Research Project

War and Peace in Socialism – The Yugoslav People´s Army and the Break-up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

The aim of my research project is to analyse how the societal role and the self-understanding of the Yugoslav People´s Army and their military staff changed during the constitutional crisis which took place in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s in the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The main research question is how this institution, which officially was sworn in the communist project and well-respected within the socialist society in Yugoslavia, changed into a military-political instrument of the Serbian nationalist agenda under the leadership of Slobodan Milošević.

In my research project I will distinguish three thematic clusters. (i) Power and Institution: In this cluster I will analyse the role and the function of the Yugoslav People´s Army within the communist society-project and the socialist state-building process after the Second World War. A specific focus lies on the programmatic orders of the Communist Party and on changes which were initiated by the institutional structure of the Yugoslav People´s Army itself. (ii) Army and Society: The second thematic scope should explore the social implementation of the Army in socialist society. Sub-items of this cluster are the social-biographic meaning of national service, the military staff as a stratum of the socialist society and the Yugoslav People´s Army as a socio-economic actor. Based on a local analysis of the Serbian town Valjevo I will explore on the one hand the relationship between the population and the military unit in this region, on the other hand the relevance of the Army for the local economic development of the region Valjevo. (iii) Conflict and Crisis: Finally I will synthesise the exposed insights of the previous chapters with the large-scale changes in Yugoslavia in the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. I want to demonstrate how the societal role and the self-understanding of the Yugoslav People´s Army and the military staff changed depending on their structural and social features of the socialist era and the situational context of the constitutional crisis and the break-up-war in Croatia 1991.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Proposal_Robert_Lucic.pdf

Labour Relations, Social Protest and Violence in the Shipyard Workers' and Dockers' Milieus on Both Sides of the Italo-Yugoslav Border During the Cold War

The project explores the shipyard workers' and dockers' milieus in the cities of Trieste and Monfalcone (Italy), Koper and Piran (Yugoslavia/Slovenia) as well as Rijeka (Yugoslavia/Croatia) during the Cold War. One of its goals is to open up potentials for a renewed history of labour and labour movements. In the aftermath of the Second World War and until the 1970s, the Italo-Yugoslav border area was characterised by a contested border and by two strong, yet contrary communist ideologies (the Yugoslav Titoist and the Italian, which had remained aligned to Stalin). In terms of its multi-ethnicity the region offers an additional apt playground for engaging in the writing of an entangled history of the Cold War divides.

The comparative micro study of workers' milieus on both sides of the border explores the workplace as a place of social and political life and engagements, providing for insights into the transformatory processes of Italian and Yugoslav society at their respective geographical fringes. Methodologically, the project puts democracy and dictatorship into a relationship with each other. Moments of violence - social protests, strikes and generally as a habit inherent in labour relations - stand at the centre of the research, as they focus legitimatory and ideological discourses and agendas. Discursive treatments of concepts like justice, equality, solidarity and, more generally visions of a good society in the framework of workers' self-management stand in opposition to exerted and threatened physical violence in plurifold forms, be they structurised or individual, organised or spontaneous.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Rutar.pdf

Power and violence over the female body in Czechoslovakia: social and medical practices of birth-giving

This project aims to take the case of birth-giving as one case study of practices of domination and violence under communism. On the basis of oral history interviews, archival and bibliographical research, it will attempt to sketch the relationship and interaction between the woman (her child, her partner, her family) and the state (decision makers, doctors, midwives, other medical personnel) primarily within the medical institution of the gynecological/obstetrical practice and the maternity hospital. By establishing comparisons with another Central-European, but not communist, country (Austria) and with a non-Central European, non-communist country (France), and by simultaneously extending the study to post-communist Czech Republic, this study will try to establish if there was a specific communist approach to gender, to the body, to medical practice, and to reproduction, as well as contribute to the history of everyday life under communist Czechoslovakia and post-communist Czech Republic.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Blaive.pdf

Police Practices and Violence in Lithuania during the Late Socialism

Within the Soviet studies, the colonial aspects are underestimated for varying reasons. Conventionally, colonial experience is related to the West and its classical oversea colonies, based on the narratives of (Western) European supremacy over the colonized subject, and the expansion of the rising capitalist economies, which leaves the Soviet system as such outside.

