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History After the Fall - Objectives

One of the aims of the collaborative work is to involve large groups of university students from the countries of the former Communist world, who would work together and under the guidance of scholars from different countries. The collaboration could itself set an example for future researchers and academics of how to work on sensitive, even explosive issues without turning scholarly questions into dangerous political weapons.

The participants are interested in the way different themes and aspects of the history of the twentieth century became rewritten, reinterpreted and re-presented by a variety of means in different media. The focus of our research and collection activities concentrate on historical monographs, education material, history textbooks, university courses (syllabi and readers); feature-, historical-, popular-, and documentary films; exhibitions, museums, and "house-of terror" type complex memorials; monuments, sculptures; "new facts"; parables and fictions. We are particularly interested in the new presentation of the two World Wars; the new interpretation of the traditional and radical right of the inter-war years; the anti-Communist resistance movement; the theme of collaboration; nationalism and the national questions; foreign occupation; poverty and well-fare measures; and the historical record left behind by over-centralized, authoritarian, totalitarian and anti-democratic regimes.

 

History After the Fall - Benefits and added value

The multiyear collaborative effort will result in important, interesting, and serious professional debates, and certainly, in serious disagreement as well, among the co-operating institutions. The possibly emerging polyphonic work could serve as an example in the highly divided, intolerant, politically overcharged atmosphere of the countries formerly under Communist rule.

Our hope is that the complexity of the proposed program - exhibitions, conferences, open workshops, film-series, and public debates will generate widespread media interest for the multi-year collaborative work.

The focus of the multi-year program would not be just historical representation in a narrow professional sense. The participating institutions and scholars are mainly interested in the use of historical revisionism, i.e., politics by the means of history, history as the ultima ratio in moral, ideological and political debates and discourse, especially in Europe. At the moment when the first countries from Central and Easter Europe are in the process of joining a common Europe, it is important for all of us to initiate wide-ranging, professionally, intellectually, and morally informed public debate on the use and abuse of recent history in a complex European frame. Unresolved, suppressed issues of the past hover darkly above crucial questions of how to coexist in a normal, civilized and mutually beneficial way in a new Europe. It would be a fatal mistake to mitigate the potential dangers of subterranean counter-histories of intolerance, and denial of human decency.

 
 

History After the Fall - Activities

Our proposition is to conduct a thorough collection-, research- and analytic program, mainly but not exclusively, in the former Communist countries on the following themes:
  • The two world wars, their impact, and afterlife;
  • The problems of the nation state and "authentic" national history (sovereignty versus foreign occupation, federal states versus national, ethnic self-determination; indigenous aspirations versus dictates of the winners;
  • Social welfare system, and public health under totalitarian regimes;
  • Comparative approaches in the study of Communism and Fascism.

We will initiate an extensive collection work that will form the material basis of an interpretative exhibition series. On the occasion of the thematic exhibitions, together with our partner institutions, we will offer parallel seminars at different universities, with the participation of faculty and students from different countries, who would collaborate with each other. Regular workshops would accompany the other activities, and the CEU Press is ready to publish a new series.

 
   

History After the Fall - Description

Project starting date: day 1 month 9 year 2004
Project finishing date: day 28 month 02 year 2007

Based on the results of and the lessons learned from major programs of the past few years, OSA is proposing a three-year-long collaborative program on the instability of historical representation after the 1989 "Great Divide". The program aims at contributing to the slowly emerging debate, mostly, but not exclusively in the former Communist part of the world, on critical, and in most cases, tragic issues of recent history. At the moment of European accession, it is imperative for us to contribute to a serious reexamination of the role the Central European political elite and different groups of the societies at large played at tragic turning points of recent European history. Working in close collaboration with professional institutions of international standing in Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Rumania, and collaborating with organizations and institutions in Russia, and the United States, we would like to launch a complex program of presenting and analyzing major representational shifts of twentieth century history. According to the plan, jointly submitted by the collaborating institutions, the program would be designed in a way that would allow, in fact motivate, the participation of the public in the historical debate.

In April 2004 the Hungarian government will open a new Holocaust Memorial Museum in Budapest and the newly rearranged Hungarian exhibition in Auschwitz . Parallel to that occasion, OSA proposes to organize an exhibition and the workshop on "The Communist representation of the deportation and fate of the Jews in Eastern Europe". As an integral part of the exhibition, we would like (re)present the original, post-World War II national Auschwitz exhibitions, which epitomized the way the authorities remembered, represented, in fact, misrepresented the role of the Nazi concentration camps before the Fall of the Dresden Wall and that of the Iron Curtain. For Communist historiography, the history of the twentieth century was but the permanent fight between the forces of Fascism and Communism, thus eliminating all other groups, including the Jews and the Roma from historical memory.

One of the central sub-themes of the program would be "post-Communist anti-Communism", the new reading of the recent past from a post-1989 anti-Communist perspective and the creation a new seemingly authentic reading of an anti-Communist past by the help of historical revisionism. The program would present new or newly discovered methodology and epistemology in the service of recreating the recent past. Special emphasis would be given to historical comparisons, especially to deeply problematic different efforts to compare totalitarian regimes, especially Nazi Germany with state-socialist Soviet Union.

 
 

History After the Fall - Logo

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