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Core Course I: The role of history and cultural legacies in post-socialist politics

Prof. Dr. Gert-Rüdiger Wegmarshaus


About the course:

The political transformations in the societies of Central and Eastern Europe of the years 1989-91 and afterwards were heavily intertwined with a vivid interest in new readings of historical events and cultural legacies. From the very beginning the political change and the historical debate went hand in hand: The strive for civil liberties in the declining years of Soviet Rule was accompanied by a renewed historical interest, which took a strong political direction: There were heated debates on the creation and the persistence of the Stalinist system, on the practice and the dimensions of the GULAG, on the role of the Red Army during and after WWII, on occupation, deportation and forced migration, on the human and ecological price paid over decades for large-scale industrialisation and technological achievements. These debates quickly gained a public audience and they were substantiated by fresh insights of professional historians into previously hidden political and diplomatic documents (re) discovered in and retrieved from once tightly closed archives. These new historical discourses not only paved the way for the regime change in Central and Eastern Europe. More then that: For two decades now these historical debates have played a particularly vital and even crucial role in shaping collective memories and in constructing ethnic, national identities in the young East European democracies. Acknowledging that these memories, legacies and identities are disputed till today the course addresses questions like: What are the ways and forms of debating history as a process and as a result? Are there dominant historical narratives in Eastern Europe? Who are the proponents and who are the recipients of these narratives? Are there political gains or losses attributed to specific readings of historical events?  How societies in Central Eastern Europe handle claims originating from national pride and historical glory? Are they prepared to break historical taboos and to tackle issues for a long time silenced? The lectures and seminars of the Core Course I are designed not only to confront the students with these and other questions, but also to enable them to academically coming to terms with the difficult and problematic relationship between history and politics in today’s Post-Socialist Societies.


Recommended reading:

ASSMANN, ALEIDA: Soziales und kollektives Gedächtnis.

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ASSMANN, JAN: Introduction: What is Cultural Memory? In: Assmann Jan: Religion and Cultural Memory. Translated by Rodney Livingston. Stanford University Press: Stanford 2006, pp. 1-30.

ASSMANN, JAN: Religion und kulturelles Gedächtnis. C.H. Beck, München 2000.


HABERMAS, JÜRGEN: “On the Public Use of History: The Official Self-Understanding of the Federal Republic is Breaking Up”, in: Forever in the Shadow of Hitler? Original Documents of the Historikerstreit Controversy Concerning the Singularity of the Holocaust. Translated by James Knowlton and Truett Cates. Atlantic Heights, NJ, 1993, pp. 168-70. [Originally published in German as “Vom öffentlichen Gebrauch der Historie: Das offizielle Selbstverständnis der Bundesrepublik bricht auf,” Die Zeit, November 7, 1986.


HALBWACHS, MAURICE: On Collective Memory.  Edited and Translated, and with an Introduction by Lewis A. Coser. (The Heritage of Sociology). The University of Chicago Press: Chicago, London 1992.

HALBWACHS, MAURICE: The Collective Memory. 1950  Chapter 4

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MITSCHERLICH, ALEXANDER UND MARGARETE: The Inability to Mourn. Principles of Collective Behavior. Preface by Robert Jay Lifton. Translated by Beverly R. Placzek. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1975, pp. 4-6. [Originally published in German as Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern. Grundlage kollektiven Verhaltens. Munich, 1967.]


RENAN, ERNEST: "What is a Nation?" in:  Eley, Geoff and Suny, Ronald Grigor, (ed.): Becoming National: A Reader. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996: pp. 41-55.

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RENAN, ERNEST: Was ist eine Nation?, Vortrag in der Sorbonne am 11. März 1882. Aus dem Französischen von Henning Ritter, veröffentlicht in: Jeismann, Michael / Ritter, Henning: Grenzfälle - Über neuen und alten Nationalismus, Leipzig 1993.

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WEIZSÄCKER, RICHARD VON:  Speech in the Bundestag on 8 May 1985 during the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the End of War in Europe and of National-Socialist Tyranny.


