Everyday Collaboration with the Communist Regimes in Eastern Europe
Special Editor of the Thematic Issue
National Bolshevism or National Communism: Features of Sovietization in Lithuania in the Summer of 1945 (The First Congress of the Intelligentsia)
AbstractIn this article I discuss the problem of the sovietization of Lithuania in 1944–1945 from the perspective of the goals pursued by the Communist Lithuanian government in convening the First Congress of Lithuanian intelligentsia and the demands made by some of the congress delegates on the government. The research is based on the idea that the incorporation of elements of nationalism into the Soviet system was regarded as a means of making the regime more acceptable to the titular nationality and was also intended to facilitate the sovietization of societies. Some representatives of the leadership of the Lithuanian SSR thought that it would be possible to strike a deal with the Lithuanian cultural elite: the Soviet government would satisfy the most important (national) expectations of the intelligentsia, while the intelligentsia would support the government’s policies. However, no such policy was ever adopted. Instead, Moscow simply began to force Lithuania’s sovietization.
“No One Here is Afraid of Blisters or Work!” Social Integration, Mobilization and Cooperation in Yugoslav Youth Brigades. The Example of Čačak Region Brigades (1946–1952)
AbstractIn this article I analyze the organizational mechanism of youth labor projects and the place of ideology and agitation-propaganda in the everyday lives of young laborers. I adopt a local micro-historical perspective in my analysis of the organization, documented activities and everyday functioning of youth brigades from the Čačak region of Serbia that participated in the earliest labor projects in Yugoslavia (1946–1952). The documentation on the brigades reveals omnipresent Party surveillance of brigadiers (with the ultimate aim of selecting the most “appropriate” elements for Party membership), but it also offers a glimpse into the ambivalent attitudes of youths (ranging from passive resistance to conformist participation and cooperation). The daily routine of brigade life helps further reflection on emancipatory and modernizing effects that transformed local society and proved notably more far-reaching and long-lasting than the superficial effects of agitprop efforts..
Life of an Agent: Re-Energizing Stalinism and Learning the Language of Collaboration after 1956 in Hungary
AbstractIn order for a secret police report to be taken seriously, it had to be lodged in the proper form, according to the discursive styles of the state bureaucracy, and in particular the secret police. Thus, the authors of the reports adopted numerous elements of style and rhetoric in order to ensure that their goals would be achieved. How was this bureaucratic style adopted in Hungary, and how did ordinary citizens decide to accommodate to or cooperate with the authorities under the communist regime after the 1956 Revolution? I argue that the creators and editors of the secret police reports (the “unofficial informants” and their case officers) were “sculpting” the official language as an artefact and mapping their social network in accordance with idealized images of the politico-social body. The first step in the implementation of massive, forceful coercion was to change the narratives and the social categories that were used to depict the social status of a “good citizen” and the local communities. In the early phases of their work, during which they learned what was expected of them and how to meet these expectations, the informants mastered the language of the secret police in order to ensure, in the meantime, that they were able to realize their own personal goals in their local communities by taking advantage of their access to the state security network. Thus the function of the reports on the one hand was rhetorical: they were made in order to feed the bureaucracy. On the other, they served as a means with which their authors won approval among other members of the network of their personal, everyday goals. The authoring of reports, which can be understood as a kind of period of training, thus was not simply a matter of exercising social control, but quite the reverse, it also served as a means of appropriating power by members of society in the interests of specific personal goals that had little or nothing to do directly with the agendas of the regime.
A Curious Case of Cooperation and Coexistence: Church–State Engagement and Oppositional Free Spaces in Communist Yugoslavia and East Germany
AbstractThe communist parties of Eastern Europe sought to organize power relations to preclude potential opposition. While successful in aligning society, the economy, culture, education and politics in party institutions, East Germany and Yugoslavia approached the execution of religious policy from a contrasting perspective. Unable to marginalize religion completely, the party and national churches entered into a vibrant, incentives-based back-and-forth. Over time, Church–state accommodation crystallized, producing Church-based free spaces located outside of the standard communist power structure. However, the ways in which East Germany and Yugoslavia engaged their churches generated different forms of Church-based free space, which, by the late 1980s, produced variegated forms of anti-communist opposition.
