Balázs Trencsényi


Contact information

Budapest, Nador u. 13
+36 1 327 6146

I am a historian of East Central European political and cultural thought. In many ways, I am the product of the unique intellectual atmosphere of CEU, not only in an institutional sense, but also in terms of representing the generation of Eastern European historians who came to maturity after 1989. We sought to transcend the traditional nation-centered frameworks of scholarship and to come to terms with the multiple layers of intertwining pasts in the region, placing all this into a common European framework. Both my Ph.D. dissertation (which compared the Hungarian and British discourses of collective identity in the early-modern period, looking at the “discourses of nationhood” before modern nationalism) and my subsequent research (on the discourses of national specificity in interwar Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary in the context of the changing European cultural and political atmosphere after 1918) were based on a synoptic perspective, placing the East Central European intellectual phenomena in a multi-layered transnational comparative setting.

Taking the opportunity of this regional opening, and also assuming the task of facilitating the dialogue of historical traditions which apparently conflicted with each other, from the very beginning of my studies I aimed at developing a comparative and transnational expertise. Being situated in a peculiar regional framework of overlapping national projects, this trans-national embeddedness has a double direction: on the one hand, the need to compare and “negotiate” cases within the region and, on the other hand, to compare the region to Western European an global contexts. Thus, in the last decade and a half, I participated in many research projects concerning the comparative history of Central and Southeast-European political discourses in a broader framework. The research ventures where I was among the initiators, such as Regional Identity Discourses in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945)We, the People: Visions of National Peculiarity and Political Modernities in the Europe of Small Nations; The Intellectual History of Patriotism and the Legacy of Composite States in East-Central EuropeRegimes of Historicity and Discourses of Modernity and Identity in East-Central, Southeast and Northern Europe, 1900-1945; and European Regions and Boundaries. A Conceptual History, broadened my horizons of comparative research and also gave me a rich experience of participating in and managing collaborative projects.

My most formative experience of transnational research was the European Research Council project, “Negotiating Modernity”: History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe (, which I coordinated for 5 years. Its principal aim was creating a synthetic overview of the history of modern political thought in East Central Europe based on a diachronic analysis especially sensitive to transnational discursive phenomena (e.g. the ideological traditions transcending national borders such as liberalism, socialism, conservatism, federalism), while being equally open to supra-national and sub-national (regional) frameworks, where different national projects were interacting. The first volume resulting from this project, A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. Volume I: Negotiating Modernity in the 'Long Nineteenth Century' came out in 2016, the second  (in two parts) in 2018: A History of Modern Political Thought in East Central Europe. Volume II: Negotiating Modernity in the 'Short Twentieth Century' and Beyond, Part I: 1918-1968 and Part II: 1968-2018..

As for teaching, I have been offering a series of courses drawing on the results of the transnational projects I have been involved in, such as mapping the period of "National Revivals" in Central and Southeast-Europe, analyzing the emergence and modalities of  “Political Modernity” as well as the anti-modernist ideological trends of the interwar period. In addition, I have taught a number of classes linked to methodological questions, both on graduate and postgraduate levels, ranging from introductory courses on interdisciplinary methodologies, to historiographical debates on ethnicity and nationhood in pre-modern and modern contexts, problems of transnational and global history, and the analysis of various paradigms of intellectual history that emerged in the region during the communist and post-communist periods. Last but not least, I have an interest in the history of alternative culture and for years we have been offering with Gábor Klaniczay a course on counter-cultural movements in East Central Europe during “late socialism”, which went beyond the conventional format of historical seminars and opened the classroom to multimedia (film screenings, music, theatre, exhibitions) sources.

Between 2017 and 2020 I served as head of the History Department, between 2019 and 2023 I directed the History in the Public Sphere Erasmus Mundus + Program. Since 2006, I also serve as co-director of Pasts Inc., Center for Historical Studies. From March 2022, I am co-organizing the Invisible University for Ukraine project. Since September 2023 I serve as the Director of CEU Institute for Advanced Study in Budapest.


Fellowships and Awards:

2020 Fellow of Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and Centre Marc Bloch Berlin (6 months)

2014-2015 Fellow of Imre Kertész Kolleg, Friedrich Schiller Universität Jena (10 months)

2011 Elected member of Academia Europaea

2008-2013 European Research Council Starting Independent Researcher Grant (60 months)

2008 Associate Fellow of the project “Regimes of Historicity and Discourses of Modernity and Identity in East-Central, Southeast and Northern Europe, hosted by CAS Sofia (6 months)

2005 Junior Fellow at Collegium Budapest (for 3 months)

2004 “We the People” Junior Fellow at Collegium Budapest/CAS Sofia (6 months)

2003 International Visegrad Fund Research Grant (for 10 months)

2003 Central European University, Academic Excellence Award

2003 Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Andrew W. Mellon-Fellowship (for 3 months)

2002 IWM, Vienna, Junior Visiting Fellowship (for 6 months)

2001 Centre for Advanced Study, Sofia, Associate Fellow of the NEXUS Project (for 10 months)

1999 British Council/Open Society Institute Scholarship Grant; University of Cambridge Visiting Fellowship (for 10 months)

