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Ph.D. Workshop and Teaching Exchange in Fribourg, May 2-9, 2007

04 Jun 2007

Institutionalisation of Scientific Networks for the Promotion of Cross-Cultural and Interdisciplinary Approaches on Nationalism

The promotion of young scholars, above all Ph.D. students working in the field of nationalism studies, being a central element of the SCOPES project, a Ph. D. workshop was held at the University of Fribourg on May 3 and 4, 2007. During the two days of the workshop, three participants from Sofia and Budapest and three from Fribourg presented papers outlining the general topics and the main methodological points of their dissertations. Each of the students also presented a short critique, an ‘opposition’, of one of the other papers. In addition, professors from the University of Fribourg made extensive comments on the participants’ doctoral works. The students’ group consisted of the Ph.D. candidates Vladimir Petrović (Central European University – Budapest), Maria Falina (CEU – Budapest), Dilyara Suleymanova (University of Fribourg), Patricia Hertel (University of Fribourg) as well as Tchavdar Marinov (Ph.D., EHESS – Paris) and Marco Krauer (M.A. student, University of Fribourg).

During the discussion, three main themes received the greatest emphasis: 1) the relationship between religion, national identity and collective memory (in the works of Hertel and Falina); 2) law and legal practices sanctioning traumatic heritages from the past (Petrović and Krauer); 3) the construction of national identities through language policies and (re)interpretations of history (Suleymanova and Marinov).

Patricia Hertel discussed the function of Islam in the European founding myths and focused on the examples of Spain and Portugal. The image of the Covadonga battle where Spaniards drove away the Moors (compared to Ourique in the case of Portugal) is studied by Hertel as a mobilising collective representation that shaped significantly the Spanish national identity. Maria Falina presented the political instrumentalisation of Orthodox Christianity in Interwar Serbia (in the framework of the Yugoslav kingdom). One of the main questions she raised was to what extent one may speak of a common ‘Orthodox’ experience of the relationship between religion and politics: for instance, is ‘political orthodoxism’, typical for Romania, to be found also in Serbia?

Vladimir Petrović made a thorough analysis of the function of historians as expert-witnesses in political trials and presented the existing juridical, historiographic, politological etc. debates on this phenomenon. His paper raised a number of important problems: the relationship between judicial and historical ‘truth’, the public authority and political functions of historical expertise, the legal problems related to the use of historians in political processes, the (self-)interpretation of the latter as part of the ‘big History’ with moral implications etc. Marco Krauer was also interested in the relationship between history and law, memory and politics, particularly in the case of the Federal Republic of Germany. He focused on the ban of the pro-Nazi Socialist Reich Party and of the Communist Party and highlighted the dilemmas in interpreting the Nazi regime in Germany in the 1950s.

Dilyara Suleymanova presented the language revival and minority nation-building in the autonomous Republic of Tatarstan, in the framework of the Russian federation. She analyzed the manifold aspects of this process with regard to its major protagonists: Tatar intellectuals, trying to win the symbolic competition with their Russian colleagues, republican authorities loyal or irrespective to federal governmental decisions etc. Tchavdar Marinov described the different phases of the Macedonian nation-building process, its continuities and ruptures, throughout the 20th century. He highlighted the political functions of historiography in the Macedonian, Bulgarian and Greek context but also some of the most popular (outside the Balkans) historiographic clichés concerning nationhood in Macedonia.

All participants received valuable comments and advice on their ongoing work from historians, anthropologists and political scientists, teaching in Fribourg: Irène Herrmann, Monica Rüthers, Caspar Hirschi, Ansgar Jödicke, Nicolas Hayoz, and François Ruegg. Valuable critiques and remarks were also made by Siegfried Weichlein (Professor at the Contemporary History department in Fribourg) and by Franziska Metzger (assistant at the same department) who assumed also the function of main organisers of the event.

In addition to the workshop and within the teaching exchange (another main activity within the framework of the SCOPES project of the CAS and the University of Fribourg) all East European participants had the possibility to give a lecture to MA students in contemporary history. The lectures took place on May 2nd and May 9th, 2007, in the framework of Prof. Weichlein’s course ‘Dictatorship, Democracy and War. European History 1914-1945’.

Maria Falina outlined the development of national ideologies in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania during the Interwar period. She focused on the different challenges in front of these countries in the aftermath of WWI: homogenisation of diverse populations inhabiting a large territory (Yugoslavia and Romania), search of a common supra-national identity as a means to achieve national homogeneity (the ‘Yugoslavism’ launched by Belgrade and the ‘Czechoslovakism’ in Czechoslovakia), revisionism and irredentism (in the case of the nationally homogenous Hungary), re-launching of particular national agendas as a result of the failure of Interwar national integration (Slovakia and Croatia).

Tchavdar Marinov presented the origin and development of fascist doctrines and movements in Romania and in Bulgaria during the Interwar period and WWII, while Vladimir Petrović analysed the same phenomenon in Hungary and Yugoslavia. Marinov and Petrović compared the extent of popular support of fascist parties in these countries, the ‘original’ elements in their ideologies, their relationship to the Interwar authoritarian regimes and royal dictatorships, the establishment of political alliances with fascist Italy and Nazi Germany as well as the fate of the local Jews during WWII.

During the rest of their stay in Fribourg, the East European participants had access to the library of the University of Fribourg specialised in contemporary history and the chance to use a number of other databases and information resources kindly offered by Franziska Metzger. They also had the opportunity to visit Bern and other places to perform scientific research necessary for their work.

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