With the growing interests to apply the colonial and postcolonial studies on the former Soviet Union, aim of my research is to illuminate how the Soviet regime sustained itself through the mimetic class, or the class of interpreters, the native elites trained and employed to support the legacy of the Soviet (colonial) regime. It is, to paraphrase H.Bhabha, the mimic men, the interpreter, whoes life is an art of compromise – to suppress the local traditions and cultural habits and sustaining the superiority of the colonizer.

While the postcolonial theorists focus on culture and education, the focus on my research is on political transmission of power. It will focus on the groups authorized to use, legitimately, power in defense of the legitimacy of political regime – Soviet militia and high school teachers. The aim of the research is to illuminate how the self governance of the colonized are assured by local (national) militia and local (national) school system, how do people employed in these structures perceive their own compromised identities; how they perform the surveillance function and punitive raids upon the practices they are partially sustaining themselves, how they compromise between the shifting loyalties towards the political regime and loyalties towards local community and how community deals with the betrayal.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Balockaite.pdf
Taboo, society and communism. Comparative study of Poland and Czechoslovakia of the 1960s and 1970s.
The project is based on general question about  the role and method of the social control within the communist societies. The central point of may interest is a taboo, as an important informal tool of social control, according to Mary Douglas a specific for every culture “spontaneous device for protecting the distinctive categories of the universe”, which “reduces intellectual and social disorder”.         
The social control and taboo stand here as the methods which  make it possible to conduct the holistic historical analysis of the crucial aspects of the social transformation under communism. Taboo is the important social baggage of society on the threshold of the communist era, which evolved under the influence of various factors at the micro as well as macro social level, having an effect at the same time on the complex system of social control, and consequently the whole social order. The analysis of marginal situations may reveal important principles governing the social order. Access to areas taboo leads primarily through spheres of exclusion areas, which may (but need not be) derived from the existing taboo in the community. There are traditionally associated with certain anomality connected with the body (the example of mental diseases and disability), but also socially unaccepted behaviors which may result in exclusion and as such are hidden (the example of domestic violence and  sexual violence). In this context I would like to answer the general question about the transformation of social consensus about taboo spheres, the adaptation of deeply rooted taboos by the official system of social control and –on the other side – its  efforts to modernize the society .
The only way to cross the border of taboo is to read the practices of everyday life, through all sources recording human experience. In addition, research and analysis requires the selection of smaller communities of different social background. An important reference point  is the public discourse.

Velvet Revolutions: Repertoires and Interactions

The project intention is to contribute to the understanding of the non-violent character of the 1989 democratic revolutions in east central Europe focusing primarily on Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland.  The prevailing interpretations stress either the role of ideas coming out of the dissident and opposition circles, or put emphasis on the behavior, internal change and ultimate implosion of the regime power structures. As scholars working on the politics of collective violence argue, however, the prevailing approaches focusing predominantly of ideas or behavior of (non-)violent actions must be supplemented by studying the social interactions of the actors. Therefore, the project focuses on the development of “repertoires of contention” where the repertoires represent the models of interactions, fundaments of collective memory and converters of collective struggle. It will examine the forming of the repertoires on both sides: the regime as well as the opposition and their mutual increasing communication and interaction towards the end of the nineteen eighties. This development namely resulted in broadening of not only the scope of possible political and social actions on the side of the opposition, but also - importantly - of the sphere of possible political identities (their programmatic sublimations, their potential activation etc.) that later took part in the round-table negotiations and the creation of new political regime.  Such investigation comprises two basic areas: first, the internal re-negotiation of the political strategies of both sides: the regime power structures as well as the opposition. Second the representation of the changing strategy in the public realm and their mutual affection.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Kopecek.pdf

Violence, force and discipline: biopolitical body practices in schools in late socialism

School and children are not the terms to be associated with violence at first sight. The socialist dictatorships in Eastern Europe were no different cases in this respect: physical violence against pupils was strictly penalized and the authorities tried hard to restrict bullying amongst schoolchildren. Nonetheless, exactly this feature makes the study of schools interesting for exploring the question of violence during socialism: schools as institutions of inducing social-cultural norms and establishing various disciplinary orders are also institutions which try to introduce various orders of containing violence.

