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Nationalization of history

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Title: Nationalization of history  
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Subject: Historiography, History, Historiography and nationalism, Nationalism, Ethnic nationalism
Collection: Historiography, History, National Revivals, Nationalism
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Nationalization of history

Nationalization of history is the term used in historiography to describe the process of separation of "one's own" history from the common universal history, by way of perceiving, understanding and treating the past that results with construction of history as history of a nation.[1] If national labeling of the past is not treated with great care, it can result in the retrospective nationalization of history [2] and even assigning nonexistent or exaggerating existing national attributes of historical events and persons. Nationalization of history, which began after a period of globalization of history, was not only one of causes, but also element and result of the process of establishment of modern nations (national revival).[3]


  • Universal history 1
  • Causes of Nationalization of History 2
  • Renationalization of history 3
    • Renationalization of History on Ukrainian Example 3.1
  • Legacy of Nationalization of History 4
    • Nation Mythologies, Histories and States 4.1
    • Society and Nature 4.2
    • Denationalization of history 4.3
  • See also 5
  • References 6

Universal history

Voltaire was the first in the modern period who attempted to write a history of the world, without use of religious and nationalistic interpretations of the past.

Universal history, the result of a universal, cosmopolitan interpretation of historical events and mankind as a whole, coherent unit, preceded the nationalization of history. In the Western world, this motivation to imagine a universal history became influential in the 18th century when numerous philosophers promoted new cosmopolitan ideologies,[4] after the ethno-religious conflicts of the previous century, and the subsequent consolidation of states which attempted to impose themselves over religious particularisms. Colonial experience (many European countries had colonies) exposed society in Europe to numerous different cultures and civilizations. It is also very important to take in consideration that the 18th century was in the age of enlightenment when people's activities, both on individual and social level, were determined with desire to follow rational scientific judgment while changing the society, which released them from restraints of customs and arbitrary authorities based on faith, superstition, or revelation and backed up by religion or tradition.[5] All these circumstances provided suitable surroundings for development of universalistic, liberal and rational global perspectives in studies of society and its past and writing historical texts.

In his Essay on customs (1756) Voltaire studied development of civilization in the world with universal perspective, rejecting tradition, Christian and national frames. He was significantly influenced by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet and his work Discourse on the Universal history (1682) when he was first who seriously attempted to write a history of the world, without limits imposed by nation or religion, emphasizing economical, cultural and political history. Imanuel Kant developed ideas about universally applicable moral imperatives in his work Perpetual Peace (1795) and designed a plan for establishing cosmopolitan liberal order which would result in perpetual peace. Universalism of the 18th century created an ideology which in modern form could be identified as modern civil society.

The emerging of modern historiography is connected with German universities in the 19th century and the significant influence of Leopold von Ranke who insisted on objectivity and systematic use of historical documents in the form of authentic primary sources; his credo was to perform reconstruction of the past "as it was".[6] Ranke's universal precepts in virtually all his works were, however, applied almost exclusively to the history of states and nations .[7]

Causes of Nationalization of History

Though nationalization of history could probably be traced from the earliest phases of creating historical works, it was in the period after the French revolution that creating of historical works started to be strongly influenced by national perspectives, and that perspective gradually became globally dominant with its culmination during the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century. Nationalism was estimated as the proper perspective to such an extent that nationalization of history remained unnoticed till recently (1980s and 1990s) and was not studied in historiography in a scale that would correspond to its significance.

Many various reasons, depending on the circumstances, caused nationalization of history. Probably the most important is national revival, the important element of which was nationalized history,[8] that resulted in the emerging of modern nations and nation-states, mostly during the 19th century. With the emerging of national states, a global universal approach to writing history lost ground to the nation-state and was very much captured by it even in a significant part of the 20th century.[9] The professionalization and institutionalization of history that took part in nation-states' institutions during the 19th and first half of the 20th century was closely connected with the process of history's increasing nationalization.[10] Nationalization of history was additionally entrenched by the development of national curricula in schools based on "monumental and prestigious" series of "authoritative" national stories, often written in insular style and justificatory manner.[11]

