Recent Pasts: Looking Backward, 2003-1933

Open to the Public
Friday, May 21, 2004 - 2:00pm
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Friday, May 21, 2004 - 2:00pm to Sunday, May 23, 2004 - 12:00pm

Central European University, Budapest

The Regional Seminar on Recent History organized by CEU's Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies ( continues with an international conference in Bucharest, in cooperation with the Romanian Institute for Recent History (IRIR), New Europe College (NEC), and the Institute for Political Research (ICP) of the University of Bucharest. Funding for the conference is secured by the Open Society Institute's Higher Education Support Program (HESP), and by Pasts, Inc. Conference logistical and additional administrative support is contributed by IRIR, NEC, and ICP.

The conference builds on the international seminar on "Recent History: The State of the Art" (Budapest, CEU, March 12-14, 2004), and a Curriculum Resource Center week-long session on Recent History (March 8-14, 2004). Other activities, ranging from lectures to conferences and to publications, are being planned over the next years. The whole Regional Seminar on Recent History, as well as other relevant CEU-based events and research projects, are a part of EURHIST XX, the largest European network specializing in recent history, coordinated by Sorin Antohi (CEU) and John Horne (Trinity College, Dublin).

While Western democracies were busy fighting the Cold War, the moral obligation of coping with their mid-twentieth century tragedies did not immediately result in concrete measures such as sustained, articulate legal action, bureaucratic policies, public debates, academic research, and (re)educational programs. A comparative history of the various path dependencies linking today's Western democracies to their recent past(s) is yet to be written. Nevertheless, the growing body of writings on Europe's recent history already suggests that, beyond local differences, a general pattern of distancing the past emerges, for which the inevitably special German case - an extreme variation on the Sonderweg theme - has provided the paradigmatic term: Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Distancing the past, coping with it psychologically, morally, metaphysically, dealing with it politically, legally, administratively, scholarly, on both individual and collective levels, proved to be a complex, lengthy, painful, controversial process.

Before 1989, the party-states of the ex-Soviet system were reaching into the private worlds of individual memory and were reigning supreme over a mutant public sphere, were rewriting history, were shaping and policing the canons of social memory. Half a generation later, in 2004, it is time to take stock: What do Eastern Europeans remember? How do they distance their past, and indeed their multiple pasts, since the East has to simultaneously distance interwar authoritarianisms and dictatorships, World War Two and the Holocaust, the Gulag and its satellites, the Cold War and Stalinism, the "thaw" and "socialism with a human face," "gulash communism" and "national communism," resistances to and collaboration with party-states, the enigmas and traumas of 1989, a frequently protracted "Transition"? How could one understand all this against the background of democratization, of the transgenerational and transnational dynamics of European integration?

For an in-depth, comparative, innovative discussion of such topics against the backdrop of Europe's recent history, this conference looks back (and backward) at seven decades of recent history, 2003-1933. The aftermath of World War I, with an emphasis on the rise of right-wing political radicalism and authoritarian/dictatorial regimes; World War II and its aftermath; the Sovietization of Central and Eastern Europe; the Cold War; the Revolutions of 1989, the demise of the Soviet Union, and the Transition, including the integration of new countries in the European Union; such events, processes, and phenomena will be critically examined, in order to better interpret the recent historical roots of that larger transformation we have come to call European integration, or the Europeanization of European history. Like most exercises in retrospective history, ours starts from the assumption that periods closer to us temporally (which sometimes also appear to be larger than more distant pasts) cannot be understood without a thorough understanding of previous periods.

This is an interdisciplinary conference, as recent history (the field and the object of research) is interdisciplinary. Thus, the conference brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines and academic cultures, not only historians and archivists; also, it welcomes public intellectuals and memorians - the civic activists of social memory; politicians and journalists, educationalists, etc.



May 21 (Friday)
New Europe College, 21 Plantelor St.

14:00-16:00 Panel 1: Making Sense of Recent Pasts
Chair: Andrei Plesu
Sorin Antohi: Recent History in Europe: Distancing Multiple Recent Pasts
Jürgen Kocka: Dealing with Difficult Pasts: German Experiences after 1945 and 1960

16:00-16:30 Coffee Break

16:30-18:30 Panel 2: Competing Canons of Memory
Chair: Dragos Petrescu

Tamás Kende: The Revelation of Necessity: Attempts to Re-formulate Party Histories in the 1980s
Cristina Petrescu: Who Was the First in Transylvania? The Clash of Two Historical Narratives
H.-R. Patapievici: The shortcomings of a law, the complicity of a society
Patrik Dubovsky: The Slovak Institute of National Memory and Its Archives

19:00 Reception offered by the New Europe College


May 22 (Saturday)
Institute for Political Research, 8 Spiru Haret St.

