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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, Czechoslovak diplomacy etc.; some authors were archivists, publishing documents on Czechoslovak-Russian relations, specialists in the field of politics (Z. Mlynar), historians of literature etc. In 1990s, some 15 research workers retired but some of them are still active and read lectures at universities.

Nowadays, i.e. in 2000, few research workers in the Czech Republic, approximately 15, are systematically concerned with the problems of history of Russia, Ukraine, Byelorussia or Baltic region as in their major field. About ten more are active in post-graduate education at university schools (but how many will stay in the field?). Are they all too few, or too many for a small nation of 10 million, with its relatively small community of historians? We must consider that the whole historian public in Czechia amounts to 600 to 700 persons, also including active archivists, grammar school history teachers and others. Historians qualified in Russian studies may represent about 3 per cent of the number.

Chronological view on the Russian history research topics

The earliest period was covered, above all, by Pavel Bocek (in Brno), Dana Pickova (in Prague), and Jin Prochazka (in Ostrava). P. Bocek focused his attention on the role of religion and Russian church in constituting the Russian state at the turn of 15 th and 16th centuries [4-7]. As for the topics, he overlapped with the writings of Jan B. Lasek, the church historian, and a team of specialists in Byzantine studies who did research into the historical roots of Russian civilization in the respective context [8].

Within the later period, the main interest was focused on the problems of Russian crises at the turn of 19th and 20th centuries [9]. As R.Vlcek pointed out repeatedly in his presentations, the history of the Russian empire as a complex of countries and nations has virtually not been studied in Czechia, where more attention has been paid to Ukrainian or Baltic affairs [10-13].

Within the 20th century history, the focus of specialist interest is particularly on the history of Russia (while extremely little on that of Ukraine and Byelorussia), namely the period of 19171939. Though just for basic information, we nevertheless include writings on Czech-Russian (or Czechoslovak-Soviet) relations, Russian exile in Czechoslovakia etc. as well.

Russia / Soviet Union 1917-1939

Regretfully, the researchers did not concentrate very much on the political affairs in Russia in 1917, development of political parties and - in close connection with the above - problems of nations [14-19].

The period after 1917 is researched most frequently of all - with nearly one fourth of all publications, if those on the exile are included. The war period and the 19th century Russia follow the lead, and only then, at a great, even surprising distance, the post-war history of the USSR.

In that period, both internal and international aspects of the development of the USSR. By far the greatest attention has been paid to particular aspects of stalinization of the USSR, especially political ones, such as the question of stability of the system or Stalin's purges in the army in 1930s.

Less interest has been taken in economic development, whether - traditionally - industrial or agricultural development, or re-interpretation of the collectivization. New views and concepts have been presented concerning the questions of connections between economy and politics, mainly in military politics and organization of defense industry. This means studies making use of the newly open Russian archives. Similarly, studied for the first time in Czechia were the questions of the role of the armed forces in stabilization of the government in the USSR, especially in the region of the Central Asia, as well as the constitution of the Red Army, dispute about its concept and its place within the fight for power in the USSR, especially in late 1920s [20].

Few studies were concerned with the economic history of the Soviet Union, question of forced industrialization and collectivization [21-24].

Of international aspects, the topics in question are the foreign intervention in 1918-1921, the Soviet foreign policy, co-operation of the Red Army with the Reichswehr in 1920s and the Soviet- German treaty of 1939 [25-31].

An attempt of research into some selected aspects has been made by the Institute of History staff within the grant project The army as a tool of state integration of the USSR (1923-1941), led by B. Litera [32].

Some attention has been paid to the fate of Baltic countries [33-40] between the


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