Germany after Versailles:
  Administered by the League of Nations
  Annexed or transferred to neighboring countries by the treaty, or later via plebiscite and League of Nation action

After the First World War was finished, in some cases during establishment of new frontiers, the principle of national self-determination was taken in consideration during frontier demarcation. Therefore it was necessary to establish the national historical character of certain territories and settlements, like in case between Germany and Poland and the Versailles treaty when numerous historians prepared short studies in an attempt to support territory demands based on Germany or Poland.[12]

After the Ukraine,...) was the desire to gain symbolic distance from a Soviet past, the nationalization of history was a tool for externalizing of the communist past and rediscovery of European national identity of nation.[16]

Renationalization of history

If the first phase of nationalization of history was forcibly suppressed by a national ideology (communism) or traumatic losing of wars (Japan, Germany, ...) there can be a second phase, renationalization of history, on usually changed basis and perspective of nationalism.

Renationalization of History on Ukrainian Example

The nationalization of history in Ukraine had two separate phases:[17]

  • First phase began in the middle of the 19th century and reached its culmination in Mykhailo Hrushevsky's “History of Ukraine - Rus'”. This phase lasted till the end of the Second World War when it was stopped because of political changes in the Soviet Union, while in diasporas Hrushevsky's text had cult status.
  • Second phase started in the 1980s and still lasts as of 2010, as a consequence of direct state sponsorship becoming an integral part of nationalization of the state. At the beginning, it was not so intensive, but after its turning point on August 24, 1991, it achieved special purposes: to legitimize the newly established state and its governing elites, establishing territorial and chronological conceptions of the Ukrainian nation, and to confirm the appropriateness of its existence as legal successor in the consciousness of its citizens and neighbours.[18]

The irst phase chronologically coincided with the process of "rediscovery of tradition" and national revival that captured all of Europe, while the second phase takes place in a period of globalization, vanishing cultural frontiers and aggressive international forms of mass culture.[19]

Legacy of Nationalization of History

Nation Mythologies, Histories and States

An ancient Finnish Hero – Illustration from Kalevala

One of the most important consequences of public. Authors of such rediscovered treasures that were in a quest for success and glory did not suspect that they were in fact builders of as yet nonexistent modern nations.[21] Even when it was obvious that certain texts were basically invented national myths, many social groups, and even intellectuals, wanted to believe that they were authentic national epics, like the Kalevala in Finland.[22]

The nationalization of history, which had its origins more in the epics and tendentious oratory than in philosophy, sometimes grew the idea of an esprit des peuples or national spirit, and, later still, the idea of the 'mission' of each nationality. Such ideas did not evolve into groups of associated individuals, but into universal spirits that can destroy individuals and nations.[23]

Nationalization of history was an important element of national revival and creating new nation states in the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. New nation states and their institutions had the most important role in social process of the professionalization and institutionalization of history that was additionally supporting the process of nationalization of history. The final consequence was that national history regarded the nation-state as the primary unit of historical analysis.[24]

Society and Nature

State entities on the former territory of Yugoslavia, 2008.

Nationalization of history affects all aspects of life, from relationships with other nationalities to architecture. This is a result of the fact that nationalization of history corresponds with nationalization of nature, and the fact that reservations and hostilities toward other nations accompanied nationalism from the beginning.[25] At the end of the 20th century there was extreme nationalistic interpretation of Balkan and Caucasus history, which became powerful weapons in ethno-territorial conflicts and accelerated disintegration of multinational states like Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union.[26]

After disintegration of multinational states like Yugoslavia and Soviet Union, besides the process of renationalization of history, there is sometimes also retroactive nationalization of victims or tragedies of the people that in past lived in those states. According to new national historical narratives, the reason for some people being victims or suffering some tragedies was because they were of a certain nationality, like in example of Ukrainians and Soviet Union.[27] Nationalist discourse in Croatia presents the Bleiburg tragedy as an event where only Croatians suffered and died just because they were Croatians, eluding the fact that many of the victims were Serbs, Montenegrins or Slovenians while many Croatians had died struggling in quisling forces against Yugoslavian partisans.[28]

Denationalization of history

Nationalization of history has been increasingly called into question,[29] and one of its consequences is the emerging of processes of denationalization of history, which is the result of an intention to change the perspective of creating works about history by promoting denationalization of history.

