political thinking and conversely, how political and social reconfigurations frame our assumptions about temporality and spatiality.

A historical region wedged in-between various competing imperial centers, East Central Europe has been a region often associated with crisis phenomena both by internal and external observers. Indeed, any project seeking to reconstruct how crisis was conceptualized and politically instrumentalized in Europe has to reflect on the omnipresence of crisis both in the space of experience and on the horizons of expectation of East Central Europeans. The present volume is no exception to this. [1]

Faced with various dynamics of transnational and transregional convergences and divergences, which made it possible to study this region by going beyond the conventional  East/West divide, scholarship on East Central Europe emerging after 2000 has aspired to transcend the confines of area studies altogether. The most promising way to do this has been analyzing the region both as an active partner in key European debates on politics, culture, and society as well as a laboratory of ideas emerging under particularly pressing conditions, comparable to other semi-peripheries outside of Europe.

Seeking to employ the regional gaze as a vantage point to reflect on issues which are relevant well beyond the zone of countries between the Baltic and the Adriatic, this project is also in dialogue with a number of recent transnational attempts to rethink political and intellectual history from the perspective of recurrent epistemological frames structuring the political and cultural debate.

[1] The editors are grateful the numerous colleagues who joined some of the meetings and shared their comments even if in the end they did not submit a study. Special thanks go to Orsolya Anna Sudár, who was part of the organizing team of the project. The initial funding in 2021 came from the research and travel fund of the Central European University.