In 1887, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, a Polish Jew, had the idea of putting an end to tribalism by creating a universal language, one that would be equally accessible to everyone in the world. The result was Esperanto, a utopian scheme full of the brilliance, craziness, and grandiosity that characterize all such messianic visions.
In this first full history of a constructed language, poet and scholar Esther Schor traces the life of Esperanto. She follows the path from its invention by Zamenhof, through its turn-of-the-century golden age as the great hope of embattled cosmopolites, to its suppression by nationalist regimes and its resurgence as a bridge across the Cold War. She plunges into the mechanics of creating a language from scratch, one based on rational systems that would be easy to learn, politically neutral, and allow all to speak to all. Rooted in the dark soil of Europe, Esperanto failed to stem the continent's bloodletting, of course, but as Schor shows, the ideal continues draw a following of modern universalists dedicated to its visionary goal.
Rich and subtle, Bridge of Words is at once a biography of an idea, an original history of Europe, and a spirited exploration of the only language charged with saving the world from itself.
In this first sociological study of Soviet political posters, Victoria Bonnell analyzes the shifts that took place in the images, messages, styles, and functions of political art from 1917 to 1953. Everyone who lived in Russia after the October revolution had some familiarity with stock images of the male worker, the great communist leaders, the collective farm woman, the capitalist, and others. These were the new icons' standardized images that depicted Bolshevik heroes and their adversaries in accordance with a fixed pattern. Like other "invented traditions" of the modern age, iconographic images in propaganda art were relentlessly repeated, bringing together Bolshevik ideology and traditional mythologies of pre-Revolutionary Russia.
Symbols and emblems featured in Soviet posters of the Civil War and the 1920s gave visual meaning to the Bolshevik worldview dominated by the concept of class. Beginning in the 1930s, visual propaganda became more prescriptive, providing models for the appearance, demeanor, and conduct of the new social types, both positive and negative. Political art also conveyed important messages about the sacred center of the regime which evolved during the 1930s from the celebration of the heroic proletariat to the deification of Stalin.
Treating propaganda images as part of a particular visual language, Bonnell shows how people "read" them—relying on their habits of seeing and interpreting folk, religious, commercial, and political art (both before and after 1917) as well as the fine art traditions of Russia and the West. Drawing on monumental sculpture and holiday displays as well as posters, the study traces the way Soviet propaganda art shaped the mentality of the Russian people (the legacy is present even today) and was itself shaped by popular attitudes and assumptions.
Iconography of Power includes posters dating from the final decades of the old regime to the death of Stalin, located by the author in Russian, American, and English libraries and archives. One hundred exceptionally striking posters are reproduced in the book, many of them never before published. Bonnell places these posters in a historical context and provides a provocative account of the evolution of the visual discourse on power in Soviet Russia.
Assignment in "Utopia "describes why he refused to see the obvious, the forces that kept him from writing the truth, and the tortuous path he traveled in liberating himself. His story helps us understand how so many who were in a position to know were so silent for so long. In addition, it is a document, by an on-the-scene journalist, of major events in the critical period of the first Five-Year Plan.
As Ellen Frankel Paul notes in her major new introduction to this new edition, Assignment in "Utopia "is particularly timely. The system it dissects in such devastating detail is in the process of being rejected throughout Eastern Europe and is under challenge in the Soviet Union itself. The book lends insight into the "political pilgrim" phenomenon described by Paul Hollander, in which visitors celebrate terrorist regimes, seemingly oblivious to their destructive force. The book is valuable for those interested in the Stalinist era in the Soviet Union, those interested in radical regimes and political change, as well as those interested in better understanding current events in Europe. It will also be useful for the tough questions it poses about journalistic ethics.
Stephen Graubard's volume raises pertinent questions regarding the current state of the European world as it has evolved since 1989. He includes contributions from important scholars around the world: "A New Europe for the Old?" by Martin Malia; "The Serbs: The Sweet and Rotten Smell of History" by Tim Judah; "Illyrianism and the Croatian Quest for Statehood" by Marcus Tanner; "To Be or Not to Be Balkan: Romania's Quest for Self-Definition" by Tom Gallagher; "Ukraine: From an Imperial Periphery to Sovereign State" by Roman Szporlunk; "Ethnic Nationalism in the Russian Federation" by Anatoly M. Khazanov; "Im Osten viel Neues: Plenty of News from the Eastern Lnder" by Barbara Ischinger; "Discourse and (Dis)Integration in Europe: The Cases of France, Germany, and Great Britain" by Vivien A. Schmidt; "The European Debate on Citizenship" by Dominique Schnapper; "Has the Nation Died? The Debate Over Italy's Identity (and Future)" by Dario Biocca; and "Postwar Europe" by Arne Roth.
A New Europe for the Old? provides greater sympathy for the complexity of societies, and argues for greater tolerance of those that are small, and that do not cast a long shadow in the world of today. In the twenty-first as in the twentieth century, they may be engines of change, both as a result of the disorder that they produce as well as the ways in which their values, however seemingly antiquated, survive and prosper, and not only in their native lands. This volume will intrigue historians and European studies scholars alike.
Stephen R. Graubard is editor of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and its journal, Daedalus, and professor of humanities at Brown University.
Despite overt Soviet pressure, neither Prague nor Washington anticipated intervention. The Johnson Administration, courting Moscow for help on Vietnam, displayed calculated indifference to the dispute and reacted tepidly to developments. Left alone, the Czechoslovak population met the invader with militant, if passive, resistance, but the Dubcek leadership capitulated to Soviet demands and acquiesced in an occupation that gradually betrayed all of the gains achieved. Subsequent reluctance by Washington to criticize Moscow helped the Soviet Union cut its diplomatic losses. On the other hand, the Czechoslavak crisis may have helped to persuade Gorbachev to allow Eastern Europe to resolve its own affairs in 1989.
In the post-war era, the region found itself in the Soviet sphere. The short People's Democracy period attempted to purge its structure of feudal, reactionary and fascist remnants, but soon got destroyed as a distinct region by brutal Stalinization. The collapse of Communism did not restore its separate existence reintegration into the West requires a painful transition period with a yet uncertain outcome. Hodos produces a comprehensive, comparative overview of the centuries-old division, along with the resulting social, political, and economic consequences. Chapters on anti-Semitism and the Holocaust illustrate the stark differences between the regions.