WEIZSÄCKER, RICHARD VON: Zum 40. Jahrestag der Beendigung des Krieges in Europa und der nationalsozialistischen Gewaltherrschaft. Ansprache des Bundespräsidenten Richard von Weizsäcker am 8. Mai 1985 in der Gedenkstunde im Plenarsaal des Deutschen Bundestages.




Ash, Timothy Garton: The Polish Revolution. Solidarity. Penguin Books: London 1999 , Sign: 50/NQ 8280 G244.

Assmann, Aleida: Geschichtsvergessenheit – Geschichtsversessenheit. Vom Umgang mit deutschen Vergangenheiten nach 1945. Dt. Verl.-Anstalt Stuttgart 1999, Sign: 50/NQ 6020 A848.

Assmann, Aleida: Arbeit am nationalen Gedächtnis. Eine kurze Geschichte der deutschen Bildungsidee. Campus-Verlag.: Frankfurt am Main 1993, Sign: 72/DF 4000 A848.

Bojm, Svetlana: The Future of Nostalgia. Basic Books: New York 2001, Sign. af8103/NB 5100 B792.

Boyarin, Jonathan: Storm from Paradise. The Politics of Jewish Memory. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis 1992, Sign: 50/NY 1500 B789.

Brito, Alexandra Barahona de: The Politics of Memory. Transitional Justice in democratizing Societies, Oxford University Press: Oxford 2002.

Brubaker, Roger: Nationalism reframed. Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1996, Sign. 51/MG 80086 B 886.

Carrier; Peter: Holocaust Monuments and National memory Cultures in France and Germany since 1989. The origins and political function of the Vél d’Hiv´ in Paris and the Holocaust Monument in Berlin. Berghan: New York 2005, Sign: ah4191/NQ 6020 C316.

Collaboration and Resistance during the Holocaust. Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Peter Lang: Bern u.a. 2004, Sign: ah9689/NQ 2650 G272.

Collective memory & collective identity. New School: New York 2008, Sign. 51/MN 6880-2008.1.

Concepts of National Identity – an interdisciplinary dialogue. Nomos Verlag: Baden-Baden 1986, Sign. Ag0491/MC 7100 B672.

Connerton, Paul: How Societies remember. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1002, Sign: 51/MR 6000 C752.

Csepeli, György: National Identity in Contemporary Hungary. Boulder: Colorado, Sign. MG 98070 C958 N2.

Dijkink, Gertjan: National Identity and geopolitical Visions. Maps of Pride and Pain. Routledge: London and New York 1996, Sign. 51/MB 3050 D575.

Erinnern, vergessen, verdrängen. Polnische und Deutsche Erfahrungen. Harrassowitz: Wiesbaden 1998, Sign: 50/NK 7210 K75 E6.

Flam, Helena: Mosaic of Fear. Poland and East Germany before 1998. Boulder 1998, Sign: 51/ML 7332 F577.

Fulbrook, Mary: German National Identity after the Holocaust. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1990, Sign: 50/NQ 6020 F962.

Halbwachs, Maurice: Das kollektive Gedächtnis. Fischer Verlag: Frankfurt am Main: 1991, Sign: 51/MR 4410 K81.991.

Halbwachs, Maurice: On Collective Memory. Edited, translated, and with an Introduction by Lewis A. Coser, University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Gellner, Ernest: Culture, Identity, and Politics. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1993, Sign. aa7224/MS 1170 G319.

Gellner, Ernest: Nationalism. Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London 1997, Sign: 51/MC 7100 G319 N27.

Heinrich, Horst-Alfred: Kollektive Erinnerungen der Deutschen. Theoretische Konzepte und empirische Befunde zum sozialen Gedächtnis, Juventa Verlag: Weinheim 2002, Sign: 51/MD 4050 H469.

Hiden, John: The Baltic Nations and Europe. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Twentieth Century, Longman: London 1996, Sign: 613/MG 59030 H632(.96).

Kontexte und Kulturen des Erinnerns. Maurice Halbwachs und das Paradigma des kollektiven Gedächtnisses, UVK-Verlags-Gesellschaft.: Konstanz 2002, Sign: 51/MR 4411 E18.

