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Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

Edited by Gyorgy Peteri

Publication Year: 2010

In this volume, international writers explore conceptualizations of what defined “East” and “West” in Eastern Europe, imperial Russia, and the Soviet Union in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The contributors analyze the effects of transnational interactions on ideology, politics, and cultural production, and reveal that the roots of an East/West cultural divide existed long before socialism and the Cold War. The chapters explore the complex stages of adoption and rejection of Western ideals in Eastern Europe in areas such as architecture, travel writing, film, music, health care, consumer products, political propaganda, and human rights. They describe a process of mental mapping whereby individuals “captured and possessed” Western identity through cultural encounters and developed their own interpretations. In response, political and intellectual elites devised strategies of resistance to defy these Western impositions. Socialists believed that their cultural forms offered morally and materially better lives for the masses, yet their attitude toward the West, however, fluctuated between a sense of superiority and inferiority. But, in material terms, Western industry and technology were the ever-present yardstick by which progress was measured. The contributors conclude that the necessities of modern life and the rise of consumerism made it impossible for communist states to meet the demands of their citizens. The West eventually won the battle of supply and demand, and thus the battle for cultural influence.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Front Cover

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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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Chapter 1. Introduction: The Oblique Coordinate Systems of Modern Identity

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pp. 1-12

Few today would deny the importance of the study of images, perceptions, and mentalities on which the modern social order rests. A possible approach to these entities leads through an understanding of the processes of mental mapping. In 1905, Endre Ady wrote...

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Chapter 2. Were The Czechs More Western Than Slavic?: Nineteen-Century Travel Literature From Russia by Disillusioned Czechs

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pp. 13-35

During the second half of the nineteenth century, three Czech travelers, all of them gifted writers, visited Russia. Their encounters with Russia caused disillusionment. The travelers struggled with presenting their disillusionment to their compatriots, since it contested the literary elite’s image of the Czech nation. This image was constructed on the belief that the Czech...

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Chapter 3. Privileged Origins: “National Models” and Reforms of Public Health in Interwar Hungary

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pp. 36-58

Studies in the history of public health often refer to clearly identifiable national models of public health organization in various countries.1 Drawing on Daniel T. Rodgers’s study of transatlantic exchanges within the field of social policy, it can be argued that the first decades of the twentieth century...

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Chapter 4. Defending Children’s Rights, “In Defense of Peace”: Children and Soviet Cultural Diplomacy

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pp. 59-86

Across Europe during the decades after 1900, issues relating to children’s place in society began occupying a place of unprecedented importance in political discussion and in state planning. Concrete manifestations of the new trend included an increasing concern for child welfare or, to use the term...

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Chapter 5. East as True West: Redeeming Bourgeois Culture, from Socialist Realism to Ostalgie

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pp. 87-104

Depicting the postwar world as sundered and under siege, Winston Churchill’s “Sinews of Peace” speech of March 1946 catapulted the phrase “Iron Curtain” into public discourse and U.S. foreign policy. Churchill warned of a West jeopardized by communist infiltrators—a far cry from the Eastern...

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Chapter 6. Paris or Moscow?: Warsaw Architects and the Image of the Modern City in the 1950s

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pp. 105-130

In 1934, the architects Szymon Syrkus and Jan Chmielewski presented their plans for the future of Warsaw at a meeting of the Comité international pour la résolution des problèmes de l’architecture contemporaine (the International Committee to Resolve Problems of Modern Architecture), a key Modern Movement forum...

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Chapter 7. Imagining Richard Wagner: The Janus Head of a Divided Nation

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pp. 131-152

Over the course of its turbulent history, the German nation has defined itself time and again in terms of a constructed Other. The Other—depicted variously as a political, ideological, or racial opposition to the existence of the imagined German Self—has served as a common enemy against which the...

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Chapter 8. From Iron Curtain to Silver Screen: Imagining the West in the Khrushchev Era

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pp. 153-171

In 1957, the Soviet newspaper Komsomol´skaia pravda railed against the Hollywood film Silk Stockings for its “cheap, vulgar” portrayal of Soviet tourists to Paris. Not only were they poorly dressed, but they were purported to know nothing even about “ordinary silk stockings.”1 Notably, Komsomol´skaia...

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Chapter 9. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall... Is the West the Fairest of Them All?: Czechoslovak Normalization and Its (Dis)Contents

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pp. 172-193

Against the back drop of Stalinist show trials, intellectual censorship, and sealed-off borders, Czechs and Slovaks during the 1950s watched as the “West” was transformed from the once familiar to the imagined. This shift was a particularly heavy blow for the Czechs who, until then, had considered...

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Chapter 10. Who Will Beat Whom?: Soviet Popular Reception of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, 1959

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pp. 194-236

The U.S. industrialist Norman K. Winston, special adviser to the American National Exhibition held in Moscow from 25 July to 4 September 1959, had predicted to This Week magazine earlier that year:
We know the life we have is good. By the end of the summer, the millions of Russians who have seen our exhibit will know it too. . . . Unless I am...

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Chapter 11. Moscow Human Rights Defenders Look West: Attitudes Toward U.S. Journalists in the 1960s and 1970s

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pp. 237-257

Key to the attitudes of Moscow human rights defenders toward the U.S. journalists who reported on their activities was the profound isolation of Soviet citizens from the West, indeed from the rest of the world, which was a major component of Stalinism and post-Stalinism. It made those comparatively few foreigners who came to the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s stand...

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Chapter 12. Conclusion: Transnational History and The East-West Divide

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pp. 258-268

This volume has presented ten chapters on the cultural and transnational history of Russia/USSR and East Central Europe. Four of them centered on the USSR, two on East Germany, two on the Czech lands or Czechoslovakia, one on Hungary, and one on Poland. Long gone are the days when Russia...


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pp. 269-328


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pp. 329-330

Back Cover

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pp. 338-338

E-ISBN-13: 9780822973911
E-ISBN-10: 082297391X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822961253
Print-ISBN-10: 0822961253

Page Count: 336
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 867796779
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Imagining the West in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

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Subject Headings

  • Transnationalism.
  • Europe, Eastern -- Relations -- Western countries.
  • Russia -- Relations -- Western countries.
  • Geographical perception -- Soviet Union -- History.
  • Soviet Union -- Relations -- Western countries.
  • Western countries -- Relations -- Soviet Union.
  • Geographical perception -- Europe, Eastern -- History.
  • Western countries -- Relations -- Europe, Eastern.
  • Western countries -- Relations -- Russia.
  • East and West.
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