The struggle for the soul of the nation : Czech culture and the rise of communism /
Bradley F. Abrams.
Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, c2004.
viii, 363 p.
074253023X (alk. paper)
More Details
Lanham : Rowman & Littlefield, c2004.
074253023X (alk. paper)
contents note
World War Two and the East European revolution -- Intellectuals in the Czech environment -- Four groups of Czech intellectuals -- The communist aim : the creation of a new Czechoslovakia -- The battle over the recent past I : the experiences of Munich and the Second World War -- The battle over the recent past II : the First Republic and Tomáš G. Masaryk -- The shift in sensibilities and generations -- The reorientation of national identity -- Socialism and communist intellectuals -- Socialism and democratic socialist intellectuals -- Socialism and Roman Catholic intellectuals -- Socialism and Protestant intellectuals -- The end of Czechoslovak democracy and the rise of communism in Eastern Europe.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Bradley F. Abrams is assistant professor of history at Columbia University.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2004-12-01:
In February 1948, a government crisis in Czechoslovakia led to the end of coalition government and the ascendancy of Klement Gottwald and the Communist Party. Western observers have always seen the communist seizure of power as a victory for the Soviet Union and its puppets in Prague. In this extraordinary study, Abrams (Columbia Univ.) demonstrates that this interpretation--itself a product of the Cold War--is quite limited. Using the writings of Czech intellectuals from the period, Abrams shows that the triumph of communism had more profound causes. The Czechs gave up on the West not only because the French and British had abandoned them at Munich, but also because the Russians liberated them in WW II. And the enormous damage the war had wrought left the Czechs ready to adopt collectivist solutions for their own country. But what may have mattered most was the skill with which the communists portrayed themselves as Czech nationalists, and the inability or unwillingness of their opponents (particularly among the socialist and Protestant camps) to challenge the rhetoric of the Stalinist Left. Abrams's superb work can be read with profit by generalists as well as by historians of Central and Eastern Europe. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Most levels/libraries. S. Bailey Knox College
Review Quotes
The communist seizure of power in Czechoslovakia, a country known for its democratic exceptionalism during the interwar era, has long attracted the interest of historians of the region. With this intellectual history of Czechoslovakia's postwar political culture, Bradley F. Abrams makes a valuable addition to the historiography of the topic.By carefully reconstructing the development of postwar political culture in Czechoslovakia, Abrams lays to rest any remaining notion of a top-down imposition of communism by Soviet outsiders who together with a few domestic fellow travelers subverted Czechoslovakia in 1948. As he demonstrates, the Communist Party had broad popular support in Czechoslovakia. Clearly written and well argued, this volume should be of interest to modern European historians as well as to those involved in Cold War and communist/postcommunist studies.
Extraordinary. . . . Abrams's superb work can be read with profit by generalists as well as by historians of Central and Eastern Europe. Highly recommended.
Overall, this is an excellent book, meticulously researched and well organized, it succeeds in setting a new agenda for Czechoslovak history in the Cold War-free world.
Abram's work is well researched. It would be a very useful read for undergraduates in history, Czech culture courses or for those readying themselves for study abroad in Prague.
Abrams work will certainly set the standard on this subject for years to come.
An important part of the scholarly reexamination of the cold war since the fall of European communism is the questioning of traditionally accepted verities. One of the most hallowed of these is the notion that the establishment of communism in Central and Eastern Europe was purely a function of Soviet military occupation. That this was not the case in Czechoslovakia, and perhaps, by analogy, not nearly as much as we once believed to have been the case in other countries, is the theme of Bradley Abrams'sexcellent book.... [T]he period from 1945 to minutely and superbly studied. We are all indebted to Abrams for so beautifully reminding us that history really does have something to teach us, even when it is about an episode that most of the world would rather forget..
This item was reviewed in:
Reference & Research Book News, August 2004
Choice, December 2004
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Main Description
This original study revisits the critical historical and cultural debates in Czech society immediately following World War II. Bradley F. Abrams discovers that communist public figures were largely successful in controlling the discourse over the nation's
Long Description
The material effects of World War II, in combination with Eastern Europe's disappointingly undemocratic interwar history, placed radical social change on the postwar agenda across the region and shaped the debates that took place in immediate postwar Czech society. These debates adopted both a cultural form, in struggles over the meaning of the recent past and the nation's position on the East-West continuum, and a directly political form, in battles over the meaning of socialism. The Struggle for the Soul of the Nation examines the most important and politically resonant fields of historical and cultural debate in Czech society immediately after World War II. Bradley Abrams finds that communist public figures were largely successful in controlling debate over the nation's recent past ”the interwar First Republic and the experiences of Munich and World War II ”and over its location on the East “West continuum. This success preceded and was mirrored in the struggles over the political issue of the times: socialism. The communists engaged their political foes in the democratic socialist and Roman Catholic camps, and, surprisingly, found significant support from a major Protestant church. Abrams's careful reading of major publications re-creates a postwar mood sympathetic to radical social change, questioning the standard view of the communists' rise to power. This book not only contributes to the specific literature on Czech history, but also raises questions about the relationship between war and radical social change, about the communist takeover of the region, and about the role of intellectuals in public life.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. vii
Introduction: The Cold War and Contemporary Understandings of the Communist Takeover of Czechoslovakiap. 1
Czech Intellectuals Enter the Postwar World
World War II and the East European Revolutionp. 9
Intellectuals in the Czech Environmentp. 39
Four Groups of Postwar Czech Intellectualsp. 53
The Interpretation and Reinterpretation of Czech History and the Reorientation of the Czech Nation
The Communist Aim: The Creation of a New Czechoslovakiap. 89
The Battle over the Recent Past I: The Experiences of Munich and World War IIp. 104
The Battle over the Recent Past II: The First Republic and Tomas G. Masarykp. 118
The Shift in Sensibilities and Generations: May 5, 1945, versus October 28, 1918p. 139
The Reorientation of National Identity: Czechs between East and Westp. 156
The Meaning of Socialism
Socialism and Communist Intellectuals: The "Czechoslovak Road to Socialism"p. 178
Socialism and Democratic Socialist Intellectuals: The "New Socialist Ethos"p. 199
Socialism and Roman Catholic Intellectuals: The "Fateful Struggle between Spirit and Matter"p. 234
Socialism and Protestant Intellectuals: The "Kingdom of God on Earth"?p. 253
Conclusion: The End of Czechoslovak Democracy and the Rise of Communism in Eastern Europep. 275
Appendixp. 289
Notesp. 296
Bibliographyp. 347
Indexp. 357
About the Authorp. 363
Table of Contents provided by Rittenhouse. All Rights Reserved.

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