Panel 1: Factors driving nation building processes after 1918 and their implications

After the First World War, Europe has undergone fundamental changes. Not only has the balance of power on the continent shifted, but also the way of thinking about politics, society and citizenship was largely different. That novelty was experienced especially by countries of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Central Europe emerged from the war completely transformed. Some nations regained their independence, while others felt its taste for the first time in their history, yet others had to deal with the new statehood, embedded within the boundaries other than they had expected. Thus, concepts of state and nation become fundamental. Citizens and governments of Central Europe had to answer the questions: What does the concept of nation mean? Where does it have its roots? What are its elements? Who belongs to the nation, who does not, and who can / should be excluded from it? Based on what criteria? And finally: to what extent do the boundaries of the nation and state overlap? How to peacefully coexist within its borders? Among the answers to the questions mentioned above, the concept of nationalism appears. This panel will focus on the role of nationalism as a constitutive element for the new states in Central Eastern Europe, as well as the key events and ideologies and the impact of the events of 1918 on the political culture of the new national states.

Case studies I: How the experience of the 1918-1948 period influences national ideologies

This panel will discuss the ways in which the events of 1918-1948 have influenced the national discourses of political parties, the extent to which myths lost or grew in relevance after 1945 and how the period influenced the politics of memory (Erinnerungspolitik) of individual states.

After 1918 the role of symbols and their construction increased significantly grew in importance. The newly established states found themselves in need for mythologized memory as well as history. Therefore, we need to ask – how these young republics aimed to strengthen their historical legacies. They had to deal with the fact that many national identity related questions were not solved: coping with national minorities, relations to their neighbors or unclear relations to the Catholic Church. In this regard, the need of shaping mythologized history has become very important. This need influenced not only the political discourse of the interwar period, but even nowadays has had a significant normative effect on pupils and the school system in general. Therefore, we need to ask questions regarding the distinction between the need of national identity and the process of democracy building. In other words, how did the experience of period dedicated to constitution of democracy and national identity influence the beginning of communist dictatorship?

Case studies II: Persons who became myths

This panel will deal with individuals who became myths, the perception of national heroes of the early 20th century in the neighboring countries and the ways in which these individuals are present in politics and the rhetoric of political parties today.

The newly established states were forced to develop their own story based on nationally conditioned features. Who were the personalities who brought these instruments into reality? How their own interests influenced the national identity building process of individual states? Do we need to reproduce personalized myths in current political discourse? Did these personalities dedicate their legacy to democracy or to nation? Can we really distinguish between “democrats” and “founders of nations”? And last but not least – did their profiles result from a unique historical occasion or an intentionally driven process?

WG I What is the role of history in contemporary political discourses? 

In European countries, we can now observe an increase of interest in topics related to national and regional identities. Both subjects are experiencing a renaissance, posing new questions to nations and communities and challenging them in social, political, historical and cultural terms. Confronted with different types of identity, we face not only the positive side of heritage they bring, but also problems and distortions they generate. This includes nationalism, xenophobia, Euroscepticism and related populist tendencies. How to explain ongoing processes, considering that we have learned from history? Does the history of early 20th century play any role in shaping of belonging space or if thie period is perceived as a given fact?

What should the role of history be? Should it contribute to developing national culture and national feelings; or cultivate ideas, concepts, traditions, or cultural heritage? Lastly, how should states develop their relationships to national minorities within the state borders drawn in 1918?

WG II How to teach history today? How to use innovative teaching practices (memory walks, digital platforms etc.) in history of V4 countries?

How teach history using less conventional methods? How to teach about ideas beyond the events instead about the events as such? How to bring the young generation to think about ideas and about certain historical periods? What methods should be used to explain the impact of events of the interwar period on the post WW II constitution of individual societies? What about methods such as thematic walking tours, virtual 3D platforms or thematic handbooks?

WG III How to ask about the V4 identity, if any may be considered to be of historic and contemporary point of view?

Visegrad countries sharing their geographical location - in the middle of Europe, but for some still on its periphery - are able to work together. At the same time each of the countries that share historical experience and common cultural heritage searches for its own roots. Obviously V4 is not uniform. Each country has its own characteristics, culture, way of building the state, as well as the cultural habits. Some countries cooperate closer, sometimes it is hard to communicate, but we believe that we have a lot in common. Bearing our common history in mind, it is worth to ask where the roots of the Visegrad quadrangle are. What really unites us? Where are the dividing lines? Can we really speak about a common V4 identity? And if so, where to find it? In religious, cultural, historical or national conditions, or maybe in centuries-old practice of joint activities? Such questions about the possible or impossible V4 identity, as well as about the prospects of the future cooperation both within the V4 and of the V4 with other countries or regions will be raised during our discussion.