Writing History in a Propaganda Institute : Political Power and Network Dynamics in Communist Romania

Abstract: In 1990, the Institute for Historical and Socio-Political Studies of the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party was closed, since the Party was dissolved by the Romanian Revolution. Similar institutions had existed in all countries belonging to the Soviet bloc. This Institute was founded in 1951 under the name of the Party History Institute, and modelled on the Marx-Lenin-Engels Institute in Moscow. Since then, it served the Communist Party in producing thousands of books and journals on the history of the Party and of Romania, following Party orders. Previous research has portrayed the Institute as a loyal executioner of the Party’s will, negating the agency of its history-writers in influencing the duties of the Institute. However, the recent opening of the Institute’s archive has shown that a number of internal and previously obscured dynamics impacted on its activities. This book is dedicated to the study of the Party History Institute, of the history-writers employed there, and of the narratives they produced. By studying the history-writers and their host institution, this study re-contextualizes the historiography produced under Communist rule by analysing the actual conditions under which it was written: the interrelation between dynamics of control and the struggle for resources, power and positions play a fundamental role in this history. This is the first scholarly inquiry about a highly controversial institute that struggled in order to follow the constantly shifting Party narrative canon, while competing formaterial resources with rival Party and academic institutions. The main actors in this study are the history-writers: Party veterans, young propagandists and educated historians, in conflicting networks and groups, struggled in order to gain access to the limited resources and positions provided by the Party, and in order to survive the political changes imposed by the leadership. By doing so they succeed, on many occasions, to influence the activities of the Institute.

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