The proposed research will investigate, based on the cases of primary and secondary schools in late socialist Hungary, how educational authorities and school management attempted to discipline, control and contain various forms of physical violence. It will investigate cases when the usage of physical violence was considered extreme and abnormal paying attention both to violence committed by pupils or children in order to identify limits and norms of legitimate violent conduct. This approach will be completed by examination of the modes of normalizing violence by studying educational programs and guidelines in schools to establish the marks of justified violence either as appropriate disciplinary methods or ways of conflict resolution amongst pupils. This analysis will turn the attention towards the gendered and ethnicized nature of violence in identifying proper male and female behavior and transcribing excesses of violence to mentalities of ethnic minorities, particularly the Roma. Finally, the investigation of school violence bears broader implications for the studying of socialist dictatorships: as school managements cooperated on an everyday basis with various parents` councils, their collaboration in containing violence provides access to basic social and cultural concepts in contemporary understandings of violence.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Apor.pdf

Violence on the Anti-war demonstrations 1965-1968: The Double Game of the Yugoslav Regime

The 1960s was a period of students’ riots, civil disobedience, and Cold War crisis. Echo of the global student unrests and antiwar sentiment could be traced in various Yugoslav media of the time, but also on the streets. During that turbulent decade, Yugoslavia faced street violence and riots during the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, which were the first mass protests after the WWII, and the Trieste Crisis.

These protests can be understood only in the context of the Yugoslav foreign policy. They were organized by the regime, and they were not, unlike student protest in June 1968, a shock for the political elite, but a way of political balancing between East and West. In the domain of foreign policy, in that decade, Yugoslavia was one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, with communist ideology, but with strong political, economic and cultural ties with the West. On the other hand, after 1965, the most sensitive issue in Yugoslav-American relations became the Vietnam War.

The first student protest against the Vietnam War was organized already in February 1965, but this one was the peaceful one. The new wave of unrest and attacks on American foreign policy occurred in 1966, with the climax in November and December on the demonstrations in Belgrade, Zagreb, Novi Sad, Skopje and Sarajevo. These protests were organized by the state-controlled student and Party organizations, and then, when they became violent, they were violently suppressed by the state police. The culmination of the anti-war sentiment was in April 1968, when 300,000 people, again organized by the state, demonstrated in Belgrade against American policy in Vietnam, and were, again, violently interrupted by the police.

The same as in general Yugoslav policy, the case with the violence during antiwar demonstrations was one of the typical double games. The state sponsored and organized demonstrations against the war in Vietnam, with a strong anti-American sentiment, and on the other hand, the same state used violence to stop these demonstrations, in order to manifest good relations with the United States. Sympathizing with Vietnamese people, as well as being America’s communist ally, was just another one demonstration of Yugoslav double political game that it had been playing since the break-up with the Soviet Union in 1948, till the disintegration of the country in 1991.


Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Vucetic.pdf

Violence in industrial towns in late-socialist Romania: practices and representations

Violence consists, among other things, of concrete acts of physical aggression and their representation or re-contextualization (Theo van Leeuwen, Basil Bernstein). This means transforming a concrete fact or practice in a semiotic fact, thus enabling it to be transferred to other spatial and temporal settings, to be embedded in various discursive strategies, discourses and, finally, ideologies. The project attempts to study the “everyday” violence in its two interconnected dimensions (practices and representations) in the context of several Romanian industrial towns: Călan (“Victoria” Iron Works), Tîrnăveni (Tîrnăveni Glass Factory), Lupeni (Lupeni Coal Mine) in the last twenty years of the Romanian communist regime. Studying this process of re-contextualization of violence in an industrial environment is important, since both violence and work are linked to the issue of legitimacy of the communist regime.

More concretely, the project aims to study how the process of recontextualization is functioning by investigating how the violent acts occurring within the factory/industrial unit or in its social vicinity are dealt with by various instances: the party, factory administration, syndicate, judiciary, police, grass-roots/informal level (workers). Among other things, the following dimensions will be investigated: how is a violent act taken into account by relevant institutional or individual actors, what causality is assigned to violence by party or factory officials, participants, police etc., how a violent act is described linguistically (statically, as an act or dynamically as a process), how are the perpetrators and victims represented in successive recontextualizations of the same act, what is the relationship between violence and conflict.

Several categories of sources will be used: official and public sources (newspapers, magazines, official discourses, feature movies etc.), archival material from the party, trade union and factory archives and, finally, interviews with former employees.

Research Proposal: PDF icon Research_Morar-Vulcu.pdf