9:00-11:00 Panel 3: Making Sense of the Present, Remembering and Teaching Pasts
Chair: Sorin Antohi
Jörn Rüsen: Trauma and Mourning - two new categories of historical sense generation
Hanna Schissler: World History: Making Sense of the Present. Deliberations on Curricula and Textbook Development
Maciej Górny: History Textbooks in Poland
Mirela Murgescu: History Teaching and History Textbooks in Romania
Harald Welzer: Reshaping the Past to Become a Victim: Some Remarks about German Memory Culture

11:00-11:30 Coffee Break

11:30-13:30 Panel 4: The Afterlife of Distant and Recent Pasts
Chair: Alexandru Zub
Mihai Chioveanu: The Deadlock of Memory: The Revival of Marshal Antonescu's Myth
Slobodan Markovic: Titoism in Serbia: Between Glorification and Contempt
Razvan Pârâianu: Racial Thinking in Modern Romanian Culture and Politics
Eric Weaver: Madness in the Media: Political Extremism and Beliefs in Historical Primacy
Igor Casu: Borderland Identities and "the Invention of Tradition:" The Case of Soviet Moldavia

13:30-15:00 Lunch Break

15:00-17:00 Panel 5: Pasts Revisited
Chair: Maciej Górny
Péter Apor: On the Deconstruction of Communist Historiography
Wolfgang Bialas: East German Pasts Reconsidered
Blazej Brztosek: Victims or Accomplices? Looking at Postwar Poland
Kostadin Grozev: Cold War Stereotypes and Historical Facts from the 1970s and 1980s in Newly Declassified Documents

17:00-17:30 Coffee Break

17:30-19:45 Panel 6: Communism's Decline, Fall, and Aftermath
Chair: Daniel Barbu
Dragos Petrescu: Interpreting the 1989 Revolutions
Krzysztof Brzechczyn: The Visions of Communism and the Mechanism of Its Collapse
Siarhei Zhmurouski: Theorizing the Psychological Peculiarities of Political Behavior in Anti-Soviet Revolutions
Vladislav B. Sotirovic: Emigration, Refugees, and Ethnic Cleansing during Yugoslavia's Disintegration
Nadia Boyadjieva: Restructuring and Rethinking the International Order after 1989

20:00 Dinner

May 23 (Sunday)
Romanian Institute for Recent History (IRIR), 18 Matei Voievod St.

10:00-11:30 Panel 7: The Future of Recent Pasts
Chair: Sorin Antohi

General Discussion

Follow-up strategy of the Regional Seminar on Recent History, further connections to Pasts, Inc., and EURHIST XX.

City Tour (optional)




  • Sorin Antohi, CEU University Professor; Director, Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies, Budapest
  • Péter Apor, Junior Research Fellow, Pasts, Inc.
  • Daniel Barbu, Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest; Director, the Institute for Political Research (ICP)
  • Wolfgang Bialas, Research Fellow, Kulturwissenschaftliches-Institut (KWI), Essen
  • Nadia Boyadjieva, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Plovdiv
  • Krzysztof Brzechczyn, Associate Professor, Adam Miczkiewicz University of Poznan
  • Blazej Brzostek, Doctoral Candidate, University of Warsaw, Insitute of History
  • Igor Casu, Associate Professor, Moldova State University, Chishinev
  • Mihai Chioveanu, Doctoral Candidate, CEU
  • Maciej Górny, Research Fellow, Institute of History, Warsaw
  • Kostadin Grozev, Professor, University of Sofia
  • Patrik Dubovsky, Archivist, Institute for National Memory, Bratislava
  • Tamás Kende, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Political History, Budapest
  • Jürgen Kocka, President, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung; President of the International Committee of Historical Sciences
  • Slobodan Markovic, Research Fellow, Institute for European Studies, Belgrade
  • Mirela Murgescu, Associate Professor, Faculty of History, University of Bucharest
  • H.-R. Patapievici, Member of the Board, National Council for the Study of the Securitate Archives (CNSAS)
  • Razvan Pârâianu, Doctoral Candidate, CEU
  • Cristina Petrescu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest
  • Dragos Petrescu, Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest; Director, the Romanian Institute of Recent History (IRIR)
  • Andrei Plesu, Rector, New Europe College, Bucharest
  • Jörn Rüsen, President, KWI, Essen
  • Hanna Schissler, Senior Research Fellow, Georg-Eckert-Institut für Internationale Schulbuchforschung, Braunschweig; Visiting Professor, CEU
  • Vladislav B. Sotirovic, Associate Professor, Faculty of History, Faculty of Philology, Vilnius University
  • Eric Weaver, Junior Fellow, St. Antony`s College, University of Oxford
  • Harald Welzer, Professor, Universität Witten-Herdecke; Research Fellow, KWI
  • Siarhei Zhmurouski, Associate Professor, State Pedagogical University, Minsk
  • Alexandru Zub, Director, A. D. Xenopol Institute of History, Iasi