A New Approach to CEE Communism Studies

Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989

5 October 2021

Central European University Press’ Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989 is the result of research carried out by members of the Center for Cultural and Literary Studies on Communism at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IBL PAN) as a grant project entitled ‘Communism – History of the Concept in Poland in the Years 1944-1989. Interpretations and Uses: Literature, Culture, and Society,’ awarded by the National Developments Development Program in Poland (2013-2020).

Communism has long been considered a dirty word by many in East-Central Europe. Though its ‘haunting spectre’ has dissipated, questions regarding the memory of the communist past contentiously live on. In Poland today mentions of the word ‘communism’ generally elicit collective memories of Stalinist terror and the imposition of a single-party Marxist-Leninist state under the tutelage of the Soviet Union. Focusing primarily on its beginnings, on the dismemberment of prewar Poland between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, the communist Polish People’s Republic is often portrayed as a hijacking of the nation’s development which was finally restored to its natural trajectory after 1989. 

Reassessing a Dirty Word

The cover of the book which is being reviewed about Communism, Edited by Katarzyna Chmielewska, Agnieszka Mrozik, Grzegorz Wołowiec

However, in Reassessing Communism: Concepts, Culture, and Society in Poland, 1944–1989, the authors explore how ‘communism’ as a symbolic-discursive concept evolved across time took on different characteristics throughout the decades of communist rule in Poland. In other words, the study explores how presentations and understandings of ‘communism’ in the 1940s were not the same as in the 1980s, and each was different from various points in decades in between. This was not limited to political conceptions but equally included cultural and social understandings of interrelated concepts connected to understandings of communism such as identity, community, upward social mobility, revolution, and modernity (among many others).

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Adam Aksnowicz

Adam Aksnowicz holds an MA in History from Central European University and an MA in Sociology from the University of Wrocław. His research focuses on the history and memory of Poland’s former Eastern borderlands, state and military propaganda, and cultural politics from an interdisciplinary perspective. Originally from Chicago but currently based in Warsaw, his interests also include diaspora issues and US foreign relations.

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