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The Specter of Communism

Denmark, 1848

Bertel Nygaard

The modern concept communism emerged in the French public sphere in 1840 and rapidly gained currency in other European countries as well. Though primarily used as a term of derision, its radicalization of already-established senses of accelerating change and worldly futurity secured its incorporation in complex unities of utopian hopes and dystopian fears all over the political spectrum of the time. The Danish public sphere of the 1840s reveals three basic modes of using communism, each linked in its peculiar way to new uses of the concept democracy: conservative equations of democratic political equality (particularly, universal male suffrage) and communist attacks on private property in favor of a community of goods; leftist democratic denials of such equations and the emergence of anticommunist democratic positions; and, between the two extremes, liberal distinctions between their own moderate conception of democracy and the false, “communist” democracy of the left .

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Who Is a Victim of Communism?

Gender and Public Memory in the Sighet Museum, Romania

Alina Haliliuc

The Memorial Museum of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance is the main museum of communism in Romania. This article a ends to this museum's politics of representing gender and argues that its exhibits reify resistance to and victimization by the communist regime as masculine. The museum marginalizes women, in general, and renders unmemorable women's lives under Nicolae Ceauşescu's pronatalist regime, in particular. The absence is significant because Romania is the only country in the former communist bloc where women experienced unique forms of systematic political victimization under Ceauşescu's nationalist-socialist politics of forced birth. This article illustrates how the museum's investment in an anti-communist discourse creates a gendered representation of political action under the communist regime.

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Feminism and Communism

Notes on the Greek Case

Angelika Psarra

If we want to situate the Greek case in a wider discussion as to whether the notion of a ‘Communist Feminism’ constitutes a contradiction in terms, it would be productive, in my view, to shift the question to focus on those aspects which might help us clarify the features specific to Greek history. As is widely known, communism in Greece has not been part of the political establishment and has been subject to harsh and systematic persecutions throughout the twentieth century. Consequently, the question is whether we can characterise the Greek version of communist theory and praxis, as it was expressed by the main source of communist ideas in Greece, the Greek Communist Party (KKE), as ‘feminist’ in any way. To answer this question, however, we should first define exactly what we mean by the term feminist, or whether feminism also includes a communist constituent.

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Harriet Evans

From many perspectives, the Chinese Communist Party’s approach to gender equality and feminism offers a shining example of communism’s ideological limitations, and its historical failure to serve women’s interests. From its earliest days, Chinese communism upheld a platform of ‘sexual equality’ (nannü pingdeng), and implemented numerous policies to protect women’s equal rights. Yet its attacks on the epistemological foundations of Western feminism and its denunciation of the latter as little more than ‘bourgeois individualism’ give clear evidence of Miheala Miroiu’s ‘contradictio in terminis’.

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Maria Bucur

This article questions the claim that in Romania, the post-1990 period was one of radically greater freedom in religious matters, as well as greater religiosity on the part of the population. Instead, it suggests that continuity be er encapsulates the development of religiosity—religious beliefs and their embodiment in specific practices— among Orthodox Christians in Romania in the twentieth century. It also makes visible important imbalances, gaps, and faulty assumptions about the importance of institutions in the daily religious practices and beliefs of most Orthodox populations in the historiography on Orthodoxy in Romania. Scholars have failed to see continuities and have embraced analytical frameworks that stress change, especially around the communist takeover period (1945–1949) and the fall of communism (1989–1990). Central to re-evaluating this trajectory are two aspects of Orthodoxy in Romania: (1) most believers live in the countryside; and (2) women have remained central to the development and maintenance of religious practices in ways that cannot be accounted for through any institutional analysis of the Orthodox Church, because of its both implicit and explicit misogyny.

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Daniel F. Ziblatt

The collapse of communism did not follow any single path in east

central Europe. In Hungary and Poland, the transition was marked

by early negotiations between opposition elites and the ruling Communist

party. In East Germany and Czechoslovakia, the regimes fell

victim to a sudden and quick implosion. In Romania and Bulgaria,

internal coups replaced the ruling communist elite with other members

of the nomenklatura. The transitions away from communist rule

diverged from each other in timing, manner, and degree.

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Susanna Trnka

Twenty years after the end of communist rule in Czechoslovakia, numerous public and private acts of remembrance both hail the end of state socialism and rally Czech society to be on guard against its possible return. This article compares three sets of remembrances-official commemorations sponsored by the state and/or private corporations, activists' alternative memory acts, and personal accounts of Czech citizens-to reveal how each of these give voice to fears and anxieties over the possibilities of “forgetting“ communism. Promoting a vision of the nation as united in ensuring that the future remains “communist-free“, widespread concerns over social amnesia and civic apathy become, I argue, a means of bonding citizens together and to the state. What, however, exactly characterizes a “noncommunist“ society is left necessarily ambiguous.

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Katherine Verdery

Throughout the Cold War, most people in the US saw the communist party-states of the Soviet bloc as all-powerful regimes imposing their will on their populations. The author, a child of the Cold War, began her fieldwork in Romania in the 1970s in this belief. The present essay describes how her experiences in Romania between 1973 and 1989 gradually forced her to see things differently, bringing her to realize that centralization was only one face of a system of rule pervaded by barely controlled anarchy and parasitism on the state. It was not simply that the regime had failed to change people's consciousness; rather, the system's operation was actively producing something quite different. These insights contributed to the author's developing a new model of the workings of socialism.

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Introduction

Whither race? Physical anthropology in post-1945 Central and Southeastern Europe

Marius Turda

Although research on the history of physical anthropology in Central and Southeastern Europe has increased significantly since the 1990s the impact race had on the discipline's conceptual maturity has yet to be fully addressed. Once physical anthropology is recognized as having preserved inter-war racial tropes within scientific discourses about national communities, new insights on how nationalism developed during the 1970s and 1980s will emerge, both in countries belonging to the communist East—Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania, and in those belonging to the West—Austria and Greece. By looking at the relationship between race and physical anthropology in these countries after 1945 it becomes clear what enabled the recurrent themes of ethnic primordiality, racial continuity, and de-nationalizing of ethnic minorities not only to flourish during the 1980s but also to re-emerge overtly during political changes characterizing the last two decades.

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Natalia Novikova

I am grateful to the Aspasia editors for the invitation to take part in the Forum since the problem at the centre of the discussion has helped me identify and explain some vague ideas and dissatisfaction with my own research practice. My chief concern was with the reasons, ways, and consequences of the act of naming our predecessors’ actions and principles. What is behind our aspiration to categorise women? Why should we invent new labels for them or import/apply terms derived from completely different contexts? Does it help to understand better their heritage or just simplify our tasks? Giving women ‘generic names’, don’t we deprive them of their own voices?