Every political movement creates its own historical memory. The communist movement, though originally oriented towards the future, was no exception: The theory of human history constitutes a substantial part of Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Engels’s writings, and the movement inspired by them very soon developed its own strong historical identity, combining the Marxist theory of history with the movement’s victorious milestones such as the October Revolution and later the Great Patriotic War, which served as communist legitimization myths throughout almost the entire twentieth century. During the Stalinist period, however, the movement´s history became strongly reinterpreted to suit Joseph Stalin’s political goals. After 1956, this reinterpretation lost most of its legitimating power and instead began to be a burden. The (unwanted) memory of Stalinism and subsequent examples of violence (the Gulag, Katyń, the 1956 Budapest uprising and the 1968 Prague Spring) contributed to the crisis of Eastern European state socialism in the late 1980s and led to attempts at reformulating or even rejecting communist self-identity. This book’s first section analyzes the post-1989 memory of communism and state socialism and the self-identity of the Eastern and Western European left. The second section examines the state-socialist and post-socialist memorial landscapes in the former German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia. The final section concentrates on the narratives the movement established, when in power, about its own past, with the examples of the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania and Czechoslovakia.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Historical Memory of European Communisms Before and After 1989
[Stanislav Holubec and Agnieszka Mrozik]
Part I: Memory of the Left in Post-Socialist Europe
1. "Of the Past Let Us Make a Clean Slate": The Lack of a Left-Wing Narrative and the Failure of the Hungarian Left
2. Communist Successors and Narratives of the Past: Party Factions in the German PDS and the Russian CPRF, 1990–2005
[Thorsten Holzhauser and Antony Kalashnikov]
3. The Memory and Identity of the Western European Left in the Light of European Integration: View from Inside
Part II: Memorial Landscapes in Central and Eastern Europe
4. Dissonant Heritage: Soviet Monuments in Central and Eastern Europe
5. Lenin, Marx and Local Heroes: Socialist and Post-Socialist Memorial Landscapes in Eastern Germany and Czechoslovakia — The Case Study of Jena and Hradec Králové
6. The Politics of Oblivion and the Practices of Remembrance: Repression, Collective Memory and Nation-Building in Post-Soviet Russia
[Ekaterina V. Klimenko]
Part III: Communist Politics of Memory Before 1989
7. What Happened in 1980? Memory Forging and the Official Story of the Martial Law in the Polish United Workers’ Party
8. "We Must Reconstruct Our Own Past": 1960s Polish Communist Women’s Memoirs —Constructing the (Gender) History of the Polish Left
9. Romanian Communists Under Gheorghiu-Dej: Legitimation Before 1965 and Its Memory as Opposition to Ceauşescu
10. Constructing New Friends and Enemies: Rewriting Czechoslovak History After the Communist Takeover
11. Constructing Memoirs of the October Revolution in the 1920s
Agnieszka Mrozik is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Stanislav Holubec is Associate Professor at the University of České Budějovice and the University of Hradec Králové, Czech Republic.
'In putting together this edited volume, Mrozik and Holubec have taken some important steps in beginning to strip away the superstition about the past. I applaud their desire to challenge the totalitarian thesis about twentieth-century state socialism in Eastern Europe. This critical nuancing of the recent past, undertaken by young scholars in the region, is essential if we are to have more open and honest debates about the relationship of the communist past to the future of the contemporary Left.'
Kristen Ghodsee, University of Pennsylvania, 2018