Muriel Blaive

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2018/2019
discipline History
Advisor to the Director, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR)

Research project

Dealing with the Communist Past or Rewriting the Post-Communist Future? History, Memory and Methodology in the Czech Republic Since 1989

 

This project aims to complete a monograph on memory politics in the Czech Republic. Its approach is historical and epistemological and centred on the insufficiently thematized difference in the Czech public sphere between memory and commemoration, research and activism, history and politics. The introduction establishes a precise timeline of the main stages of memory politics in the Czech Republic, while the table of contents breaks down into five parts:

 

(i) The Totalitarian Paradigm Adapted to the Post-1989 Czech Terrain: “Totalita” or How to Transform a Communist Country into an Anticommunist Bastion. This part analyses the transformation of the totalitarian paradigm into a simplified “totalita” concept that exonerates most Czechs of any responsibility for the communist regime. It retraces the concept’s origins to the specificities of the Velvet Revolution and the weakness of the dissident movement.

 

(ii) How to Deal with Archival Documents?  The second part is a reflection on how to write history on the basis of regime documents. It retraces the declassification history of the secret police archives and the symbolic, political and methodological issues surrounding this process. An epistemology of the secret police file then offers the opportunity to deconstruct the (absence of) historical methodology linked to the political underpinning and power game presiding to the disclosures of celebrities’ secret police files.

 

(iii) Oral History: From Outwardly Detesting Communism to Privately Deploring the Post-1989 Development. This part analyses the complex relationship between the Czech public and its communist past, especially the long and ambivalent emergence of nostalgic feelings after 1989. It is based on oral historical studies.

 

(iv) Methodology in Dealing with Communist History. The fourth part analyzes the law creating an institute of national memory and questions the relationship between academic quality and legal prescriptions. It offers a prosopographical analysis of the post-1989, anti-communist generation that founded this institute, analyzes its bibliography in its first five years, and shows that the primary sources have come to contradict the prescribed anti-communist results. Finally, it reflects on the methodology most suitable to analyze the Czechoslovak communist experience (a bottom-up, social historical approach.)

 

(v) Memory. Finally, this volume concentrates on collective memory - and on its absence. Why is there no official museum of communism in the Czech Republic today? This part analyzes the fundamental contradiction between a state narrative of heroic anti-communism and a popular narrative recalling a lenient welfare state. A closer study of the Third Resistance prizes, meant to identify and compensate the heroes of anti-communist resistance, provides an additional case study in hero and collective memory manufacturing. 

 

Biography

 

Muriel Blaive is Advisor to the Director, in Charge of Research and Methodology, Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes (ÚSTR), Prague. She holds a PhD in History and Civilizations from the Ecole des .hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS).

She is a socio-political historian of postwar, communist, and post-communist Central Europe, in particular of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic.

 

 

Selected publications

 

Perceptions of Society in Communist Europe. Regime Archives and Popular Opinion, (ed.), Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2018.

 

''The Cold War? I Have it at Home with my Family’. Memories of the 1948-1989 Period Beyond the Iron Curtain', in K. Jarausch, Ch. Ostermann & A. Etges (eds), The Cold War: Historiography, Memory, Representation, De Gruyter, Mouton, 2017, pp. 203-223.

 

'Discussing the Merits of Microhistory as a Comparative Tool: The Cases of České Velenice and Komárno', East Central Europe, vol. 40, no. 1-2, 2013, pp. 74-96.

 

'The danger of over-interpreting dissident writing in the West: Communist terror in Czechoslovakia, 1948-1968', in F. Kind-Kovács & J. Labov (eds), From Samizdat to Tamizdat: Transnational Media During and After Socialism, Berghahn, New York, 2013, pp. 137- 155.

 

Une déstalinisation manquée. Tchécoslovaquie 1956, Complexe, Brussels, 2005.

institut

senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Philosophy
2011
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline Political Science
2011
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
2014
junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2018/2019
Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM)
discipline History
2018