A handy example of politicization of the study of the past should be brought back up because it is so compelling. Here is a quote from an article published in 1991 (when the fear of the rise of Eastern European nationalism filled the pants of most academics who studied the area). It was published, we kid you not, by a German (Austrian but, let’s be honest, that’s a fake country that’s always on the brink of not being around in a few years) who decided, in his disarming naiveté, to apply the reeducational training he must have received on deconstructing German nationalism (indeed the concept of the German nation which, though barely, is still in existence) to the other European nations.
(We note here that Germans have a tendency to excel in things – unfortunately for the rest of us, 1) they also often lack the preliminary judgment as to what things they should excel in in the first place and 2) too much excelling in anything can be a bad thing).
An individual well-schooled in the art of criticizing his own people might find no trouble in criticizing other “lesser” (this time “lesser” as regards their sensitivity/multiculturalism/spirit of tolerance – whatever – as usual, with this type – lesser) peoples when called upon to do so. And so this proves true also here.
There are three brow-raising things here:
1) that this should be published by a German less than 50 years after their war;
2) that it was published in a Slavic (Polish actually) Archeological journal; but, importantly, also
3) that he comes out and says exactly what his purpose is (and, just in case you are wondering, it isn’t science or truth – it’s Momsense!)
Here you go, reintroducing the propagandist Walter Pohl:
“Traditional research has taken the meaning of the terms “people” or “tribe” for granted. In this view, a “people” is a racially and culturally [our note: the latter only if you took Kossina seriously] highly homogenous group sharing a common descendant and destiny [our note: not sure where he got the destiny part from], speaking the same language and living within one state. Peoples (and not individuals or social groups) were often seen as factors of continuity in a changing world, as the real subjects of history – almost immutable in its course [our note: huh?], indeed more a natural than a historical phenomenon [our note: here he must be referring to some of his own people’s ’33-’45 (?) Nazi writings and assuming/extrapolating]. Their fate was described using biological metaphors: birth, growth, flowering and decay [note: still awake?]. This historical conception was rooted in the national movements of the 19th and 20th century, and it had its share in encouraging all kinds of chauvinist ideologies [our note: we’re getting warmer]…. Today’s nationalist movements in many Eastern European countries have rediscovered [our note: you mean you didn’t burn the manuals!? Negligence!!!] the 19th century ideal of the homogeneous nation-state; it is sad to see that after so many tragedies it has brought about, some more seem to follow, and often in the name of history. This situation explains the crucial importance of Early Medieval studies for the conceptions and preconceptions of ethnicity… The existence of Romans, Germans or Slavs in the 5th or 7th centuries became important arguments [sic] in an endless series of national struggles, culminating in the bizarre revival of the fair and reckless Germanic hero that lured an entire people into the Nazi holocaust.”
This gentleman tells us he is experiencing “sadness” – we can, like, totally understand, as our forefathers experienced a similar “sadness” when his ancestors brought us some wacky sadness over from his country (of course his people were “lured” into all that as he says) – his polemic, errr “article” is, of course, addressed partly at us – the first saddened, then saddled people who spent 50 years behind the Iron Curtain while he warmed his behind in “neutral” Sud Deutschland protected by cushy government-paid stipends and the might of the surrounding NATO countries (i.e., US)?
He thinks our nationalism could be just like his so now that his people have stopped killing us, he thinks it’s the right time to start to lecture us…
But let’s put that aside and look at what he actually says above:
“This situation explains the crucial importance of Early Medieval studies for the conceptions and preconceptions of ethnicity… The existence of Romans, Germans or Slavs in the 5th or 7th centuries became important arguments [sic]…”
There it is – he is saying history should be a tool of current politics and new identity formation – forget wie es eigentlich gewesen [ist/war] – that’s irrelevant to an over-eifrig armchair-warrior on a crusade to ensure the Slavs do not cause another holocaust… wait, what!?
As an aside, while he may think that das Ziel Heiligt die Mittel, what exactly heiligt das Ziel that he is willing to pay (or, really, have us pay) any price to reach it?
So, you see, if in fact you come across claims that the Veneti are not Slavs or that something “definitely is not Slavic” or similar stuff, take them with a grain of salt – not because the opposite must be true (we should lways freely admit our doubts) – but because the person making such a claim may not be guided by truth at all or at least not as much as by certain “secondary” considerations – he may just be an ideologic propagandist who tailors his work to fit his preconceived and, here above explicitly stated, political needs.
Not with a tinge of irony we note that in the 19th century the Slavic-Veneti connection was questioned by German nationalists – now it seems the very existence of Slavs prior to some period is being questioned by German “citizens of the world”. (Someone asked whether we thought this individual was a covert German nationalist – we do not like that description as it has been too often abused and, in any event, even accepting this wording, we do not think so – we take his beliefs to be sincere – sincere lunacy though is no less dangerous).
Well, as was once said, if people never did silly things, nothing intelligent would ever get done. And with that we take heart.
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