“Lost in Transition” – Closing conference

On March 3-4, 2023, the Democracy in History working group hosted the closing conference of a four-years long (2019-2023) research project entitled Lost in Transition: Social Sciences, Scenarios of Transformation, and Cognitive Dissonances in East Central Europe after 1989 coordinated by the Centre for Advanced Study in Sofia, financed by the Porticus Foundation. DI’s lead researchers Violeta Zentai and Balázs Trencsényi served as senior facilitators in the project which placed place the current anti-liberal and anti-democratic backlash in Eastern Europe, into a comparative historical perspective.

The Historical Construction of National Consciousness – Book launch

A new English translation of selected writings by the famous Hungarian historian of Central Europe (and this concept) Jenő Szűcs (1928-1988) was recently published by CEU Press. The editors and translators of the volume are CEU professors Gábor Klaniczay, Balázs Trencsényi and Gábor Gyáni. The book was launched at CEU’s Budapest campus (and online) on December 1 with a discussion with CEU Press director Emily Poznanski and the the volume’s editors and several other historians. The participants reflected on the importance of the historical work of Szűcs and on the role of translation in the dissemination of academic books. At several occasions during Szűcs’s lifetime, the pioneering nature of his research and publications remained under-appreciated by the international academic community, because by the time they were published in French and German, they had almost become outdated. Thanks to CEU Press, the entire volume is available online with open access.

Book cover image: https://ceupress.com/article/2022-11-28/book-launch-historical-construction-national-consciousness-selected-writings

The volume’s editors discussing the legacy of Jenő Szűcs:

(Photos by the Democracy in History working group)

Gábor Gyáni, Gábor Klaniczay, Balázs Trencsényi (from the left)
Gábor Gyáni, Gábor Klaniczay, Balázs Trencsényi (from the left)

Sport and politics conference

Image: http://polhist.hu/programok2/sport-es-politika-a-20-szazadban/

On the 15th of November we hosted a conference (in Hungarian) co-organized by the Institute of Political History and CEU’s Democracy Institute about the popular and timely topic of the relationship of sports and politics. The lectures concentrated on the 20th century, several of them on the role of sports in Cold War politics. Balázs Trencsényi and Ágnes Kelemen from the Democracy Institute’s working group served as panel chairs. The last panel of the event was a roundtable discussion by Róbert Takács historian, Péter Pető and Viktor Egri journalists and Ferenc Dénes sport economist where mainly the football world championship of 2022 and the current Hungarian government’s sport-related policies were discussed. The video recording of the roundtable is available at the YouTube channel of the Institute of Political History.

History as Democracy: Historian as an Enemy – History Between Professionalism and Patriotism


The Democracy in History Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute invites you to a conversation with Dubravka Stojanović.

Moderators: Marko Milošev, Ivana Mihaela Žimbrek, PhD candidates, Department of History, CEU

Zoom link:


Meeting ID: 966 0717 6447

Passcode: 234093


The imperative that historians intellectually participate in the public sphere and contribute to the wider community often comes with risks when their interpretations are at odds with the broader political framework and dominant historical narratives. In her active career as an academic historian and public intellectual in Serbia, Dubravka Stojanović has dealt with issues of democracy in Serbia and the Balkans and (mis)uses of history in education and public discourse. In conversation with her, we will examine the position of historians in the academic and public sphere in Serbia and Southeastern Europe as well as the benefits and dangers that this position brings in relation to different historiographical interpretations and political circumstances.


Dubravka Stojanović is a Serbian historian, and professor at University of Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy. She is a vice-president of the Thessaloniki based History Education Committee organized by the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe as well as a consultant of the United Nations on the issues of misuses of history in education. Her primary fields of interest are processes of modernization in Southeast Europe, democratization in Serbia, history of Belgrade, historical memory and presentations of history in history textbooks.

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.

History as Democracy: Memory Cultures of Social Democracy and Trade Unionism


The Democracy in History Workgroup of the CEU Democracy Institute invites you to a conversation with Stefan Berger.

Moderator: Jelena Tešija, PhD candidate, Department of History, CEU

RSVP at democracyinhistory@ceu.edu

Please note that it’s an online event. You will be able to follow it here.


Social Democracy is sometimes used to describe a family of political parties. However, it can also be seen as a political outlook which seeks to extend democracy to the social and economic spheres. It stands as a historically important addition to the tradition of political democracy. Between 2017 and 2021 Stefan Berger chaired a commission of the German Trade Union Confederation (DGB) on the topic of ‘Memory Cultures of Social Democracy’. The task was to examine knowledge on those memory cultures in Germany, locate the specific gaps, and assess how useful memory cultures were as a political resource for the contemporary trade union movement. In this conversation, Berger will present some of the key results of the commission’s work and report on some of the initiatives that have been taken since to strengthen the memory cultures of social democracy, both in Germany and transnationally. Together we will examine how memory historians can be active as engaged historians and intellectuals intervening in public political discourses and discuss the merits of such engaged history writing, which has a long tradition in relation to the history of the labor movement.


Stefan Berger is a Full Professor of Social History and Director of the Institute for Social Movements at Ruhr Universität Bochum in Germany. He is also executive chair of the Foundation History of the Ruhr – a public-private foundation with support from major German companies, trade unions, and the state of North-Rhine Westphalia. Furthermore, he is an honorary professor at Cardiff University in the UK. After taking his Ph.D. at the University of Oxford, he worked for more than 20 years at different British universities. His last position was Professor of Modern German and Comparative European History at the University of Manchester. In 2011 he moved to Bochum. He has published widely on the history of the labor movement, social movements, the history of deindustrialization, industrial heritage, memory studies, nationalism studies, the history of historiography, and historical theory. To date, he has published 7 monographs and edited more than 40 special issues of journals and edited collections. His most recent monograph is: History and Identity: How Historical Theory Shapes Historical Practice, Cambridge University Press, 2022.

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.