Humanities and Social Sciences

Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften

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Historie. Jahrbuch des Zentrums für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften | 2021 | Folge 14 |

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Abstract

Contemporary Polish historiography tends to focus predominantly on the main actors of the political transformation of 1989 and there are communist and opposition elites considered as such. In that perspective, Polish society remains a community on which the views of the elites are projected, and the myth about the birth of ci-vil society on the ruins of communism as early as 1989 may serve as a perfect example of such process. In reality, however, the Polish society was overwhelmingly apolitical, uninterested in political par-ticipation and to a large extent socially inactive. There are many reasons which caused this situation: starting from the martial law, which in December 1981 broke the backbone of the mass social movement that was the legal ‘Solidarity’, as well as the very 45 years of communism themselves, during which a social initiative was na-tionalized, and citizens were in fact deprived of it. As a result, the interpretations of the events of 1989 should be demythologized, al-so in order to understand the popularity of the slogans about “end-ing the 1989 revolution”, which still tend to appear in the public discourse in Poland.
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Authors and Affiliations

Michał Przeperski
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Abstract

This article discusses the question, to what extent the late and post- socialist transformation in Poland can be considered a key stage in the decline of industrial modernity. Setting out from the premise that state socialism constituted a paradigmatic version of industrial or high modernity, it addresses the major discursive rupture that preceded the regime change of 1989: While the workers’ mass movement of Solidarity had embraced political and social imagina-ries typical of industrial modernity in 1980/81, these came to be re-placed by new socio-economic and cultural frameworks by the end of the 1980s. By outlining the spectacular rise of informal trading, as well as the Polish and transnational input into the promotion of grassroot capitalism, the article indicates how Poland’s late and post-socialist transformation was intrinsically linked to the down-fall of industrial modernity and reflects on the historiographical po-tential of this approach.
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Florian Peters
ORCID: ORCID
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Rule of Law, Legality and Depoliticization were key concepts in the negotiations at the Round Table, in the subsequent dissolution of the security apparatus and in the police reform of 1989/90. Based on published protocols and archival sources, the article explores the use of these concepts in rapidly changing contexts. It argues that the regime and the opposition attached different, even outright op-posite meanings to these concepts, and used them accordingly. As it turned out, it was precisely these semantic cleavages which made an agreement possible in the first place. Key aspects of the regime change in 1989 were being shaped pragmatically, rather than on ideological grounds.
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Joachim von Puttkamer
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In my article I try to examine the genesis of the Round Table negotiations in Poland and East Germany in 1989-1990 on the basis of the existing literature and archival sources. Despite the shared name “Round Table”, there were many significant differences concerning the genesis of the negotiations between the ruling communist parties and the opposition in the two countries. These differences can be observed on many levels, starting with the internal situation in both countries in the wake of 1989 – through their varied economic conditions, disproportionate political power of the opposition and dissident movements – up to different, though so close in time, political-historical context of both negotiations. Describing these historical asymmetries helps better understand spectacular changes of 1989 and their long lasting consequences.
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Łukasz Jasiński
ORCID: ORCID
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Abstract

Founding myths constitute the substrate of national identities and political orders. Especially in times of political change, the significance of such myths becomes clear as conflicts develop around them, in which various political forces attempt to embed the power of interpretation of a founding event in their programmes. In Poland, this is clearly demonstrated by the continuing polarizing power of political camps around the founding myths of the Third Polish Republic: „Solidarność“ and the Round Table. For that reason, they attempt to personify them to a high degree in the person of Lech Wałęsa. As a representative example, his behaviour serves as a reference for the legitimation of the political programme of the struggling political forces. By using both, the narrative of traitor and hero as sources of reference, political action is justified because of the denial or recognition of the founding myths. The only unifying dogma is once again anticommunism.
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Dawid Mohr
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Post-1989 feminist critique in Poland tried to establish itself academically not only in a social landscape of immense political and economic change, but also in a discourse that framed feminist arguments as communist relics. In analysing three major books in feminist Polish literary studies from the 1990s, we find there is a main interest on the condition of women and the specifics of female writing. This trending current propagates the introduction and stabilisation of two categories: the description of the female condition as an academic discipline based on political neutrality and objectivity, and the discipline of womanhood itself, framed by the enhancement of stereotypically understood femininity based on female corporeality and feeling. This main strand of Polish feminist critique of the 1990s thus affirms an apolitical and normative understanding of academic research and of gender roles, re-staging a bourgeois discourse that dismisses political engagement and critical deconstruction.
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Nina Seiler
ORCID: ORCID
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The “Wild East” – or: The 1990s in Guided City Tours in Central and Eastern Europe.
Using the example of recent English-language communism tours in Central and Eastern Europe, this article presents the transformation from communism to democracy as told in the international tourism industry. Young guides, being themselves “children of the transformation”, portray the 1990s as a strange time and period of “anything goes”. Along with various practices of (self-)exoticization, a fundamental paradox of such “alternative” city tours is discussed – namely, the fact that many guides articulate a critical view of how the economic transformation took place and openly criticize the excesses of global capitalism. At the same time, they are them-selves successful entrepreneurs in a niche of the tourism industry that makes its profit from interpreting precisely these contradictions.
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Sabine Stach
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Abstract

A strong nostalgia for “the good old days” is a cultural phenomenon underway throughout the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The filter of nostalgia “tames” communism, though it does not negate its absurdities and inconveniences. Only in exceptional cases does nostalgia mean a genuine desire to restore the past. Nonetheless, the very fact of a swelling nostalgia for communist times is symptomatic and indicates that despite strong public support for the narratives of the transformation in the post-communist countries, there are also narratives created in a bottom-up manner and managed by small and often private museum institutions. The musealization of post-communist nostalgia is a widespread process, but it differs in the various countries of the region. This article will analyze examples of nostalgic museum exhibitions in Poland and the former East Germany. Based on the study of these cases, the author attempts to describe the importance of such exhibitions for the public.
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Authors and Affiliations

Anna Ziębińska-Witek
ORCID: ORCID

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