From “Occupation” to “Friendly Assistance”: The “Presence” of Soviet Troops in Czechoslovakia after August 1968
AbstractThe Warsaw pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 was without doubt a milestone in the history of Czechoslovakia. In the beginning, it mobilized and unified almost the whole nation against the enemy, whose status as enemy was quite apparent. But unified resistance to the occupation did not last long. It began to crumble as steps were taken to present a reinterpretation of the “occupation” as an act of “friendly assistance.” A shift in the image of the Soviet Army became a prerequisite of the normalization policy of the regime. This article identifies and explains the most important aspects of the changing image of the Soviet troops in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s and early 1970s and some of the consequences of these changes for Czechoslovak society. These changes occurred mainly at the level of official presentation. Nevertheless, the official politics of friendship had tangible consequences, reflected both in everyday life and the overall social and political climate.
Them and Us: Narratives of Agents from the Kádár Era
AbstractToday a good deal of scholarly work has been published the authors of which use, as their primary sources, the documents that were created by the state security services of the communist dictatorships of East Central Europe. These documents reveal a great deal concerning the primary characteristics of the mechanisms of state security and, more specifically, the network of agents. Most of the inquiries that have been published so far have been of a moralizing nature, in that they seem to have been motivated at least in part by the desire to pass judgment on those who cooperated in an organized way with the state security services of the dictatorial states or, in some cases, to find justifications for the conduct of the people involved by offering explanations according to which they were compelled to collaborate. I have set a very different goal in this article. I examine how the people in the network interpreted their cooperation with the state. I draw on recollections that were written not after the fall of the Kádár regime, but rather in its early stages. These texts offer different perspectives on the identity of the agent and shed some light on how the collaborator him or herself understood his or her acts of collaboration with the dictatorship.
Forms of Collaboration of Visual Artists in Communist Romania of the 1970s–1980s
AbstractLittle attention has been given in political science analyses of communist-era Romania to the relationships between visual artists and the secret police. In this article, I attempt to address this lacuna in our understanding of the interactions between the state and artists by presenting two forms of collaboration of visual artists during the last two decades of Romanian communism: the artists’ involvement in the ideological project of the communist party and their “collaboration” with the secret police. In addition, I also examine the ways in which artists have contributed a posteriori to our understandings of the communist experience with their artworks. I offer detailed examinations of the cases of three visual artists. The approach I have adopted includes analyses of interviews with two artists who represent two opposing cases and examinations of the files that were kept on them by state surveillance organs, so as to provide a new, multifaceted perspective on the relationships between artists and the communist regime. I contend that the study of artistic artifacts can supplement traditional sources for political science analyses of the communist past and provide a more nuanced perspective on the period. The article shows that imposing artistic dogmas is not simply a top-down process, but one resulting from complex interactions between different institutional and individual actors.
Legacies of Violence. Eastern Europe’s First World War. Edited by Jochen Böhler, Włodzimierz Borodziej, and Joachim von Puttkamer. Reviewed by Rudolf Kučera
Nép, nemzet, zsidó [Folk, Nation, Jew]. By Gábor Gyáni. Reviewed by Ferenc Laczó
Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror under Stalin, 1927–1941. By David Brandenberger. Reviewed by Balázs Apor
A magyar népi mozgalom története: 1920–1990 [History of the Hungarian Populist Movement: 1920–1990]. By István Papp. Reviewed by Ákos Bartha
Magyar idők a Felvidéken 1938–1945. Az első bécsi döntés és következményei [Hungarian Times in the Upper Lands, 1938–1945. The First Vienna Award and its Consequences]. By Attila Simon. Reviewed by Veronika Gayer
Imposing, Maintaining, and Tearing Open the Iron Curtain: The Cold War and East-Central Europe, 1945–1989. Edited by Mark Kramer and Vít Smetana. Reviewed by Zoltán Sz. Bíró
Fabricating Authenticity in Soviet Hungary. The Afterlife of the First Hungarian Soviet Republic in the Age of State Socialism. By Péter Apor. Reviewed by Adam Hudek
The Collectivization of Agriculture in Communist Eastern Europe. Comparison and Entanglements. Edited by Constantin Iordachi and Arnd Bauerkämper. Reviewed by Róbert Balogh
Secrets and Truths: Ethnography in the Archive of Romania’s Secret Police. By Katherine Verdery. Reviewed by Caterina Preda
Notes on Contributors