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SIEF2015 12th Congress: Zagreb, Croatia.
21-25 June 2015

(SPS001)

Towards an ethnography of the Iron Curtain

Location A111
Date and Start Time 22 June, 2015 at 10:30

Convenors

Jiří Woitsch (Czech Academy of Sciences) email
Gábor Barna (University of Szeged) email
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Short Abstract

The panel is devoted to research of the Iron Curtain. This border military installation dividing Europe in 20th Century and its material and non-material remnants (narratives, collective memory) shall be treated as both the specific heritage and an extraordinary example of "fallen utopia"

Long Abstract

The whole Europe was after WW2 affected by massive migrations and shortly after divided into two antagonistic political/ideological and military spheres. On the very material level Europe was splitted by several thousand kilometers of border military installation: the Iron Curtain. In the shadow of the Iron Curtain the landscape as well as everyday life of people changed dramatically on the both sides of the border line: from polar zones of Finnish-Soviet border, through Central Europe to the Mediterranean, from Sami people to Pomaks. Many settlements were abandoned and destroyed, everyday life and land-use changed essentially and last but not least the Iron Curtain was the reason for forming of new narratives, folklore and individual and collective memory.

After the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe the Iron Curtain was destroyed relatively quickly, however its material as well as non material remains are still to be seen, recorded, documented, studied and preserved as an heritage. From the 90s of the 20th century, the Iron Curtain is an important subject of research, unfortunately ethnologists and folklorists helped in this research very little.

The panel should thus be an opportunity to exchange information on possible theoretical and methodological approaches to ethnological research of the Iron Curtain and the presentation of selected case studies. Within this framework and following the SIEF congress theme the Iron curtain shall be treated as both the specific heritage and an extraordinary example of "fallen utopia" - a horrible result of divided world.

Chair: Jiří Woitsch

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Ethnography of the Iron Curtain: theories, methods, topics

Author: Jiří Woitsch (Czech Academy of Sciences)  email

Short Abstract

An introductory presentation to the panel "Towards an ethnography of the Iron Curtain" will attempt to evaluate recent research of Iron Curtain in ethnology, social/cultural antropology and related disciplines in the last 25 years.

Long Abstract

After the fall of the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe the Iron Curtain (border military installation) was destroyed relatively quickly, however its material as well as non material remains are still to be seen, recorded, documented, studied and preserved as an heritage. From the 90s of the 20th century, the Iron Curtain is an important subject of research, unfortunately ethnologists and folklorists helped in this research very little. Based on existing outcomes of research project of historians, archaeologist, sociologists etc. the Iron Curtain as an relevant topic for research will be presented and dicsussed. We will try to answer especially the following questions:Can be the Iron Curtain and its remnants and related memory also theme for ethnology and folklore? And it has not been yet? Is it possible to apply ethnological theories of frontiers and space on the research of Iron Curtain?

Attempts to the construction of the memory of borders: monuments and commemorative rituals in the Hungarian-Slovenian borderland

Author: László Mód (University of Szeged)  email

Short Abstract

The paper is based on fieldwork which was done in the Hungarian-Slovenian borderland. It would like to analyse how the „Iron Curtain” appears as a symbol in the context of rituals and how the pieces of fence are used for constructing monuments in the borderland between Hungary and Slovenia nowadays?

Long Abstract

During the last 50-60 years the former Hungarian-Yugoslavian state border's permeability have been changing many times because of different political factors. After the Second World War the physical border was "strengthened" by barbered wire fence and barrage, so it was possible to cross it only through official border stations. After the collapse of Communism different types of monuments were appeared closed to the borders. When both countries, Hungary and Slovenia became the member of the European Union, celebrations were organized which involved symbolic meeting of the communities from both side of the border. The paper would like to analyse how the "Iron Curtain" appears as a symbol in the context of rituals and how the pieces of fence are used for constructing monuments in the borderland between Hungary and Slovenia nowadays? What kind of motivations are in the background from the perspect of communities? How the memory of the "Iron Curtain" is constructed in this territory?

Iron Curtain Past reflected in memory practices: a case study from Neulosimthal (Jedlina) in the West Bohemian border area

Author: Karolina Pauknerova (Charles University)  email

Short Abstract

Based on a three-year research, the paper presents a case study of practices of memory in the former village of Jedlina, in the prohibited buffer zone of the Iron Curtain.

Long Abstract

In the ruins of the village of Jedlina (Neulosimthal or Rosenthal in German) a bond between memory and place has been intentionally forged. Here in the open area in the middle of the former village stands a memorial commemorating the dead of WW1, next to which a box with a memory book hangs on a tree trunk and an information board about "Past Jedlina" is placed. The board, provided by the Protected Countryside Area Bohemian Forest, informs on the village and its history. The heart of long-gone Jedlina is thus a special place where memory is condensed; its power is mobilized as if to fight against oblivion.

Jedlina is located in the former buffer zone, part of the Iron Curtain (49° 42′ 18″ N, 12° 28′ 37″ E). In the spring 1948 after German inhabitants had been expulsed; the village was frequented only by border guards. Most of the houses were torn down in early 1950s; the church resisted until 1963, when it burnt down. Only the WW1 memorial, several grave stones and some ruins of buildings survived - but after Velvet revolution in 1989 places like Jedlina were brought back to life as places of remembrance and tourism.

The paper presents an analysis of the practices of memory materialized in the notes in the memory book, in the information board and the restored WW1 memorial. Qualitative content analysis was coupled with participant observation in order to understand the complexity of the practices of remembrance in the middle of Jedlina.

"Iron Curtains" behind the Iron Curtain

Author: Gábor Barna (University of Szeged)  email

Short Abstract

After the WW2 traffic became difficult not only between the West and the Socialist block but between the Socialist contries themselves too. This formed a special culture and technics of crossing the borders in the 1960s-1980s. The paper presents it with help of the method of autoethnography.

Long Abstract

After the WW2 the traffic became difficult not only between the Western democracies and Socialist contries because of the Iron Curtain but between the Socialist contries themselves too. The ruling national Communist Parties tried to defend not only their political and economical interests, their autocracy but they tried to hinder the contacts between the population living at the state-borders. The motivation was the fear of the influence of bvourgeois and religious ideologies. In communication and contacts people had take into account the administrative difficulties, the strong corruption and total defencelessness. This circumstance put into shape a special culture and technics of crossing the borders, how to smuggle printed material and food. The situation was especially dangerous for ethnographeres who did fieldwork among Hungarians on the territories annexed by the neibouring contries after the WW1. This culture and these technics of the ordinary people and the ethnographers in the 1960s-1980s will be descriped and presented in the paper with help of the method of autoethnography.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.