Selected Publications:


Edited volumes:

Articles and book chapters:

  • Constantin Iordachi and Balázs Trencsényi:In Search of a Usable Past: The Question of National Identity in Romanian Studies, 1990-2000,” East European Politics and Societies (2003/3), pp. 415-453.
  • “Conceptual History and Political Languages: On the Central-European Adaptation of the Contextualist-Conceptualist  Methodologies of Intellectual History” in: Petr Roubal and Václav Veber, eds., Prague Perspectives. Studies in Central and Eastern Europe (Prague: Klementinum, 2004), 142-166.
  • Maciej Janowski, Constantin Iordachi, and Balázs Trencsényi: “Why Bother About Historical Regions? Debates Over Central Europe in Hungary, Poland and Romania,” East Central Europe, 2005/1-2., pp. 5-58.
  • László Kontler and Balázs Trencsényi: “Hungary,” in: Glenn Burgess, Howell Lloyd, Simon Hodson, eds., Religion, Law and Philosophy: European Political Thought, 1450-1700 (New Haven: Yale UP, 2008), pp. 176-207.
  • “History and Character: Visions of National Peculiarity in the Romanian Political Discourse of the Nineteenth-Century,” in: Diana Mishkova, ed., “We, The People” – Politics of National Peculiarity in Southeast Europe (Budapest: CEU Press, 2009), pp. 139-178.
  • “Writing the Nation and Reframing Early Modern Intellectual History in Hungary,” in: Studies in East European Thought 62, 2010, pp. 135-154.
  • “The Conceptualization of National Character in the Romanian Intellectual Tradition,” in Armin Heinen, Victor Neumann, eds., Key Concepts of Romanian History. Alternative Approaches to Socio-Political Languages (CEU Press, 2013), pp. 333-376.
  • “Relocating Ithaca: Alternative Antiquities in Modern Bulgarian Political Discourse,” in Gábor Klaniczay and Michael Werner, eds., Multiple Antiquities - Multiple Modernities: Ancient Histories in Nineteenth Century European Cultures (Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2011), 247-278.
  • “Balkans Baedecker for Übermensch Tourists: Janko Janev’s Popular Historiosophy,” in Stefan Berger, Chris Lorenz, Billie Melman eds., Popularizing National Pasts. 1800 to the Present (London: Routledge, 2012), pp. 149-168.
  • Diana Mishkova, Bo Stråth, and Balázs Trencsényi, “Regional History as a ‘Challenge’ to the National Frameworks of Historiography: The Case of Central, Southeast, and Northern Europe,” in Matthias Middell and Lluis Roura y Aulinas, eds., World, Global and European Histories as Challenges to National Representations of the Past, vol. 4. of the Writing the Nation Series (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).
  • “Afterlife or Reinvention? ‘National Essentialism’ in Romania and Hungary after 1945,” in Anders Blomqvist, Constantin Iordachi, Balázs Trencsényi, eds., Hungary and Romania Beyond National Narratives: Comparisons and Entanglements (Peter Lang, 2013), 515-568.
  • “Beyond Liminality? The Kulturkampf of the early 2000s in East Central Europe,” in Boundary2 (2014/1), 135-152.
  • “Transcending Modernity: Agrarian Populist Visions of Collective Regeneration in Interwar East Central Europe,” in Diana Mishkova, Balázs Trencsényi, Marja Jalava, eds., "Regimes of Historicity" in Southeastern and Northern Europe. Discourses of Identity and Temporality 1890-1945. (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 119-145.
  • “Strange Bedfellows: Turanism, Eurasianism, and the Hungarian Radical Right,” in The Politics of Eurasianism: Identity, Culture and Russia's Foreign Policy, ed. by Mark Bassin and Gonzalo Pozo (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 243-262.
  • “Transit wohin? Die Rückkehr der Geschichte, nachdem sie eine Weile als vermisst galt,” Transit 50 (Sommer 2017): 72-85.
  • “Thinking Dangerously: Political Thought in Twentieth-Century East Central Europe,” in The Routledge History Handbook of Central and Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century, Vol. 3 Intellectual Horizons, edited by Włodzimierz Borodziej, Ferenc L. Laczó, and Joachim von Puttkamer (Routledge, 2020), 69-131.
  • “Interwar Ideas and Images of Nation, Class, and Gender,” in John R. Lampe and Ulf Brunnbauer, eds., The Routledge Handbook of Balkan and Southeast European History (Routledge, 2020), 213-222.
  • “Politics of History and Authoritarian Regime-Building in Hungary,” in Niels F. May and Thomas Maissen, eds., National History and New Nationalism in the Twenty-First Century. A Global Comparison (New York and London: Routledge, 2021), 171-189.

