Forms of nationalism in central Europe in the 20th century


(International ViSEGRAD FUND, ID 21110109)


Directed by Institute of History of Slovak Academy of Sciences

Organised by Czech-Slovak Commission of Historians


Project details

Matter and objective of the project

Under the Central European conditions the nationalism is during the 20th century usually used to legitimize the political power and as a tool to raise the masses. The historians have to suppress this "Central European nationalism" and looking for its common denominator by analyzing its particular outputs Czechs, Slovaks, Polish and Hungarian nationalism. It must be specified how the term “nation” was understood or misunderstood under particular conditions and in particular situation in the past.

Detailed project description

Based on the communication among scientists from V4-countries, the project will peak in five different events. In Prague and Komárno there will be workshops that will analyse the problem of nationalism in the context of economical processes and measures. In Komárno, an example of a divided town or region, where such a trauma has the potential to fuel and strengthen the nationalism, the point of view of minorities will be also taken in account. In Liberec, guided by scientists from V4-countries, Czech and Slovak history teachers, who follow similar regulations and share their experience, will focus on the problem of nationalism in Central Europe. In Hradec Králové, young historians from V4-countries will meet and form important relations. In Prešov, a wide international conference will be held, with scientist from other Central and East European countries (Austria, Ukraine, Rumania) taking part, as well. Three volumes (one for Prešov, one for Hradec Králové and one for the rest) will record not only different methods in the research of nationalism, but also different results, attitudes and ideas. Interdisciplinary communication between scientists from V4-countries who have a lot of experience with nationalism will be very important. Even at the threshold of the 21st century, Central Europe has been considered an ideal testing field for the research of this phenomenon, which is up and about and in contrast with the intentions to build cultivate civic society. This is the point in which the project is really up to date. The results obtained by mutual comparison and special research within this project can move the boundaries of our knowledge and help to fight the bouts of nationalism at the present as well as in the future.



Target groups and groups benefiting from the project

The target groups of the project are young scientists from V4-countries (Hradec Králové), Slovak and Czech historic teachers focused on V4-countries (Liberec), experienced scientists from various disciplines (Komárno, Prague, Prešov), as well as involved scientists and any other people who are interested in the problem because all events will be advertised and open. As all events will be held in universities, the students will participate in all the events (with the exception of Liberec which is purposed for teachers). The students will profit both directly and indirectly from the discussions and comparisons. All three published volumes (Prešov, Hradec, and the rest) will have impact on other scientists and wide public.



Expected contribution of the project, outputs

The output of the planned project will be three publications (separated from the conferences in Hradec Králové and Prešov and the third which will be included materials from other three seminars). Part of published materials will be translated in Hungary. The discussions about Central-European nationalism organized by teachers and young postgraduate historians together with the events in the university cities can give impulse for the next current research, can give experience and help the people to find the orientation for present and future, because the history is always used for political reasons and instrumentalised by politicians.

Planned PR activities

Five above mentioned events are planned for 2011; they are targeted on different groups (scientists, undergraduate and postgraduate students, junior scientists, elementary and middle school teachers and through them also their pupils), and are accompanied by 4 volumes as outputs – the material will be in all V4-languages and in German. One of these volumes, the Czech-Slovak Historical Yearbook, with 14-years long history of publishing, has been well known and respected even abroad. The organizers have experience with involvement of local and national press, TV and internet media. As the events will be supported by local government authorities, the representatives of these authorities will be presented at the events, including representatives of ministries and embassies.

The web page of Czech-Slovak Committee of Historians will be renewed.



Previous experience in the field

The theme of nationalism belongs to crucial categories of social science and anyone researching the history of 20th century and Central Europe has to work with this category and interpret it in some way. The project will be an opportunity for such interdisciplinary discussions.

The main organizers (Czech-Slovak Commission of Historians) have a five-year long experience of co-operation with Open Society Found, for four years, the Commission took part in two international projects by Czech and Slovak Ministries of Education, the support of Jan Hus Educational Foundation has lasted for several years and in 1999 we obtained support from the American Fund for Czechoslovak Relief. The Institute of History of SAS, belongs to top working sites and participates in several projects within the EU, ESF...


