Interview with John Connelly--April 6, 2018

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Interview with John Connelly, Professor of History at the University of California, Berkeley. The interview was conducted at Berkeley on April 6, 2018. To access the audio of the complete interview, click here. Connelly completed his BSFS at Georgetown and his MA and PhD at Harvard. He is the author of three books: Captive University: The Sovietization of East German, Czech, and Polish Higher Education, 1945-1956 (2000), which won the George L. Beer Prize of the American Historical Association in 2001; From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965 (2012), which won the John Gilmary Shea Book Prize of the American Catholic Historical Association in 2013; and most recently From Peoples into Nations: A History of Eastern Europe (2020).

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Interview Themes 0:00: Introduction 1:10: Connelly's attraction to Central Europe 2:10: Experiences and cultural interests in West Germany, the Soviet Union, and Poland 3:30: Anecdotes and conversations with people living in East Germany, complications with speaking publicly about the regimes and people’s internalized expectations about their behavior 5:05: Border changes over time and states' control over citizens 6:35: Differences between Germany and Poland in attitudes toward the state and beliefs about the state 7:35: Customs authority as politicized vs. not politicized position in Germany vs. Poland 8:00: Different attitudes toward the past; existence of a unified German state vs. unified Polish state 8:30: Differences in material conditions of Poland/East Germany 9:00: Infrastructure that made it possible for him to live in Germany/Poland 10:20: Grad school in the US and summers researching in Europe 11:00: People who influenced Connelly's intellectual development in 70s and 80s, relevant courses 13:25: Center for European Studies 13:50: Lessons learned from mentors--a critical approach to German history, a mental map of the East European past, accurate and painstaking approach to source criticism 16:00: Linguistic skills of other scholars, most East European scholars know at least Slavic languages 16:30: People with multiple languages 18:20: Shifts in historiography toward intellectual preoccupations (i.e. nationalism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism) 19:10: Shift away from totalitarian theory especially after 1989 in Germany and Central Europe 20:20: Nationalism studies since the 70s/80s 21:30: Shatter zones 22:10: Critical attitude to Yugoslavia 23:00: Nationalism constructed 24:00: Herderian influences in Europe 24:50: Development of ideas of nationalism 25:30: How historiography feeds off trends 26:00: Nationalism as the history of ideas, social history 27:00: Earlier writings of nationalism and subsequent corrections 27:40: Historical events as red herring or fruitful reevaluation 28:00: Wars in Yugoslavia and their impact on views of extreme nationalism 29:20: Historical work, the emergence of populism, the 1920s assumption that democracy would take root naturally 31:00: Liberalism 32:00: Nazi Germany's economics of fascism and the legacy of war 33:00: Tim Snyder on neo-populism, inequality 34:00: German fascism in Bohemian Austria, Nazi party creation, Romania and Hungary 35:30: Italy, the Depression, the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany 36:25: Poland's current political situation, the blind spot of the liberal elite, market economy, election 38:00: Origin of research projects; multinational contexts 39:00: Science and Stalinism in Poland 41:00: 3-country comparison, Harvard advisor 41:30: Emphasizing differences within comparative history 42:00: Afterlife of the model 43:20: Cross-border studies 45:10: Current book project, From Enemy to Brother, origins 47:00: Converts from Judaism in the Czech Republic 47:50: Austro-fascism 48:20: Relationship between historiography and morality 49:00: Evolution of Catholic thought away from anti-Judaism 51:00: Narrative arc of intellectual interests: questions of identity, groups/individual 52:40: Motivations for writing the history of Eastern Europe 54:30: Nationalism as a political phenomenon and movement 57:20: Progress of the book 57:50: Chapter on the 19C, Congress of Berlin 59:30: Areas in the field that could benefit from more development 1:00:30: Liberal nationalism, why does this produce Fascist/not-Fascist outcomes 1:01:40: Philosophy of history, Church history, technology 1:04:20: Graduate training, strategies 1:06:00: Accessible writing for East European history 1:07:00: Area studies trajectory and significance for field of history 1:08:40: East Europeanists' dominance in European field and implications


Special thanks to Cindy Zeng (Brown University, class of 2020) for preparing an inventory of the interview.

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East Germany, Catholicism, Eastern Europe


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