Last year’s twentieth anniversary of 1989 has again turned scholarly attention to the historical relevance of Central and Eastern Europe’s civil rights and democracy movements. However, the existing literature still largely analyzes these phenomena in terms of a history of parallel national developments. The planned conference, in contrast, seeks to explore whether the individual opposition movements of the 1970s and 1980s need to be understood within the context of a broader entangled history which was not only restricted to the “East-Bloc” but which cut across the Iron Curtain. To this end, the conference focuses both on contacts and influences among Central and Eastern European dissident and opposition circles as well as on interactions between civil societies, intellectuals, and politicians in East and West; in so doing, we hope to assess the specific nature of transnational contacts during the 1970s and 1980s, their scope, preconditions, effects, and their theoretical and empirical relevance for research on contemporary international history.
More specifically, the conference focuses on the following themes and questions:
1) What were the scope and relevance of the opposition’s transnational contacts? Do we need to consider these contacts in order to account for the emergence of specific patterns of oppositional politics in East-Central Europe? Or were these contacts rather the result of already existing, nationally specific movements and patterns of politics?
2) What were the specific social, political, or economic conditions under which transnational contacts could be established? Were there specific periods which were specifically favorable for such contacts (Destalinization? Détente? Glasnost and Perestroika?) Can we detect specific national differences or parallels which help explain different intensities of transnational contacts?
3) On which structures or actors could East-Central European or Soviet oppositionists rely in their transnational activities? Which persons (intellectuals, dissidents, exiles) were involved in establishing and sustaining international contacts? What were the paths or channels of transnational communication and to which media of information could oppositionists recur (press, international organizations)?
4) Did transnational contacts result in transfers of concepts or ideas? Who was particularly receptive for these ideas? How did these ideas change and how were they transferred? Are there specific topics or themes (economy, ecology, social democracy, etc.) which justify to speak of an all-European debate led across the Iron Curtain? If so, who were the main participants?
5) Finally, we would like to assess the actual extent and impact of such transnational contacts: Did they amount to more than an often merely symbolic mutual recognition and support? How and when did they turn into a factor of domestic or foreign policy? Can we ascribe a specific, maybe even causal significance to transnational contacts with regards to the peaceful end of the Cold War? Which of the contacts established prior to 1989 remain relevant in our time?
The conference will be jointly organized by the German Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Center for Research on Contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam. It will be held in Warsaw from September 17-20, 2010; conference languages will be German, English, and Polish. Responsible for conceptualization: Agnes Arndt (Free University Berlin) and Robert Brier (German Historical Institute Warsaw).
We specifically encourage contributions presenting the results of ongoing or recently finished empirical research. Papers by scholars early in their careers are particularly welcome. All those interested in contributing should submit an abstract of their presentation of no more than 500 words along with a brief description of their relevant research (no more than 1,000 words) as well as a CV. The deadline for submissions is March 7, 2010. Please direct your proposal as well as further inquiries to Robert Brier (firstname.lastname@example.org).
German Historical Institute Warsaw
Aleje Ujazdowskie 39
Poland Email: email@example.com
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