Fantasies of Salvation: Democracy, Nationalism, and Myth in Post-Communist Europe

Princeton University Press
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Eastern Europe has become an ideological battleground since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with liberals and authoritarians struggling to seize the ground lost by Marxism. In Fantasies of Salvation, Vladimir Tismaneanu traces the intellectual history of this struggle and warns that authoritarian nationalists pose a serious threat to democratic forces.

A leading observer of the often baffling world of post-Communist Europe, Tismaneanu shows that extreme nationalistic and authoritarian thought has been influential in Eastern Europe for much of this century, while liberalism has only shallow historical roots. Despite democratic successes in places such as the Czech Republic and Poland, he argues, it would be a mistake for the West to assume that liberalism will always triumph. He backs this argument by showing how nationalist intellectuals have encouraged ethnic hatred in such countries as Russia, Romania, and the former Yugoslavia by reviving patriotic myths of heroes, scapegoats, and historical injustices. And he shows how enthusiastically these myths have been welcomed by people desperate for some form of "salvation" from political and economic uncertainty.


On a theoretical level, Tismaneanu challenges the common ideas that the ideological struggle is between "right" and "left" or between "nationalists" and "internationalists." In a careful analysis of the conflict's ideological roots, he argues that it is more useful and historically accurate to view the struggle as between those who embrace the individualist traditions of the Enlightenment and those who reject them.


Tismaneanu himself has been active in the intellectual battles he describes, particularly in his native Romania, and makes insightful use of interviews with key members of the dissident movements of the 1970s and 1980s. He offers original observations of countries from the Baltic to the Black Sea and expresses his ideas in a vivid and forceful style. Fantasies of Salvation is an indispensable book for both academic and nonacademic readers who wish to understand the forces shaping one of the world's most important and unpredictable regions.

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About the author

Vladimir Tismaneanu is Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland at College Park. He is the author of Reinventing Politics: Eastern Europe from Stalin to Havel (Free Press).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jun 8, 2009
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9781400822508
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Europe / Eastern
History / Modern / 20th Century
History / Social History
Political Science / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The Devil in History is a provocative analysis of the relationship between communism and fascism. Reflecting the author’s personal experiences within communist totalitarianism, this is a book about political passions, radicalism, utopian ideals, and their catastrophic consequences in the twentieth century’s experiments in social engineering. Vladimir Tismaneanu brilliantly compares communism and fascism as competing, sometimes overlapping, and occasionally strikingly similar systems of political totalitarianism. He examines the inherent ideological appeal of these radical, revolutionary political movements, the visions of salvation and revolution they pursued, the value and types of charisma of leaders within these political movements, the place of violence within these systems, and their legacies in contemporary politics.

The author discusses thinkers who have shaped contemporary understanding of totalitarian movements—people such as Hannah Arendt, Raymond Aron, Isaiah Berlin, Albert Camus, François Furet, Tony Judt, Ian Kershaw, Leszek Kolakowski, Richard Pipes, and Robert C. Tucker. As much a theoretical analysis of the practical philosophies of Marxism-Leninism and Fascism as it is a political biography of particular figures, this book deals with the incarnation of diabolically nihilistic principles of human subjugation and conditioning in the name of presumably pure and purifying goals. Ultimately, the author claims that no ideological commitment, no matter how absorbing, should ever prevail over the sanctity of human life. He comes to the conclusion that no party, movement, or leader holds the right to dictate to the followers to renounce their critical faculties and to embrace a pseudo-miraculous, a mystically self-centered, delusional vision of mandatory happiness.

"The present book is a state of the art reassessment and analysis of how the interplay between memory, history, and justice generates insight that is multifariously relevant for comprehending the present and future of democracy without becoming limited to a Europe-centric framework of understanding. The volume is structured on three complementary and interconnected trajectories: the public use of history, politics of memory, and transitional justice. Subsequently, the contributors deal with trauma and the reconstitution of democratic communities, with the multiple publics of historical inquiry in the context of a shift from authoritarianism to pluralism, with the competing narratives resultant of the process of Aufarbeitung, and last but not least, with the juridical and investigative efforts to acknowledge and punish the crimes and abuses of the past. It brings together historiography with memory studies, intellectual and legal history, political analysis with theoretical insight. It integrates local and regional experiences with traumatic pasts into a global structure that offers the possibility of more general conclusions about the memory of a century touched by the 'reek of cruelty'. The authors situate the process of coming to terms with the past (communism, fascism, authoritarianism, failed democracies) in Eastern Europe (including the Western Balkans) and the former Soviet space within the larger context of discussing the memory and history of the post-war period. At the same time, the European overview is compared with other cases of post-authoritarian transitions such as those in Latin America, South Africa, Japan, and the Middle East. The result is a clustered big picture of practices of remembrance, reckoning, and historiographical reevaluation"--Provided by publisher.
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