November 07, 2012


The unification of Eastern Bloc cultures was intertwined with major shifts in institutional structures and the corresponding introduction of socialist realism in each state. This conference will comparatively examine processes related to the institutionalization of the production and consumption of literature, cultural policies and aesthetic discourses in post-WWII East and Central Europe.

Today, when nearly all major cultural and political projects have an international character, it is all the more vital to examine past attempts at the creation of a unified cultural and political sphere. The expansion of socialist rule into Eastern and Central Europe after the Second World War was not exclusively a political enterprise; to no less of an extent it was an exercise in transforming the national consciousness of the societies involved in the spirit of (forced) internationalism. In so far as literature is at the core of a nation’s identity, it is important to examine steps taken towards a unification of literary production and consumption following the introduction of socialist rule in East and Central European countries, a process that took nearly four decades.

At the same time, it is crucial to remember that only in a comparative context can researchers do justice to the complexity of the matter. Concentrating on a particular national context cannot give one a full idea of the cultural and political mechanics involved in the construction of the new totalitarian reality. For this reason the project will examine processes related to the institutionalization of the production and consumption of literature, specifically cultural policies and aesthetic discourse. Participants of the conference will investigate how similar events and procedures, because they were initiated and implemented by Soviet authorities, were adapted to specific cultural contexts, and how, in turn, the centralized cultural policy responded to the particularities of each country.

Contributors will introduce primary archival documents– openly published and secret reports of writers’ congresses; transcripts of meetings between writers, readers and party officials; materials of international literary and cultural events; and theoretical analyses and practical instructions related to the implementation of a unified socialist method of writing across Eastern Europe. By comparing and contrasting similar events and processes in different cultural and political contexts, we aim to paint a more comprehensive picture of the formation of socialist ideology in Eastern and Central Europe, the foundations of the Cold War and, last but not least, the building blocks of the recent cultural memory that is part and parcel of European cultural heritage today.


15 March, Friday

9.30 – 9.45              Opening remarks Neil BERMEL (Head of School of Languages and 
                                                Cultures, University of Sheffield)

                                       Introductory remarks Evgeny DOBRENKO (Head of Department, 
                                                 Russian and Slavonic Studies, University of Sheffield)

9.45 – 11.30             SESSION 1. Chair Tamás SCHEIBNER

9.45 – 10.20     Hans GÜNTHER (University of Bielefeld, Germany)
The Export of Soviet Culture: Socialist Realism in Post-War Eastern Europe. An Introduction

10.20 – 10.40   Natalia SKRADOL (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev / Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
How the West Read the East: Western Responses to Socialist Realism

10.40 – 11.00   Alexander KIOSSEV (Sofia University, Bulgaria)
Post-Socialist Realism: The Poetics of Autobiographies and Memoirs, 1990–2012

11.00 – 11.30    Discussion
Coffee break
12.00 – 13.30          SESSION 2. Chair Evgeny DOBRENKO

12.00 – 12.20    Pavel JANÁČEK (Institute for Czech Literature, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic)
                                How Popular Was Socialist Realism?

12.20 – 12.40   Valentyna KHARKHUN (Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine)
                                Artistic Versions of World War II in Ukrainian Socialist Realist Literature (1941–1943)

12.40 – 13.00    Dalia SATKAUSKYTE (Vilnius University, Lithuania)
Deconstructing Socialist Realism by Its Own Means

13.00 – 13.30    Discussion
Lunch break
15.00 – 17.00          SESSION 3. Chair Petr A. BÍLEK

15.00 – 15.20    Angelo MITCHIEVICI (Ovidius University, Constanţa, Romania)
Socialist Realism and Criticism of Decadence: Totalitarian Biopolitics

15.20 – 15.40    Imre József BALÁZS (Babeş-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania)
From Avant-Garde to Socialist Realism: Transforming the Literary Discourse in Hungarian and Romanian Literature

15.40 – 16.00   Tamás SCHEIBNER (Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest, Hungary)
Introducing Socialist Realism into Hungarian Literary Studies

16.00 – 16.30   Discussion

Dinner (18.00)

16 March, Saturday

9.30 – 11.30             SESSION 4. Chair David NORRIS

9.30 – 9.50      Petr A. BÍLEK (Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic)
Materialized Ideologies: The Converting of Abstract Entities into Empirical Objects in Czech Fiction, Film, and Propaganda Posters of the 1950s

9.50 – 10.10     Loreta MAČIANSKAITÉ (Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore / Vilnius University)
The History of the One Lithuanian Film Script: The Inversion of Socialist Realism

10.10 – 10.30   Vít SCHMARC (Institute of Czech Literature, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic)
Ideological Interpellations in the Official Culture of Czech Socialist Realism

10.30 – 10.50   Wojciech TOMASIK (Kazimierz Wielki University, Bydgoszcz, Poland)
                                     Made in Poland, Or Is Socialist Realism a Genuine Article?

10.50 – 11.30    Discussion

Coffee break

12.00 – 14.00 SESSION 5. Chair Natalia SKRADOL

12.00 – 12.20    Plamen DOINOV (New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria)
The Sovietization of the Bulgarian Literature and the 'Bulgarization' of Socialist Realism

12.20 – 12.40    David NORRIS (University of Nottingham, UK)
The Yugoslav Variant of Socialist Realism

12.40 – 13.00   Petr ŠÁMAL (Institute of Czech Literature, Czech Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic)
The Historicism of Czech Stalinism

13.20 – 13.40   René BÍLIK (Trnava University / Institute of Slovak Literature, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia)
                                  On the Issue of Folkishness in Socialist Realist Prose

13.40 – 14.00   Discussion and final remarks