When the Berlin Wall fell, pundits and politicians alike proclaimed the triumph of democracy, as well as the emergence of a united Europe. Others hailed the "end of history" of wars, rebellions and human suffering caused by authoritarian forms of government. Yet the transition has proven difficult for several of the region’s multiethnic societies, especially in the Yugoslav and Soviet successor states. Although much has been achieved over the last two decades, both policymakers and the public at large would benefit from a deeper understanding of residual structural realities that have complicated the former Communist Bloc’s integration into the European Union. The talk will focus on three factors that have made for a difficult transition, namely (1) the triumph of the nation state in central Europe’s multicultural societies, (2) the failure to grasp the complexity of democratic values and institutions, both by policymakers in the West and by elites within the newly emerging democracies, and (3) the persistence of tendentious national historical narratives that perpetuate tensions between and within several countries. It will also discuss the limitations of the international community as well as indigenous politicians in implementing systemic solutions.
Charles Ingrao is Professor of History at Purdue University and has held visiting appointments at Brown, Cambridge, Chicago, Indiana and Washington. He has served as Editor of The Austrian History Yearbook (1995-2006), Senior Editor of the Purdue University Press’s Central European Studies book series (1997), and Director of the Scholars’ Initiative (2001-). His publications include three authored books in early modern history, including The Habsburg Monarchy, 1618-1815 (1994, 2nd ed. 2000), and seven scholarly collections, including State & Society in Early Modern Austria (1994), A Guide to East-Central European Archives (1998), The Germans and the East (2007), and Confronting the Yugoslav Controversies: a Scholars’ Initiative (2009). Since 1995 his work has focused primarily on ethnic coexistence and conflict in modern central and southeastern Europe, during which time he has made over 40 trips to the Yugoslav successor states and presented over 80 public lectures and seminars to university, governmental and military audiences throughout North America and central Europe, and has been a regular commentator for print, radio and television media, including The News Hour with Jim Lehrer (PBS), Voice of America, BBC, and The New York Times.
The lecture is organized in the framework of the student conference "Studying Overlapping Territories/Canons/Identities:
Comparative Perspectives on East Central Europe" hosted by the History Department and Pasts, Inc. Center for Historical Studies and supported by the CEU-HESP Comparative History Project.