Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  4 (2014), 1 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropastudien in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Robert Frost


Balázs Trencsény / Márton Zászkaliczky (eds.): Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe. Leiden [etc.]: Brill, 2010. 784 S. = Studies in the History of Political Thought, 3. ISBN: 978-9-004-18262-2.

Political history has long been dominated by the teleological assumption that the emergence of the unitary nation state was the benchmark of political modernity, and the notion that one can only talk of political nationalism after 1789, when the French Revolution declared that sovereignty lay with the nation, one and indivisible. Yet while the late eighteenth century undoubtedly marked an important stage in the triumph of the notion of popular sovereignty that underlies all modern democracies, its significance is often overstated. The notion that sovereignty ultimately lies with the political community, and not with a ruler divinely ordained by God, has roots that reach deep into the medieval period, while that political community was frequently defined in terms that spoke the language of nationhood, even if the nation was differently or more narrowly conceived. Yet if the problem of who constituted thepeopleor the political community undoubtedly broadened after 1789, it did not broaden as rapidly as the textbook accounts of modern history often suggest. The problem in the nineteenth century was to define just who should be regarded as a member of that sovereign nation or – to use less problematic language – the political community where, ultimately, sovereignty was increasingly deemed to lie. The French Revolutionaries themselves sought to limit the size of the political community – the active citizen body – in a way that is entirely familiar to students of early modern Europe. Early modern state structures and the social attitudes that underpinned them were shaken after 1789, but were far from destroyed, even in France, while nineteenth-century developments were powered in large part by the search to define the essence of thenationand its limits.

For, as Georg Jellinek observed in 1882, the unitary state was the exception, not the rule as late as the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Across most of Europe the composite state as defined by Helli Koenigsberger and John Elliott still ruled supreme in its various forms. Despite their pioneering work, the concentration on therise of the nation-statehas meant that study of those alternative forms of government has been relatively neglected, even for the early modern period. Yet it was within these composite polities that modern ideas of political legitimacy and of the nature of the political community were formed. As the editors of the volume under review point out, politicians, philosophers, writers, and publicists constantly utilised the language of nation, of patria, and of patriotism in discussing the basis of legitimate political authority. The book is the outcome of an international research project on the intellectual history of patriotism and the legacy of composite states in East Central Europe and contains an impressively rich series of studies that seek to test recent arguments as applied to western Europe by scholars such as Maurizio Viroli, David Bell, and Colin Kidd, and which challenge the sharp dividing line that some have postulated at the end of the eighteenth century asgoodearly modern patriotism supposedly developed intobadmodern nationalism. East Central Europe, with its long tradition of composite statehood and political union, has never fitted well into the general story of the rise of the modern nation state; it has in consequence widely been seen as backward, and its nationalism condemned asbad, as opposed to the supposedly more benign and inclusive political nationalism of western Europe. Thus East Central Europe was omitted from the excellent and informative international research project on early modern patriotism whose findings, edited by Robert von Friedeburg, were published in 2005. Yet as this volume shows, East Central European intellectuals were fully engaged in the contemporary discussions on patriotism and the nature of the political community, while the particularities of the social, political, and ethnic structure of East Central European states lent the discussion a singular edge.

The editors have assembled a volume in which the contributions are generally of a very high standard. It provides much food for thought, challenges many comfortable assumptions, and includes a great deal of interesting material that will undoubtedly stimulate future research. It begins with a long introduction. The first section is a little slow: it is a detailed account of the development of ideas of patriotism and nation in early modern France which, while it is a very sound account, tends to reinforce the peculiar notion – subtly encouraged by historians of France – that French developments are somehow normative. It might have been better to give a more general analysis of ideas of patriotism and nation in western Europe as a whole, and a more extended critique of the ideas put forward by Viroli, von Friedeburg, and others.

