New Perspectives on Socialism and Human Rights in East Central Europe since 1945

Introduction to the Thematic Issue

In: East Central Europe
Ned Richardson-Little University of Erfurt,

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Hella Dietz Göttingen University,

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James Mark University of Exeter,

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In recent years, the study of human rights history has expanded beyond Western-centered narratives, though the role of Eastern European state socialism and socialists in the evolution of human rights concepts and politics has not received sufficient attention. This introductory essay synthesizes recent research of the role of Eastern Bloc socialist states in shaping the emergence of the post-war human rights system and the implications of this new research for the history of the Cold War, dissent as well as the collapse of state socialism in 1989/91. Ultimately, state socialist actors were not merely human rights antagonists, but contributed to shaping the international arena and human rights politics, motivated both strategically as well as ideologically. And the Eastern Bloc was not merely a region that passively absorbed the idea of human rights from the West, but a site where human rights ideas where articulated, internationalized and also contested.

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