New Book: Ideological Storms. Intellectuals, Dictators, and the Totalitarian Temptation

Ideological Storms. Intellectuals, Dictators, and the Totalitarian Temptation, edited by Vladimir Tismăneanu and Bogdan C. Iacob, Budapest: CEU Press, 2018.

This volume gathers authors who wrote important works in the fields of the history of ideology, the comparative study of dictatorship, and intellectual history. The book is a state of the art reassessment and analysis of the ideological commitments of intellectuals and their relationships with dictatorships during the twentieth century. The contributions focus on turning points or moments of rupture as well as on the continuities. Though its focus is on an East–West comparison in Europe, there are texts also dealing with Latin America, China, and the Middle East, giving the book a global outlook.

The first part of the book deals with intellectuals’ involvement with communist regimes or parties; the second looks at the persistence of utopianism in the trajectory of intellectuals who had been associated earlier in their lives with either communism or fascism; the third considers the role of intellectuals in national imaginations from the left or the right; and the fourth links late twentieth century phenomena to current phenomena, such as the persistence of anti-Semitism in the West, the slow erosion of the values upon which the EU is built, the quagmire in Iraq, and China’s rise in the post-Cold War era. The collection provides a comprehensive overview of intellectual genealogies and dictatorial developments.

EAST CENTRAL EUROPE Special Issue: State Socialist Experts in Transnational Perspective

East Central Europe, Volume 45 ( 2018): Issue 2-3 (Nov 2018): Thematic Issue: State Socialist Experts in Transnational Perspective. East European Circulation of Knowledge during the Cold War, edited by Bogdan C. Iacob

See contents here.

Caragiale in Calcutta: Romanian-Indian Theatre Diplomacy during the Cold War

by Viviana Iacob

published in Journal of Global Theater History, Bd. 2 Nr. 1 (2017): Translocating Theatre History

History of Cold War culture has moved in the last couple of years from an East versus West bipolar narrative to investigating the phenomenon from a global perspective. There is a resurgent focus on encounters between the Second and the ‘Third’ Worlds, between socialist states and those from the Global South. My paper is a contribution to the discussion about the role played by theatre exchanges in the cultural dialogue between East and South. Its focus is on Romanian and Indian attempts, starting with the mid-1950s, to bridge the distance between the two cultures. I underline the connection between broader programs of developmental assistance and the entrenchment of cultural relations between Romania and India, particularly in the realm of theatre.

I argue that economic rapprochement constituted the igniting premise for mutual discovery. Drawing from the representation of the socialist camp as the “Second World,” my paper will underline the role of Indian progressive intellectuals in the consolidation of theatre exchanges with Romania – a development that can easily be extended to relations across Eastern Europe. Based on the Romanian-Indian encounter, the paper will flesh out two interrelated evolutions in theatre diplomacy between Eastern Europe and the Global South: the importance of individual elective affinities built by way of bilateral relations in facilitating reciprocal adaptation; and, the conversion of personal experience into more systematic programs of theatre exchanges, which mirrored the developmental assistance of state socialist regimes to post-colonial societies.

Theatricality and Socialist Realism in Romanian Theatre, 1946-1963

by Viviana Iacob

Originally published in Romanian > “Teatralitate şi realism socialist în teatrul românesc, 1946-1963”,  Studii şi Materiale de Istorie Contemporană, vol. 15/2016.

The article aims to show that when theatricality resurfaced in Romanian theatre debates after 1956, it did not replace the tenets of socialist realism altogether. It was rather a catalyst for the later to evolve into a more sustainable ideological construct in the context of de-Stalinization. The years after Stalin’s death produce in Eastern Europe tremendous changes culminating with the explosive ideological situation of 1956. At a cultural level, these changes unleashed important transformations without displacing however the socialist bedrock. The interwar debates dedicated to the burgeoning issue of theatricality and the western theatre tradition were still filtered through aesthetic coordinates that were put in place during the Stalinist period. The article focuses on debates generated around specific performances which premiered between 1946 and 1963. These events reshaped the socialist realist aesthetic by way of theatricality resulting in a reciprocally corrosive relationship in the following years. The article concludes that the recalibration of the socialist realist formula amounted to a selective process of appropriation that was done both laterally and diachronically. This approach engendered a new form of theatricality. Not a replacement of old socialist realist theatre aestetic but its refashioning.

Shakespeare as Détente: Cultural Diplomacy During the Cold War (1955–1964)

by Viviana Iacob, in Revista istorică, tom XXVI, 2015, nr. 3–4.

The article argues that events such as the visit of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Bucharest and the Romanian delegation at Stratford in 1964 were not singular and momentous achievements of détente cultural diplomacy. They were the most visible results of an exchange program with Great Britain that began in earnest in the mid-1950s. With the start of Khrushchev’s détente in Europe, the countries behind the Iron Curtain capitalized on points of contact that would speed up the cultural rapprochement. Consequently, when it came to engaging with a Western theatre tradition such as the UK’s, Shakespeare was always the starting point for transnational exchanges. From the mid-fifties onward, Romanian theatre practitioners and Shakespeare scholars pursued such interactions not only as a means to strengthen diplomatic ties between the two countries, but also as a medium for mutual cultural transfers with tremendous impact by the 1960s.

Retrospective Justice and Legal Culture

by Raluca Grosescu and Agata Fijalkowski

Chapter in Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu (eds.), Justice, Memory and Redress: New Insights from Romania (Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars, 2017), pp. 100-123.

This chapter explores the relationship between legal culture and retrospective justice in transition, in post-1989 Bulgaria, Germany and Romania. It analyses the different legal narratives that framed trials regarding state crimes committed under communist rule. It specifically focuses on those cases where the application of retroactive law was necessary in order to prosecute, namely: the Bulgarian Lovech camp trial; the German Border Guards’ trials; and the Romanian cases concerning political crimes committed in the 1950s. Most of the scholarship on post-communist transitional justice has emphasised the nature of the communist regime, the exit from dictatorship, or the party struggle for political power during transition as the main determinants that influenced judicial accountability after 1989. We argue that the legal culture, in particular, the judiciary’s understanding of legal formalism and international human rights law, is another important determinant, generally overlooked by the literature.  The chapter first considers the evolution of legal ideology since World War II in Romania, Bulgaria, and Germany. It then analyses the legal debates on the application of retrospective accountability after 1989. It concludes that the different approaches to retrospective justice were strongly influenced by the dominant culture of legal experts.