The article analyzes the involvement of Southeast European historians in unesco’s History of Humanity: Scientific and Cultural Development, the second attempt of the organization at drafting a world history. It is a case study of a successful epistemic internationalization of regional and national narratives from the Balkans on a global stage. It is argued that this story is premised on the activity of the International Association of Southeast European Studies (aiesee—created in 1963 with unesco sponsorship), which functioned as the preexistent international milieu of conceptual, institutional, and personnel alignments. However, regional academic cooperation was dependent on the political context in the Balkans since the end of the seventies. Individual regimes employed scholars as experts representing these countries in this unesco project. In addition, the analysis also emphasizes the similarities and cross-fertilizations between Global South and Southeast European historians’ self-affirmations in the context of shifting narratives about humanity, cultures, and civilizations within unesco. However, while the “Third World” wanted to shatter Eurocentrism as the South challenged the North, the Southeast wished to affirm its Europeanness by breaking the Western and Soviet perceived monopoly on Europe-talk. Balkan historians’ anti-hegemonic association with Global South peers targeted de-marginalization within the confines of Europe. The article underlines that a full account of local narratives and phenomena should be examined in the context of the intersecting stories of the Cold War, decolonization, and globalization.
This article presents a comprehensive review of the transnational perspective in the study of communism and the implications of this methodological turn for the transformation of the field itself. While advancing new topics and interpretative standpoints with a view to expanding the scope of such an initiative in current scholarship, the author argues that the transnational approach is important on several levels. First, it helps to de-localize and de-parochialize national historiographies. Second, it can provide the background to for the Europeanization of the history of the communist period in former Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Third, and most importantly, the transnational approach can reconstruct the international dimension of the communist experience, with its multiple geographies, spaces of entanglement and transfer, and clustered, cross-cultural identity-building processes. The article concludes that the advent of transnationalism in the study of communism allows for the discovery of various forms of historical contiguousness either among state socialisms or beyond the Iron Curtain. In other words, researchers might have a tool to not only know more about less, but also to resituate that “less” in the continuum of the history of communism and in the context of modernity. The transnational approach can generate a fundamental shift in our vantage point on the communist phenomenon in the twentieth century. It can reveal that a world long perceived as mostly turned inward was in fact imbricate in wider contexts of action and imagination and not particularly limited by the ideological segregationism of the Cold War.
State socialist experts were at the center of Eastern Europe’s internationalization from the mid-1950s until 1989. They acted as intermediaries between their states and other national, regional, and international environments. The contributions integrate national milieus within broader frameworks mostly circumscribed by inter- and nongovernmental specialized organizations (the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; International Theater Institute, or the un Commission on Population and Development). The issue is an innovative initiative to identify within four fields (economy, demography, theatre, and historical studies) state socialist experts’ contributions to international debates and institution building. We argue that these groups were fundamentally characterized by their transnational dynamism. The resultant forms of mobility and transfer resituate specific systems of knowledge production from Eastern Europe within the larger story of postwar globalization. The collection also includes an anthropological study about the internationalization trajectories of lower-ranked professionals and the resilience of their expertise ethics after 1989. Socialist experts’ mobilities can be circumscribed at the intersection of multiple phenomena that defined the postwar: national settings’ impact on inter- and supra-state interactions; Cold War politics; the tribulations of international organizations; and global trends determined by the accelerating interconnectedness of the world and decolonization. Our findings de-center established narratives about the Cold War and they show how representatives from the East participated in and sometimes determined the conditions of Europeanizing and globalizing trends in their respective fields within particular organizations.