Shared/Entangled Histories: Comparative Perspectives on Hungary and Romania
The collapse of communist regimes in East-Central Europe has inaugurated sweeping economic and socio-political changes, marked by the conversion of state economies into market economies, political liberalization and democratization, and integration into European and Euro-Atlantic security and political organizations. These changes have also affected the pattern of interstate relations in the region. Countries in East-Central Europe are today linked by a dense network of inter-governmental agreements, which have worked for changing the nature of interstate relations by fostering cooperation rather than conflict.
The relationship between Romania and Hungary is illustrative in this respect, having undergone a spectacular evolution in the last two decades, from intense diplomatic conflict to collaboration and politico-military partnership. Stimulated by the process of European integration, the political elites from the two countries have fostered political and economic interdependence. Nevertheless, promoted mainly at the level of political elites in the two countries and fulfilled under the decisive influence of the international community, the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation needs to be supplemented with, and consolidated by, a real and continuous dialogue and change of images at the level of cultural production or public opinion in the two countries.
Addressing the problem of lack of intensive mutual collaboration and communication between Romanian and Hungarian intellectuals, the current project aims at bringing together scholars from the two countries focusing on the Romanian-Hungarian bilateral relations and shared/entangled history in the united Europe. As the success of the post-1945 “historical reconciliation” between France and Germany after WWII shows, the way of overcoming the conflicting legacies inherent in the mutually traumatic perceptions of the others is to create a multi-layered framework of intercultural dialogue and exchange, involving different groups and widening the channels of interaction.
The current project aims at fostering new research on the shared history of Hungary and Romania by employing relational and transnational approaches, as part of a more general effort to rewrite continental history from an integrated perspective. East-Central European countries share a common historical past that goes far back in time to enduring medieval and early modern imperial legacies. After 1945, they experienced similar strategies of communist modernization, and a forceful integration into a common military and economic block. Post-communist countries in the region are now facing similar socio-political challenges. Despite these similarities, scholars in the region continue to focus on their ‘own’ national histories, and have relatively limited knowledge of—or openness toward—the historical experience of their neighbors.
Participants to the project are encouraged to relate to a broader historical discourse that transcends national lines of reference, by integrating new regional, continental, or global perspectives, in the light of recent trends in comparative, entangled, transnational, and regional history. A transnational and regional(ist) reconceptualization of the history of East-Central Europe would have a refreshing impact on the writing of European history as well. Currently, European history writing is in a process of transformation, moving away from its concentration on the historical experience of Western Europe and toward considering the history of ‘peripheral’ areas. Countries in East-Central Europe can actively contribute to enhancing the plurality of historical and cultural experiences defying “Europeanness” and European values, by promoting a more integrative perspective.
The first event of the project: Cluj, 12-14 September 2008