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E

E. Vorachek

CZECH HISTORIOGRAPHY OF RUSSIAN, BYELORUSSIAN AND UKRAINIAN HISTORY AFTER NOVEMBER 1989: DIFFICULTIES AND POLITICAL CONTEXT

November 1989 brought on a vivid atmosphere in the Czechoslovak society [1]. The period was at an end when state-fostered official history served, above all, as a tool for the ideology of state socialism. The more so this was the case in the reasearch into the history of Russia - most pronouncedly, into its latest history, that of the USSR. The same applied to modern history of the Soviet block countries in the Eastern and Central Europe. The decline of state socialism in Europe and of the bi-polar system in the world, the end of the Cold War led to the end of the USSR itself, and later to the break-up of Czechoslovakia and the bloody disruption of Yugoslavia as well as the reunion of Germany. Together with "European" integration processes, a number of new independent nation-states arose on the territory of the former Soviet block, occassionally at the cost of heavy violent clashes or even a civil war, which involved unspoken suffering of hundreds of thousands people. "By the end of the 20th century, the clichй 'image of the enemy' has been reactivated as well as nationalist stereotypes - including quite a number of those dating back long before 1914 (!) - with all the adverse effects for co-existence of peoples or nations" [2].

A new scope opened for objective research of modern history in the countries of Eastern Europe and Russia, a new scope for free study; the archives opened, and there were no taboo topics any more. The new era, however, also brought new requirements, and this field of history had to give reasons for its own existence. To understand the recent events and find some orientation in the intricate labyrinth of problems of Russia (and other post-Soviet countries) definitely requires the understanding of the deep historical continuity and correlation. It is necessary to perceive the complex of problems not separately but rather in the context of general history. Historiographical reflection of the consequences of the end of the bipolar system, including its particular components, undoubtedly involves re-interpretation of national and general history as well. Particular national historiography in the region of Central, East and South-East Europe experienced some very intensive shifts in evaluation of whole historical periods, events and personalities, which is also the case in particular fields of research.

A substantial problem in Russian studies in Czechia is to overcome a deep and long-term crisis in the development of the field, which - especially following the twenty-year "normalization " period - lost a lot of its reputation.

What may the Academy leaders of early 1990s have considered as the decisive reason for the cuts of the institutional basis of Russian and East European studies? According to M. Reiman, the reason is the following: "The impression of overstaffed Russian and East European studies - which has established in Czech public - is, above all, due to the bureaucratic and totally ephemeral propaganda of the former rйgime. Soviet history, especially the history of the Communist Party, was treated just as a mighty tool of indoctrination of the people, and thus wide popularization was pursued, while independent research into the history and present affairs of Russia, USSR or East Europe was neither required nor welcome" [3].

As a matter of fact, a lack of staff who are qualified in East European studies is not the only problem at the Institute of History. Moreover, an essential change of generations in the field has to take place in about five years. Young specialists must be prepared in advance; the only plausible way is close co-operation of academic and University institutions.

Analytical part

The whole output of Czech authors on Russian and Soviet history, including the problems of mutual contacts and allied fields (history of literature and arts, politics) represents - within the period in question - more than 1,050 items by about 350 authors, which is quite a considerable number, reflecting the wide range of people who were intensively and informally interested in the topics. Out of the total number, about 700 items (all figures are by the end of December 1999) relate to the period between 1917 and the present time. Ninety-six authors (i.e. about one fourth out of the total) were predominantly interested in historical topics (with two or more publications, including articles but not book reviews). The historians qualified in Russian studies were 39 in number but only about 25 of them were systematically involved in the problems of Russian (or Soviet, including Ukrainian, Baltic, etc.) history. The others were concerned with the more general history of East Europe, mutual contacts,


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