Too Small to Succeed? East Central Europe and the Historical Study of State Assessment

  • Klaus Richter
  • Heidi Hein-Kircher


In the three essays of the newly established JECES “forum” in issue 2/2018, three col-leagues posit contemporary East Central Europe as “interwar period 2.0” and emphasize the significance of references to interwar history in contemporary memory politics. Their contributions point out the importance of these historical references for nation and state building after 1989/90 and for contemporary national identities. Building on this diagnosis, we would like to propose a methodological framework that looks at state-building in East Central Europe from a different perspective: by taking as an object of study the broad range of different—and often negative—views on the performance and capabilities of the states of East Central Europe from the nineteenth century until today. We argue that if we want to understand the various conflicts that affected—and continue to affect—the devel¬opment of states in this region, we need to understand how views on states shape activities towards states. If we achieve this, we can challenge deeply entrenched narratives—both popular and historiographical—that center around the idea of the inevitable collapse of states in East Central Europe, be they the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Habsburg and Romanov Empires, the interwar states or the states of the Warsaw Pact.
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