In cases when history was reinterpreted and filtered by the media and official orthodoxy there is a situation in which nationalization of history leads to its denial.[32]

See also


  1. ^ Kas'yanov, Georgiy; Philipp Terr (2009). A Laboratory of Transnational History Ukraine and recent Ukrainian historiography. Budapest, Hungary: Central European University Press. p. 7.  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Kasianov, Terr, p. 7, "In some countries nationalization of history was part of "invention of tradition", while in others it was an element of so called "national renaissance" or "national awakening" ...
  4. ^  
  5. ^ Dorinda Outram (1995). "The enlightenment". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved October 20, 2010. Enlightenment was a desire for human affairs to be guided by rationality rather than by faith, superstition, or revelation; a belief in the power of human reason to change society and liberate the individual from the restraints of custom or arbitrary authority; all backed up by a world view increasingly validated by science rather than by religion or tradition. . 
  6. ^ A. G. Hopkins, p.2 "Leopold von Ranke founded historical research on the systematic use of documentary evidence, on reconstructing the past `as it was', and on the ideal of objectivity."
  7. ^ A. G. Hopkins, p.2 " These were universal precepts. In practice, however, they were applied almost exclusively to the history of states and nation states in Europe,.... Virtually all of Ranke's own work,... was devoted to these themes."
  8. ^ Kasianov, Terr; p. 7, "In some countries nationalization of history was part of "invention of tradition", while in others it was an element of so called "national renaissance" or "national awakening" .."
  9. ^ A. G. Hopkins, p. 2 "Nevertheless, the cosmopolitan ideal lost ground to the nation state in the nineteenth century and for the greater part of the twentieth century too, and was to a large degree captured by it."
  10. ^  
  11. ^ A. G. Hopkins, p. 2, "The tradition of writing national histories was further entrenched in the twentieth century through the development of national curricula in schools and the production of prestigious series, typically described as being `monumental' and `authoritative', that told the `national story' in an insular style and often in a justificatory manner."
  12. ^ Steven G. Ellis and Raingard Eβer; Jean-François Berdah, Miloš Řezník. "Frontiers, regions and identities in Europe". Directorate General for Research of the European Commission. Retrieved October 18, 2010. .... During the Versailles Conference, which was to settle the Polish-German frontier, both sides advanced historical arguments in support of their competing demands. Professional Polish and German historians, geographers and sociologists issued brief statements in English or French in order to achieve this.. 
  13. ^ A. G. Hopkins, p.2 "This approach was adopted enthusiastically by the new states that came into being following the upheavals brought about by two world wars and decolonization. New flags required new histories."
  14. ^ America, history and life, tom 41, edition 2; Arthur R. M. Lower's "Colony to nation" and the nationalization of the history. International journal of Canadian studies. Retrieved October 18, 2010. Arthur R. M. Lowers „Colony to nation“ and nationalization of the history. International journal of Canadian studies, one of the most popular Canadian history texts ever produced. It informed and educated generations of english Canadians with its exciting story of heroes and victims, triumphs and tragedies, and of colony that developed into a nation. It was more than historical text however. It was R.M. Lowers attempt to unite English and French Canadians in shared, historically rooted identity. 
  15. ^ Pakier, Małgorzata; Bo Stråth. A European Memory?: Contested Histories and Politics of Remembrance. United States: Berghahn Books.  
  16. ^ Tatiana Zhurzhenko. "The geopolitics of memory". Eurozine. Retrieved October 19, 2010. In Ukraine and Georgia, the two post-Soviet countries in the "new" eastern Europe that experienced Coloured Revolutions, there are different reasons for the growing concern with historical memory......They distance themselves symbolically from the former empire by externalizing the communist past and by nationalizing historical memory.... 
