Location: Imre Kertész Kolleg, Friedrich-Schiller-Universität, Jena

3–4 NOVEMBER 2014


***A collaboration between the Imre Kertész Kolleg, Friedrich Schiller University Jena; the Centre for Area Studies, University of Leipzig; and the Centre of Imperial & Global History, University of Exeter. Supported by the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung and Friedrich Schiller University Jena*** Continue reading

CfP: The Black Sea in the Socialist World

The Black Sea in the Socialist World

Birkbeck College, University of London
February 6-7, 2015

Sponsored by the Society for the Social History of Medicine and the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies

Call for Papers

In May 1962, shortly before the Cuban Missile Crisis, Soviet premiere Nikita Khrushchev toured Bulgaria. Under banners declaring “Forward, to Communism!” at a mass meeting in Varna, a Bulgarian health resort, Khrushchev lauded the Bulgarian people for the way in which they had developed the Black Sea coastline. Model health resorts like Varna, which drew visitors from all over the world, were the pride of the Bulgarian people, he claimed. Continue reading

CFP: Epistemologies of In-Betweenness: East Central Europe and the World History of Social Science, 1890-1945

Epistemologies of In-Betweenness: East Central Europe and the World History of Social Science, 1890-1945


Institut für Ost- und Südeuropaforschung Regensburg

29-30 May, 2015

Call for Papers

Convenors: Katherine Lebow, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Research; Małgorzata Mazurek, Department of History, Columbia University; Joanna Wawrzyniak, Institute of Sociology, Warsaw University; Ulf Brunnbauer, Institut für Ost- und Südeuropaforschung Regensburg/Universität Regensburg

The period ca. 1890-1945 saw both the crystallization of modern social scientific disciplines and some of the most profound crises of the social, political, and economic systems they were devised to study. This workshop asks how intellectuals’ sustained engagement with these crises in the “shatterzones” of East Central Europe shaped the development of social science between the end of the nineteenth century and the onset of the Cold War. Continue reading

CFP: Cities of a New Type: New Industrial Cities in Popular Democracies after 1945

See the call for papers attached below for the conference, “Cities of a New Type: New Industrial Cities in Popular Democracies after 1945,” to be held in Dunaújváros, May 21-22, 2015. The conference will explore the transnational history of new socialist cities in East Europe following World War II.

CFP Dunaujvaros (21-22.5.2015)

Utopia in the Matrix

Many, many thanks to Steve Harris and Daria Bocharnikova for creating such an excellent blog and for inviting me to participate in it; likewise to Ari Sammartino, Sofia Dyak, Kim Zarecor and Łukasz Stanek for their deep and thought-provoking readings of my book.

In my response, I’ll focus on two clusters of themes that seemed to pop up across the contributions. These are questions, broadly, about the book’s title (unfinished/utopia); and about what I’ll call comparisons, contexts, and interconnections. Continue reading

The Gift of Labor in Stalinist Nowa Huta

Katherine Lebow’s book starts with a reference to Andrzej Wajda’s movie Man of Iron (1981), which depicts one of the leaders of the Solidarność protests in the Lenin Shipyards in Gdańsk in 1980. This movie was a sequel to Wajda’s Man of Marble (1976) which shows the story of Mateusz Birkut, a leading worker-activist in Nowa Huta who became disillusioned with the party and rebellious: a story repeated, more successfully, by Birkut’s son in Man of Iron.

Czlowiek z marmuru 1-F-155-18 Still from Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble, 1976, Photo- Renata Pajchel Studio Filmowe Zebra Filmoteka Narodowa

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Nowa Huta Couldn’t Be ‘Finished’

Womens’ Brigade, Ostrava-Poruba, Czechoslovakia, 1960s


Unfinished Utopia, Katherine Lebow’s meditation on the meaning and emergence of Nowa Huta as both an idea and a place, is a welcome addition to the growing literature on the postwar socialist city. Working primarily with memoirs, oral history, and previously untouched archival material, Kate draws out the story of Nowa Huta’s founding through the narratives of individual witnesses whose understandings of the city’s history inform a very personal, and at the same time, sweeping commentary on the role of the city in postwar Poland. Unlike books such as mine that take a consciously unemotional and institution-based approach to the study of the postwar city, Kate’s view of Nowa Huta is Continue reading

Nowa Huta, Where Art Thou?

Katherine Lebow’s book looks into Nowa Huta, a new town project that symbolized a wide spectrum of emotionally charged attitudes about socialism, communism, radical industrialization, modern architecture, and huge, top-down state projects, but also resistance and protests. Unfinished Utopia focuses on the largest new socialist town project in communist Eastern Europe under Stalinism, a turbulent period in the post-war history of Poland. Katherine successfully brings into one picture the large scale perspective of a state-socialist regime’s political and ideological project, the urban planning of a model city, and the experience of its various new inhabitants, taking an in-depth view of what such projects brought to tens of thousands of men and women in post-war Poland. We follow a close description of the almost decade long and harsh beginnings of the new industrial city and later when it was integrated into the city of Kraków, an outline of the workers’ protests and the Solidarity movement. Continue reading

Stalinism, Utopia and the Peculiar/Familiar World of Nowa Huta

Katherine Lebow’s Unfinished Utopia is a stunning portrait of a fascinating city—Nowa Huta. Nowa Huta was the largest and most ambitious of a host of planned industrial cities that dotted the landscape of postwar Eastern Europe. Most of its residents worked at the nearby Lenin Steelworks and it served a crucial role in contemporary propaganda as a symbol of Poland’s Communist state’s success at rebuilding the country and constructing a new socialist future. Continue reading

Stalinism on the Frontier of Polish Socialism

We’re pleased to announce the start of our next book discussion, which will be on Katherine Lebow’s Unfinished Utopia: Nowa Huta, Stalinism, and Polish Society, 1949-56 (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2013). Similar to Sztálinváros in Hungary and Magnitogorsk in the Soviet Union, Nowa Huta was in that special category of socialist city built where no town had stood before. It was thus situated on the frontier of Polish socialism as a critical node in the country’s industrial development (Nowa Huta means “new foundry” or “new steelworks”) and its social transformation under Stalinism. 7275138In this richly researched study of Poland “first socialist city,” Lebow examines the creation of this new town as a window onto Poland’s first decade under communist rule. She focuses in particular on the experiences of Nowa Huta’s ordinary inhabitants, their engagement and manipulation of Stalinist ideology, and their role in the making of this new city. For many Nowohucians, Stalinist rhetoric about forging a new way of life and creating the New Man and New Woman resonated with their own desires to leave for good the villages from which they came and assume new, decidedly urban identities and living standards. This was a story of spatial, cultural, and social mobility that intersected, as it did in many other countries and cities of the Second World, with rapid industrialization and building socialism. Continue reading