This conference’s aim is to articulate a historiographical analysis of the popular attitudes towards communism in power. Before communism’s fall, it was difficult for historians to study society and “popular opinion” (Paul Corner) as little societal data was available, the archives were closed, research was supervised and history was politicised. This is without even considering the difficulty, for obvious methodological reasons, of accounting for the relationship between rulers and ruled under a dictatorial regime. After 1989, methodological and practical concerns (policies of archive opening, politico-historical narratives suiting the post-communist state, retribution or compensation policies addressing persecutors and victims, etc.), took centre stage in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. But how has the history of each communist regime been written in relation to their respective societies? How is communism presented in historical works and textbooks today? What is society’s role as potential supporter, opponent or indifferent actor of the communist regime? What part, if any, is devoted to the regime’s intentions concerning the population?
We want to analyze how the history of communism in Central Europe was written in the past and how it is being written today. Our particular focus is on the relationship between rulers and ruled; this will help us evaluate why the totalitarianism paradigm remains important. How present is society in the dominant historiographical analysis? Can we identify ways to restructure this historiography? Our aim is to overcome the duality between a political history centred on the repressive apparatus on the basis of party and secret police archives, and a social and cultural history inspired by mass organisations, factory archives, local or private archives, oral history or even arts and literature. Accounts and interpretations of the population’s response to communist policies in Central and Eastern Europe will be mapped out in local and Western historiographies before and after 1989, in order to deconstruct this historiography’s master narratives and their evolution over time.
This international workshop is the second of three conferences to be held in the frame of the research project Rulers and Ruled in Poland and Czechoslovakia (1945-1968): Practical and Methodological Challenges in the Historicization of a Complex Relationship, financed by the Grant Academy of the Czech Republic. While the project is expressly dedicated to Poland and Czechoslovakia and to the period 1945-1968, we also encourage for comparative purposes the submission of papers dealing with other countries of East Central Europe and with the post-1968 period. Selected texts from this workshop will be included in the final, eponymous collective publication of the project. We invite interested scholars to send a 300 to 500 words abstract and a short bio to Muriel Blaive, Anna Muller and Nicolas Maslowski at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. Advanced PhD students and fresh post-docs will also be considered. Travel and accommodation, as well as part of the meals, will be provided.