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Ideologies and National Identities

John Lampe
Mark Mazower


John R. Lampe

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1This volume is the end result of a year-long project of the Open Society Institute to examine the ideas and identities whose representation connects the twentieth-century history of Southeastern Europe to the European mainstream. We brought together a select group of younger scholars, primarily from the region, to proceed from an interdisciplinary perspective and to prepare the chapters that follow. Our reasons remain as compelling as they were when Institute Director István Rév, himself approached by some younger scholars, first approached me about the project in the first year of a new century. The previous century had scarred the region with three separate decades of international and civil war, forced migration and wrenching systemic change, the last convulsions spanning the 1990s. There had been a flood of recent publications, both scholarly and popular, but these concentrated on the most recent decade and on the former Yugoslavia. Alarge part of the scholarly publications, and almost all of the popular accounts, have further narrowed their focus to the suffering and injustice endured or inflicted by a particular ethnic group. This limitation applies to established historians from the region as much as to those from outside it. And we have seen Western social scientists, often approaching the region for the first time, read its history back from the end of the century to the beginning, rather than the reverse as historians are rightly wont to do.

2We were therefore attracted to the possibility of bringing together a cohort of younger scholars primarily from the historical disciplines but also from the social sciences and comparative literature. All were asked to draw on transnational approaches and interdisciplinary perspectives while concentrating on a single country’s experience. This comparative approach has been central to the philosophy and programs of Budapest’s new Central European University (CEU) during its first decade. The project also provided the opportunity to stimulate our young contributors, as well as interested CEU students, by bringing a series of senior Western scholars specializing in the region to a series of seven sessions that we convened at the university from September 2001 to June 2002. After a presentation from, and a discussion session with, the respective senior scholar, each session devoted the rest of its time to the discussion of outlines and then drafts of chapters by our young contributors. We assumed, correctly I believe, that these periodic gatherings would allow a closer critique and coordination of the individual contributions than is usually the case with multi-authored volumes. In this regard a valuable contribution was provided by the suggestions for the editing of the authors’ final drafts that came from CEU students who read them for my January 2003 course on twentieth-century Southeastern Europe, and again from a workshop of scholars from the region to appraise the volume’s potential usefulness in their university courses, in English or in translation. I thank both the students and the workshop members—Christina Koulouri from Athens, Nikola Jordanovski from Skopje, Sonja Dujmović from Sarajevo, and Andrei Pippidi from Bucharest.

3Already at the initial session our authors had readily recognized the need for such a volume within the region. We expanded and yet sharpened this focus. Areview of recently published country histories from Yugoslavia’s successor states revealed old nationalist assumptions of native virtue confounded by intervention from near or far, relieved for Bulgaria only by the positivist legacy of actions described without motives. Our discussion of the subjects that should and could be covered by our working group concluded that the project’s original title was both too broad and too confining. So “Nationalism, War and Communism: Reappraising the Twentieth-Century History of Southeastern Europe” gave way to “Ideologies and National Identities: The Case of Twentieth-Century Southeastern Europe.” We could thereby abjure the full regional reappraisal of the past century that none of this group was prepared to undertake and instead broaden the ideological purview of their country-based studies. Beyond nationalism and communism, appropriate attention could now be paid to fascism, liberalism, and religion per se. We could also join in the recent approach across several disciplines, led by anthropology, to consider national or ethnic identities as case studies of popular memory and its political manipulation. And while most of our contributors would deal with war, they would not be treating the course of war itself but rather the role of the remembrance of war as represented in ideology or national identity. My own presentation to this initial session emphasized the recent concern with collective memory in wider Western scholarship on nationalism.

4Our next two sessions asked the members of the working group to find four or five brief selections from primary sources that would illustrate the range of local opinion on the particular issue of ideology or national identity or both that they wished to examine. Their inclusion following the text of each chapter would imitate the pattern pioneered by the late Peter Sugar in the volume of country chapters in Eastern European Nationalism in the 20th Century, which he edited for American University Press in 1995. His intention, like ours, was that university students in particular needed to compare and contrast these original sources if they are to understand contested issues too often presented within, but also outside, the region as uncontested. Dennison Rusinow, Emeritus Professor of History from the University of Pittsburgh, discussed his own chapter and selected readings on Yugoslavia in the Sugar volume with the working group in November. Lenard Cohen, Professor of Political Science at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, then joined us in January to share his experiences in addressing heavily contested issues and sources during the writing of his Serpent in the Bosom: The Rise and Fall of Slobodan Milošević, just published by Westview Press.

5Our last four sessions allowed members of our working group to present drafts of the papers published here. In the first, Mark Mazower, Professor of History at London University’s Birkbeck College, drew on insights from After the War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943–1946, which he edited and introduced for Princeton University Press in 1999. In addition to providing the project with a much desired perspective on the region including the Greek experience, his interest in our interdisciplinary papers in particular prompted him to accept responsibility for co-editing this volume. His suggestions inform the present chapters by Maja Brkljačić, Ildiko Erdei, Rossitza Gencheva, Constantin Iordachi and Sandra Prlenda. Mine were offered to Robert Austin, Mark Biondich, Marko Bulatović, James Frusetta, Dejan Jović, and Andrew Baruch Wachtel. One of our subsequent three sessions concentrated entirely on the revision of the first drafts. In another, Stefan Troebst, Professor of East European Cultural Studies at the University of Leipzig, focused on recent work on the long-standing Macedonian question both from the region and also from German scholarship, which has now returned to the forefront in the study of Southeastern Europe. Maria Todorova, Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, used our final session to suggest a broader comparative approach to the region as a whole, in time as well as space.

6Some final words of appreciation are due to a number of particular individuals and institutions. My thanks to István Rév extend beyond his initiative in launching the project to his efforts in securing the necessary funding both from the Open Society Institute and also from the EU’s European Commission under an appropriation from the Stability Pact for Southeastern

7Europe. Let me also thank the History Department of the Central European University, its Chair Lászlo Kontler and Administrative Assistant Zsuzsanna Macht for organizing the concurrent participation of a group of CEU students in our sessions and for convening the subsequent course and workshop. We benefited from the participation in our sessions of two other younger historians from the region, Gabriella Etmeksoglu of Australia’s Latrobe University and Predrag Marković of Belgrade’s Institute for Contemporary History. And without the remarkable initiative and relentless organizational effort from start to finish from one of our group, Maja Brkljačić, this project and this volume would quite simply not have been possible.


John R. Lampe is Professor of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, and past Director of East European Studies at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington.

© Central European University Press, 2006

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