Before 1989, the peoples of Central Europe were arguably written out of
their own recent history. The region was seen as a chess-board, with individual countries being regarded as little more than pawns in the Cold War confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States. There is now a need to write the
people back into the history of Central Europe after 1945.
This distortion of the historiography of post-war Central Europe was
the result of a number of factors. Firstly, the lack of
access to archival sources in the Soviet Bloc made it extremely
difficult to build up a picture of what was happening on the
ground in those areas which fell under Soviet occupation. Secondly, the
preoccupation with the political imperatives of the Cold War led to a concentration on high politics and an under-estimation of the degree to which policies emanating from Moscow and Washington were modulated by grass roots realities. Finally, the division of Europe into two mutually hostile blocs led to the temporary obscurement of Central Europe as a political concept.
Developments since 1989 have made possible a thorough reassessment of contemporary Central European history. The scholar now has access to huge amounts of hitherto unavailable archival material, and is no longer constrained by the ideological strait-jacket of the Cold War. With the demise of the Iron
Curtain, Mitteleuropa has re-emerged as a salient feature of European politics.
As a result, it is now possible to construct a more sophisticated analysis of the interaction between American and Soviet policies in Central Europe, and the political concerns and behaviour of ordinary people. The countries of Central Europe were more than mere pawns, and their peoples should not be seen as
passive objects of policies being imposed by the White House and the Kremlin.
The purpose of this conference is to look at popular politics and high politics and their interaction in a comparative perspective. "Central Europe" will be considered to comprise Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Hungary. The
sessions will be organised according to some of the following themes,
depending on the response of participants:
If you would like to attend the conference, focusing on one or more of the above mentioned countries, please contact Dr. Jill Lewis or Dr. Gareth Pritchard at the History Department, University of Wales Swansea.
Some funding is available for transport for postgraduate students who wish to attend. Accommodation is available on the University of Wales Swansea campus.
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