The Left Side of History: World War II and Re-emergent Nationalisms in Contemporary Eastern Europe

Kristen Ghodsee, Member (2006–07) in the School of Social Science and President of the Association of Members of the Institute for Advanced Study, investigates the contemporary European memory projects about World War II and the Cold War. Since the global financial crisis in 2008, countries once locked behind the Iron Curtain have increasingly drifted to the far right, vilifying their state socialist pasts to exonerate nationalist heroes once condemned for their collaboration with Nazi Germany. Politicians and scholars strategically deploy historical knowledge as a tool to quash growing domestic opposition to the economic upheavals and insecurities of the post-socialist era. Using the individual tales of Frank Thompson, a British Special Operations Executive Officer who parachuted into Axis-occupied Yugoslavia in January 1944, and Elena Lagadinova, the youngest female partisan fighting in Bulgaria during the Second World War, Ghodsee ethnographically explores the experience, perception and remembrance of 20th century communism and the widespread disillusionment with the dreams of democracy and free markets after 1989.