Langewische, Dieter: Reich, Nation, Föderation. Deutschland und Europa. 332 S. Beck: München 2008, Sign: 50/NK 1800 L277.

Joseph, John Earl: Language and Identity. National, Ethnic, Religious. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke 2004, Sign. 61/ES 110 J83.

Kattago, Siobhan: Ambigious Memory. The Nazi Past and German National Identity. Praeger: Westport, Connecticut and London, Sign. 50/NQ 2130 K19.

Maier, Charles, S.: The unmasterable Past. History, Holocaust, and German National Identity, Harvard University Press: Cambridge MA 1988, Sign. ab5203/NK 1800 M217 U5.

Molchanov, Mikhail A.: Political Culture and National Identity in Russian-Ukrainian Relations, Texas A&M University Press: College Station 2002, Sign. 51/ML 6600 M717.

Müller, Jan-Werner: Another Country. German intellectuals, unification and national identity, Yale University Press: New Haven 2000, Sign. 51/MG 15070 M946.

Mushaben, Joyce Marie: Identity without a Hinterland? Continuity and Change in National Consciousness in the German Democratic Republic, 1949-1989. AICGS: Washington DC 1993, Sign. ha4718/MG 81030 M987.

Palmowski, Jan: Inventing a Socialist Nation. Heimat and the Politics of Everyday Life in the GDR 1945-1990, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge MA 2009, Sign. 51/MG 81010 P179.

Reinventing Poland. Economic and Political Transformation and Evolving National Identity, Routledge: New York 2008, Sign. 40/QG 475 M995.

Renan, Ernest: What is a Nation? Lecture at Sorbonne, 11 March 1882, Reprinted in: Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny (eds.): Becoming National: A Reader, Oxford University Press: New York and Oxford 1996, pp. 41-55.

Sachse, Carola / Wolfrum, Edgar / Fritz, Regina (Hrsg.): Nationen und ihre Selbstbilder. Postdiktatorische Gesellschaften in Europa. 367 S., Wallstein: Göttingen 2008, Sign: 51/MC 7100 F919.

Schwan, Gesine: Politik und Schuld. Die zerstörerische Macht des Schweigens. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag: Frankfurt am Main 1997, Sign. 51/MC 7300 S398.

Schwan, Gesine: Politics and Guilt. The destructive power of silence. University of Nebraska: London 2001, Sign: ad7332/MC 7300 S398 P7.

Smith, Anthony D.: National Identity. University of Nevada Press: Reno 1993, Sign: 51/MC 7100 S642 N2.

Staab, Andreas: National Identity in Eastern Germany. Inner Unification or Continued Separation? Praeger: Westport, Connect. 1998, Sign: 51/MG 81070 S775.

The Baltic States. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Routledge: London 2002, Sign: 10/AD 75500 S645 NICHT AUSLEIHBAR.

The Politics of history in comparative perspective. SAGE: Los Angeles 2008, Sign. 51/MN 1220-617.

The Politics of memory in postwar Europe. Duke University Press: Durham 2006, Sign. Ag7452/NQ 5830 L449.

The Russian Idea. In Search of a New Identity. Slavica Publishers: Bloomington, Indiana. 2004, Sign. 51/MG 85070 H477.

Urwin, Derek W.: A dictionary of European history and politics 1945 – 1995. Longman: London 1996, Sign. 51/ MB 1600 U83.

Wehler, Hans-Ulrich: Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, Band 5: Bundesrepublik und DDR 1949-1990, Beck: München 2008.

Weidenfeld, Werner: The German National Identity. Konrad Adenauer Stiftung: St. Augustin 1986, Sign. Ad7649MG 15070 W417 G3.

Weizsäcker, Richard von: Speech in the Bundestag on 8 May 1985 during the Ceremony Commemorating the 40th Anniversary of the End of War in Europe and of National-Socialist Tyranny. (see above)

Wertsch, James V.: Voices of Collective Remembering. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2002, Sign. 50/NB 5110 W499.