Continuation of the project

The project connected with the common titel and common interest and extended by experts from all V-4 countries will be continue, because the seminar in Liberec will be 21th in order, the seminars in Komarno and Prague are part of activities of Czech-Slovak Commission of Historians (meetings nr. 34 and 35 in order), the conference in Hradec Králové will be 7th in order and the great Central-European conferences in Presov had a rich tradition too. The same is valid for the publications.

So it´s clear what is new and what is tradition. The coordinator of project is ready to continue the cooperation with more Polish and Hungarian partners.



Historický ústav SAV Bratislava

Pedagogická fakulta Univerzity J. Selyeho Komárno

Prešovská univerzita Prešov

Ústav pro soudobé dějiny AV ČR, v.v.i. Praha

Technická univerzita Liberec

Univerzita Hradec Králové

MTA Szociológiai Kutatóintézet Budapest

Miskolci Egyetem Bölcsészettudományi Kar

Ksiaznica Cieszynska Cieszyn




31st May –2nd June, 2011 – Komárno – 34th Session of Czech-Slovak Commission of Historians   

J. Selye University Komárno

1st June, 2011– Mesto a región na hranici/Region and town on the border


Various model situations were consequences of new borders. Particular models are Komárno/Komárom and Těšín/Cieszyn that were “fatally divided” after the WW I, with new patterns and situations emerging in the last 20 years, i.e. after the fall of communist governments: economical penetration, new social, cultural and spiritual consequences.

Besides, the formation of new trans-border entities will be researched, e.g. Bratislava with suburbs in Lower Austria and Burgenland, Liberec connected with Lausitz (Lusatia) region as well as the relations between large areas (Czech and Polish Silesia, East Slovakia + Southeast Poland + West Ukraine + Northeast Hungary, ...). There, new social, economic and cultural bonds have been formed. On the other hand, old bonds have survived in several cases, sometimes, however, only as illusions. Particular centres in densely inhabited regions retained their importance at least partially. Stable since the Middle Ages, Moravian-Slovakian border began to dissolve in 1920´s, was restored in 1939-1945, afterwards again weakened, then again politically restored in 1992, and almost disappeared in 2004.



22nd – 23rd August, 2011 – Liberec – 21st Conference for the Czech and Slovak Teachers 

University of Technology Liberec

Politické systémy  středoevropských států 1918-1938/Political Systems of Central-European Countries 1918-1938


Under the Central European conditions the nationalism is used to legitimize and as a tool to raise the masses. This recurring problem is applied by leaders and political elites to gain support in their fight for power. There is another problem, too, since organised groups or individuals want to use distorted historical arguments to reach political or power ambitions of their own. The historians have to suppress this “Central European nationalism” and looking for its common denominator by analysing its particular outputs in both Czechs and Slovaks, compare them with Polish, Hungarian and German nationalism.

Particular courses of formation of the “national story”, it´s parallel to political nationalism and changes of the national story on the background of political conditions are another important theme. It must be specified how the term “nation” was understood or misunderstood under particular conditions and in particular situation in the past and how the meaning was shifted or stretched. The process of the transfer of nationalist ideas and principles to following generations must be specified, as well.

The patterns of “collective identity”, “shared experience”, “common fate”, and “need of unity” have to be overcome. Although these social psychological processes are important, their generalization should not be overrated. The historians have to research particular impact that differs under particular conditions and in particular time. The theme of “selective memory” has similar importance.

The research of political nationalism therefore demands the explanation, how the history is manipulate and usurped, how the “positive events” are chosen and presented and how the “negative events” are scheduled to be forgotten. Some patterns of ideas are constructed and promoted regularly by institutions, “national mythology” and “political and state mythology” are formed. These methods are used as a communication tool within the society as well as with foreigners. Specific terms including “incomplete totality” or “grey zone” are applied deliberately or accidentally, often rather masking than analyzing the situation.

