Revising History in Communist Europe

Revising History in Communist Europe

Constructing Counter-Revolution in 1956 and 1968

By David A.J. Reynolds

Both Hungary’s 1956 uprising and the Prague Spring took place when regimes tentatively revised recent history. This process of remembering and forgetting shook the legitimacy, and shaped the actions, of communist party-states because their control of the past was central to their grasp of the present.

Hardback, 236 Pages

ISBN:9781785272080

January 2020

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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About This Book

The context of both the 1956 Hungarian uprising and the Prague Spring was the torturous process of communist regimes tentatively revising the history of the recent communist past that had been constructed and imposed during the Stalinist period. This process of remembering and forgetting had the power to shake the legitimacy and authority of communist party-states because their monopoly on the interpretation of the past was so central to their control of the present.

Once the elaborate histories of the show trials and subsequent propaganda were undermined, the whole credibility of the regimes that had propagated them was likewise weakened. In the Prague Spring, this long-delayed historiographical reckoning was joined by an equally problematic connection between meanings of the past and definitions of the present. Czechoslovakia’s communist allies insisted on understanding and seeking to influence the Czechoslovak reform process through varied and changeable references to and analogies from Hungary’s 1956 uprising. The purpose and nature of these loaded linkages between recent Hungarian past and Czechoslovak present changed according to circumstances and developments.

While the meanings of the 1956 uprising and the concomitant definitions of the 1968 Prague Spring also varied between Soviet and Hungarian analysts, they were alike resisted by Czechoslovak reformers seeking to chart a unique path to socialism. As they attempted to ground their policies in Czechoslovak history, they unsuccessfully rejected parallels with Hungary’s. Ultimately, however, the dependence on historical analogies to decisively explain the present was also a vulnerability for those who employed them, as the gap between a constructed past and an untidy reality irresistibly emerged.

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Author Information

David A. J. Reynolds is a writer, teacher and editor who has lived and taught in the Czech Republic, Hungary and the United States. He is a frequent contributor to the ‘Hungarian Review’ and ‘The Technoskeptic’.

Series

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Table of Contents

Introduction; The Export and Imposition of Stalinism; Hungarian De-Stalinization and Revising Recent History; A Revolution, a Counter-Revolution or a National Uprising?; Stalinist Purges and De-Stalinization in Czechoslovakia; The Meaning of 1956 in 1968: March to June; June: Turning Point and the Hardening of Positions; July and August: Constructing Counter-Revolution; The Intentions of Intervention and the Shadow of 1956; Conclusion; Epilogue; Appendix; Bibliography; Index.

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