  17. ^ Kasianov, Terr, p. 7, "Ukraine experienced nationalization of history in two stages. The first began in mid-nineteenth century and reached its heights in the creation of grand narrative, Mykhailo Hrushevsky's „History of Ukraine - Rus“. The tradition of historical writings that emerged at this stage persisted in Ukrainian Marxist historiography until the end of Second World War.... In diasporas historiography it turned it into canon, a true credo. The second stage began in 1980s and still continuing. .... It is taking place under state sponsorship and is integral part of nationalization of the state."
  18. ^ Kasianov, Terr,p. 11, "Nationalized history began to fulfil important instrumental functions: legitimize newly established state and its attendant elite, establishing territorial and chronological conceptions of Ukrainian nation, and to confirm nations appropriateness of that nations existence as legal successor in the consciousness of its citizens and neighbours alike."
  19. ^ Kasianov, Terr, p. 7,"... unlike the previous stage, that coincided with general European phenomenon of "invention of tradition" and the development of the nations, the present stage is unfolding in the era of globalization, fading the cultural boundaries and large-scale aggression of the international forms of mass culture."
  20. ^ E. Zuelow (2001). "Review of "Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism" by Benedict Anderson". Verso. Retrieved October 19, 2010. ... Anderson places print capitalism at the very heart of his theory, claiming that it was print capitalism which allowed for the development of these new national cultures and created the specific formations which the new nations would eventually take. 
  21. ^  
  22. ^  
  23. ^  
  24. ^ "National history - Nation building and professionalization, varieties of national history, Germany, Britain, nation and history today". Science Encyclopedia. Retrieved October 29, 2010. National histories regard the nation-state as the primary unit of historical analysis 
  25. ^ Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn. "Nature and Ideology - Natural Garden Design in the Twentieth Century - The Nationalization of Nature and the Naturalization of the German Nation: "Teutonic" Trends in Early Twentieth-Century, Landscape Design". Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Trustees for Harvard University. Retrieved 18 October 2010. The nationalization of history corresponded with a nationalization of nature. Nature became defined in national terms....Reservations about or even hostility toward other peoples were inherent elements of nationalism from the very beginning. 
  26. ^ Pakier, Stråth; p. 39, "In the Balkan and Caucasian parts of Europe, history in extreme nationalistic interpretations developed into powerful weapon in ethno-territorial conflicts and accelerated disintegration of multi-national states like Soviet Union and Yugoslavia."
  27. ^ Zhurzhenko, The geopolitics of memory, " An important consequence of the delegitimization of the Soviet historical narrative and the (re-)construction of national histories after 1991 is the retroactive nationalization of victims....According to the new national historical narrative, they were killed by the Soviet regime because they were Ukrainians"
  28. ^ Pavlaković, Vjeran (11 September 2008). "Red stars, black shirts: Symbols, commemorations, and contested histories of World War Two in Croatia" (in Croatian). 2601 Fourth Avenue, Suite 310, Seattle, WA 98121, USA: The National Council for Eurasian and East European Research. p. 35. Bleiburg, for example, is a place of exclusively of Croat suffering in the narrative constructed through the commemorations held there, even though Serbs, Slovenians, Montenegrins, and even Russians were among those killed by revengeful Partisans. Yet the nationalist discourse depicts a version of the past in which the victims died only because they were Croats, obscuring the fact that many of them had died in battle as part of collaborationist armed forces. 
  29. ^  
  30. ^ Aileen Rambow. "Writing and Rewriting History at the Turn of the Centuries". Civic Education Project (CEP). Retrieved October 18, 2010. The last panel "Rewriting National Histories—The  
  31. ^ Iordachi, Constantin. "Entangled histories", Re-writing the history of Central and South-eastern Europe from Relational perspective. p. 3. Retrieved October 18, 2010. As a result of this twofold development, we can identify underlying tension between the "re-nationalization" of the history in Central and Southeast Europe and process of European integration. 
  32. ^ Michel, Le Gall; Kenneth J. Perkins (1977). "Scholars and politicians". The Maghrib in question: essays in history & historiography. University of Texas Press. p. 147.  
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