The research of actual image in textbooks is associated with another pragmatic question, valid for each phase: why history teachers have lacked access to public information on this theme. Specifically, how this theme has been assessed in the present will be analysed.


5th – 7th October 2011 – Prešov – International Conference

University of Prešov

Great History in the Little Space. Great Changes in the Central-European Cities and their Consequences, 1918-1929


Project Summary

The end of the WWI changed the map of Europe, especially of its Central-European part. The Austro-Hungarian monarchy was dissolved and new successor states were established, among them Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Austria. However, both of the countries were in a different position after the end of the war. Slovakia and Bohemia, as a part of Czechoslovakia, and Poland belonged to the winning side, while Hungary and Austria was a defeated country, with different conditions of life following after the war. On the other hand, Hungary and Austria was the country where the Hungarians and Austrians were a state-forming nation before the end of the monarchy as well as after the establishment of Hungary and Austria, while Slovaks, but also Czechs and became a state-forming nation only after the establishment of Czechoslovakia and Poland. All the crucial changes were mostly felt by towns and their inhabitants and they primarily referred to their ethnicity and consequences that implied to them after the fall of the monarchy.  The nationality structure of the inhabitants changed in the towns of the former monarchy in the years 1918 – 1928 and the process of this change is the main object of wider scientific research and also of projected conference. 

Specific goals and aims of the project

The aim of the project is to create an outline of towns and nationality structure and their inhabitants immediately after WWI – in the times of sudden (revolutionary) changes and following developments of the towns in the next years, which were influenced by the fall of the monarchy and the regime and the change of statehood. 

The project will enable to compare the towns in various parts of former Austro-Hungarian monarchy with the emphasis on the position of the winning countries (Czechoslovakia and Poland) and on the defeated states (Hungary and Austria) as a successor state of the monarchy belonging to the group of defeated states.

To conduct an analysis of the role of towns and their inhabitants in the life of the country, its inhabitants as a part, as well as particular nations and nationalities in Central European space.


18th – 20th October, 2011– Prague – 35th Session of Czech-Slovak Commission of Historians  

Institute of Contemporary History Prague

19th October, 2011 – Česko-slovenské ekonomické diskusie v stredoeurópskom kontexte, 1918-1948/Czech-Slovak Economic Discussions 1918-1948 in Central-European Context


  • This level of Czech-Slovak relations in Central-European Context has been hardly studied. The ideas about economical equality will be researched, including the formation of concepts, their interference and changes.

A. After 1918, the contrast between old Hungarian greenhouse economy and economical liberalism of the new state was perceived very much. Despite being underestimated, the economic level complicated all levels of Czech-Slovak relations. The research will result in analyses on different courses and functions of nationalization, repatriation of capital and land reform in all central-european countries. In Czech Lands, the goal was not to evict home German and Austrian capital or owners; however, in Slovakia, nationalism against Hungarians was the main reason, what was similar in Poland against Germans.

B. The research will focus on how new economical context of international relations formed after 1938 and 1939.

C. The economic consequences of war and measures after 1945 were influenced by politics. The impact of monetary reform and new industrialisation should be analysed thoroughly and in comparison. The process of economic convergence was prepared and sometimes abused and the economic policy was not developed always with respect to the national interests.


  • March 2012 – Hradec Králové – International Conference for postgraduate students

University Hradec Králové

Conference of young Central-European historians and postgraduate students about Czech, Slovak, Czech-Slovak and Central-European history from the point of view of nationalism

České, slovenské, česko-slovenské a středoevropské dějiny VII./Czech, Slovak, Czech-Slovak and Central-European history VII.


Postgraduate students from Czech and Slovak Republic, Hungary and Poland confront their scientific results in history of 20th century. Thus, the next generation of historians from four countries of Central-Europe is developing in close discussions about nationalism, relations, similarities and comparison. The whole series of confrontations will be prepared with close co-operation of many universities and institutes.