Intellectuals and the “National Question” in Post-1918 Central and Eastern Europe (An Introduction)


This article provides introduction and context for the papers published in the current issue. Seven case studies examine the conceptions of “nation,” national existence, national history and national art in the writings of influential intellectuals active in a variety of fields—historians, literary critics, artists and art critics, and a philosopher—in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and their successor states throughout the 20th century. Individual cases are analysed within the context of period nationalist discourse and policies of nation-building with special attention devoted to various aspects of the intellectuals’ strategies in adapting concepts and theories from foreign sources and appropriating them to domestic national(ist) ideological contexts and doctrinal needs via assimilation, bending existing doctrines or deconstruction. The articles presented here provide readers an opportunity to learn about the intellectual’s relationship to the ruling powers, and about their efforts to legitimise or delegitimise regimes, national ideologies and policies, construction of narratives about nation-states’ deeply historical origins and the nature of national art and literature.