Discourses of Collective Identity

in Central and Eastern Europe (1770 - 1945)


texts and commentaries

Vol. I Vol. II Vol. III Vol. IV

The origins of the "Identity Reader"

The history of this "Reader" goes back to a meeting of a group of young scholars at the Balkan Summer University in Plovdiv in 1999. The lively interaction and debates engendered by this occasion highlighted the necessity of creating a common regional framework of intercultural dialogue. A year later, meeting in the same place, the idea of a "Reader" containing a representative collection of fundamental texts that had contributed to and/or reflected upon the formation of narratives of national identity in Central and Southeast Europe was conceived. We envisioned this "Reader" as a new synthesis that could challenge the self-centered and "isolationist" historical narratives and educational canons prevalent in the region. We thought, too, that such a collection of texts could also be useful as a university textbook both in Central and Southeast European countries and in Western universities, making the intellectual map of Europe more diversified.

Although at the beginning it was more of an informal exchange, things became much more tangible when the Center for Advanced Study in Sofia, which was a newly established institution, agreed to host the project and when, with the help of Diana Mishkova and Wouter Hugenholtz, our project proposal reached the Dutch Prince Bernhard Foundation and received a generous grant. The ensuing research project, "Regional Identity Discourses in Central and Southeast Europe, 1775-1945", which soon came to be nicknamed the "Identity Reader Project", sought to provide a framework for discussing our respective intellectual traditions in a comparative manner.

A further ambition of the project was to enhance academic co-operation beyond the original group and to respond to the absence of more encompassing frameworks for studying the variety of national narratives of Central and Southeast Europe. Without such frameworks, it is difficult to compare different cultural phenomena in the region and to create a "meta-language" that could adequately describe the common and specific features of these national traditions. This became obvious in the process of selecting the representative texts. At first we were thinking about bringing together a number of "our" key texts, but we soon realized that we needed a more systematic approach of selecting and commenting on these excerpts. Accomplishing such an endeavor not only required strenuous individual research activity, but also necessitated new analytical tools of comparative analysis, overwriting the ones rooted in traditional nation-state centered narratives.

... The complete Introduction you can download as a  PDF document.

Created by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia, 2006