This is a minor quibble, however. Once the volume turns its attention to East Central Europe, it rapidly gets into its stride. The core of the book – and the most successful contributions – come from scholars working on Hungary and the Habsburg lands. There is one piece, by Alexander Nikov, on patriotic andproto-nationalmotives in late medieval and early modern Bulgarian literature; this is interesting and informative, but perhaps sits a little awkwardly with the other studies, as a slightly traditional account of the formation of ideas of Bulgarian nationhood. There are six articles on Poland-Lithuania which are, in the context of the volume as a whole, slightly disappointing. This is not because they are not good articles: they are, and they are written by distinguished scholars. While they are excellent in their own way, however, they fall short in one respect. The strength of the articles on Hungary, Bohemia, and the southern Slavic lands is the extent to which they engage with the problem of composite monarchy, a central concern of the project. This issue and the problems of national identity to which it gave rise are largely ignored in the Polish contributions. Much is said that is relevant and interesting on forms of patriotism (Roszak), patriotism and ideas of nationhood as expressed by soldiers and burghers (Augustyniak), Enlightened ideas (Grzeszkowiak-Krwawicz, Stasiak), literature (Kostkiewiczowa), and the effects of the partitions (Řezník), but despite the fact that both Augustyniak and Řezník have published important research on Lithuania, little attention is devoted to the question ofwhat country?, an issue of particular relevance to Lithuanians and Ruthenians, who are largely ignored: while the notion of Sar­mat­ism is mentioned in passing, no in-depth analysis is devoted to the issue of how and to what extent Lithuanian and Ruthenian identities survived after the emergence of the concept of one nation of citizens: theone people formed of two nationsin the enigmatic terms of the 1569 Union of Lublin.

This is unfortunate, for the articles on Hungary and the Habsburg lands reveal the extreme complexity of national identity in East Central Europe in this period, and demonstrate convincingly the multi-layered nature and changing forms of expressions of identity and patriotism: another problem with the Polish pieces is that five out of the six authors are experts on the eighteenth century, so not enough sense is given of the crucial issue of change over time. There is no space here to discuss the many excellent articles, but particular mention should be made of a few. Petr Maťas subtle piece on legitimising and delegitimising the authority of the Bohemian Estates after the Thirty Years War superbly demonstrates the paradoxes and ambiguities of the various positions adopted by Bohemian politicians of German, Czech, and mixed backgrounds, demolishing along the way the simplistic Czech nationalist interpretation which treats Bohuslav Balbín unproblematically as either a mouthpiece of the Estates and an early pioneer of modern Czech national identity, or as a lone voice heroically resisting German cultural influence. Lovro Kunčevićs excellent account of civic and ethnic discourses of identity in Renaissance Ragusa reveals the conflicting pulls exercised by concepts of gens and of patria within a city that was also part of a wider Slavic imagined community. Lucie Storchová lucidly analyses the way in which modern Czech nationalist writers have fundamentally distorted and misunderstood the patriotic and national writings of early modern Bohemians, while Hanna Orsolya Vincze deftly deals with the complex reception of Lipsian ideas of patriotism and the common good in seventeenth-century Hungary.

Many more of these articles could be singled out for similar praise. All of them share the virtue of dealing with early modern reality on its own terms, and of placing individual thinkers, writers, and actors in the broadest possible context, rather than presenting them as isolated torch-bearers in the relay-race that is supposed to have constructed modern national identity. The collection as a whole triumphantly brings East Central Europe into the debate on the nature of early modern patriotism and national feeling, and should give historians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a much better understanding of the reasons for the particular problems of this region since 1789.

Robert Frost, Aberdeen

Zitierweise: Robert Frost über: Balázs Trencsény / Márton Zászkaliczky (eds.): Whose Love of Which Country? Composite States, National Histories and Patriotic Discourses in Early Modern East Central Europe. Leiden [etc.]: Brill, 2010. 784 S. = Studies in the History of Political Thought, 3. ISBN: 978-9-004-18262-2, http://www.oei-dokumente.de/JGO/erev/Frost_Trencseny_Whose_Love_of_Which_Country.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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