Professional Activities:

2021 -    Group leader of the Democracy in History working group at CEU Democracy Institute

2021-2023  Principal investigator of the cluster “Crises of Democratization” of the CIVICA project on “Democracy and Its Discontents. A Historical Examination of the Current Predicament of Democracy” (2021-2023), a collaborative network of LSE, Sciences Po, Bocconi, EUI, and CEU

2021-2022 Convener of the research network, "Neverending Story? Mapping Crisis Discourses in East Central Europe, 1918–2020" (at CEU Democracy Institute)

2012-2014 Together with Diana Mishkova, convener of the project “European Regions and Boundaries. A Conceptual History,” hosted by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia, supported by the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft

2008-2013 Recipient of the European Research Council Starting Independent Researcher Grant as Principal Investigator of the project, “Negotiating Modernity”: History of Modern Political Thought in East-Central Europe,” hosted by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia in cooperation with CEU

2006-2009 Participant in Team 3: “National Histories and its Interrelation with Regional, European and World Histories” of the project “Representations of the Past: The Writing of National Histories in Europe” supported by the European Science Foundation

2006-2010 Coordinator (with P. Apor and C. Iordachi) of the “CEU-HESP Comparative History Project.

2005-2007 Convener of the project, “The Intellectual History of Patriotism and the Legacy of Composite States in East-Central Europe,” supported by the CEU Research Board

2003-2005 Research associate and co-author of the international research project, “We, the People,” bringing together East-Central and Northern-European researchers, launched by CAS Sofia

2001-05 Participating in the “Religion, Law and Philosophy: European Political Thought 1450-1700,” project

2001 Founding member of the international research group “Regional Identity Discourses in Central and Southeast Europe (1775-1945),” supported by the Prince Bernhard Foundation (The Netherlands), and CAS Sofia.

Co-organized international workshops and conferences in cooperation with Concepta. International Research School in Conceptual History and Political Thought; the University of Freiburg; Oslo University; New Europe College Bucharest; Princeton University; the Study Platform on Interlocking Nationalisms (Huizinga Institute, The Netherlands); the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia; EUI Florence; IWM Vienna; EHESS Paris; Södertörn University College; ZVGE Berlin; and Sabancı University Istanbul.

Editor of the periodical East Central Europe (Brill Publishers) and co-editor of the Hungarian cultural monthly 2000. Acting as Board member of Concepta, East European Politics and Societies, and peer-reviewer for the journals Totalitarian Movements and Political ReligionsJournal of Political Ideologies; European Review of History; Angelaki: journal of the theoretical humanitiesContributions to the History of Concepts; as well as for the European Research Council; the European Science Foundation, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), the Council for the Humanities of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, The American Academy in Berlin, EURIAS, OTKA (Hungarian Scientific Research Fund), and the Agency for Science and Higher Education of the Republic of Croatia.

Courses taught in the previous years:


  • Blagojevic, Una: Historicizing Marxist Humanism: The Yugoslav Praxis School, 1964–1974 (current)
  • Balikic, Lucija, Molding the National Body: Intellectual History of the Sokol Movement in Interwar Yugoslavia (current)
  • Cirjan, Mihai-Dan: Peasant Indebtedness and Credit Relations in the aftermath of the Great Depression: Reinventing the State by Governing Economic Life in Post-liberal Romania (1929-1944) (current)
  • Grubacki, Isidora: An Intellectual, Organizational and Transnational History of Feminism in Interwar Yugoslavia (1918-1941) (current) --co-supervision with Francisca de Haan
  • Ibragimova, Elvira : Unrealized and Unrealizable: Architectural Projects and Ideas in Interwar Belgrade and Zagreb (current)
  • Jansky, Jonas Our town’s islands of positive deviancy: Olomouc and Nitra between 1985-1992 (current)
  • Pál, Benedek: Intellectual Discourses on the Crisis of “Existing Socialism” in Poland and Hungary 1975-1989 (current)
  • Pojar, Vojtech: Medical Experts and the Urban Experience in Budapest, Lemberg and Prague, 1914-1918 (current)
  • Bari, Bence: Trans(national) Concepts of Self-Determination and the Future of Central Europe in the Late First World War, 1917–1918 (2023)
  • Kubekas, ViliusThe Quest for Unity in a Time of Crisis:  Catholic Intellectuals and the Challenges of Political Modernity in Interwar Lithuania (2023)
  • Krizmanics, Réka:  Fruitful Inconsistencies: Historical Knowledge Production in Late Socialist Hungary and Croatia (2020)
  • Hincu, Adela: Accounting for "the Social" in State Socialist Romania, 1960s–1980s: Contexts and Genealogies (2019)
  • Berecz, Ágoston: Chapters From the Political Life of Names: The Nationalization of Names and Naming in Dualist Hungary (2017)
  • Szele, ÁronThe Arrow Cross: The Ideology of Hungarian Fascism (2015)
  • Lóránd, Zsófia: Learning a Feminist Language: The Intellectual History of Feminism in Yugoslavia in the 1970s and 1980s (2015)
  • Iacob, Bogdan Cristian: Stalinism, Historians, and the Nation: History-production under Communism in Romania (1955-1966) (2011)
  • Falina, Maria: Pyrrhic Victory: East Orthodox Christianity, Politics and Serbian Nationalism in the Interwar Period (2011)


Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, Hungary, MA in Philosophy, 1997
Invisible College, Budapest, Hungary, 1991-1997
Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, MA in Nationalism Studies, 1998
Central European University, Budapest, Hungary, Ph.D. in Comparative History, 2004

File Attachments