Documents and materials relating to East Central Europe - Introduction

East Central Europe has increasingly become a focus of German historiography on account of the political changes since 1989, but also because of developments within this field since the end of the 20th century. As a result, this area of study has also become a focus within university teaching. East Central European topics are explored in one-off presentations but also in seminars with a comparative approach and from a transnational perspective. In particular, East Central European history has been integrated into numerous new programmes of study.

Despite the general interest in East Central European history, it is apparent that only a few important topics are being taught peripherally or merely by single specialists and others areas are not being taught at all. The reason for this is specifically the fact that there has been, until now, a distinct lack of easily accessible source materials.

Source materials relating to some subject areas are available in the original language and are used in the respective countries for teaching purposes. These are not available nation-wide at university libraries in Germany. Furthermore, there are very few source materials available in western languages; people interested in the subject area, but who lack knowledge of the corresponding language, therefore have no access to material that is essential to a thorough investigation of Eastern Central European topics within the framework of “general history”. As a result, there is often no source material able to be utilised for teaching, even on key topics like, for example, the authoritarian interwar regimes or the period after the Second World War.

 

Priorities

As a result of these findings, the Herder Institute hopes to complement university services by creating, within the long-term and sustainable online publication of “documents and materials relating to Eastern Central European history”, a general and easily accessible source for material relating to key topics and questions on this subject. This is all the more important considering the limited expertise in these languages, and the project aims to make important material for teaching purposes available to higher education institutions throughout Germany. Another key concern is the guarantee of quality and citability of all sources.

Therefore, the online publication aims to contribute, both to the history of East Central Europe and, at the same time, to an integrated perspective of European history. The long term goal of the project is to take into account the complete history of East Central Europe across borders and time, whereby the focus will be on the particular area of activity as defined by the terms of the Herder Institute (namely Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and in the historical border areas and neighbouring countries insofar as they have, at one time or another, been relevant to certain key historical questions or periods.)

For this purpose, a pragmatic approach has been chosen, so that topics that are important for university teaching and most frequently dealt with, will be addressed initially in the respective modules. This will mean that, initially, modules will be developed around the national history of various countries. Over-arching and comparative issues can be investigated via links in other modules, however specific modules have also been planned for a later phase of the project, which will deal with comprehensive, overarching themes.

Above and beyond the subject of Eastern European history, this electronic edition of documents and materials relating to the history of East Central Europe also addresses other historic sub-disciplines as well as related fields. Due to the easy accessibility of the medium, wider circles of interested people, among them teachers and adult education tutors, can also profit from this resource.

The project has been undertaken with a strict commitment to the principle of “open access”, meaning that you are at liberty to use the documents and materials on offer in the modules free of charge. For copyright reasons, we do ask that you take care in how you use the materials by quoting and referencing them appropriately. In light of this, we also ask that you notify us if you wish to use any sources (in theses, scientific and non-scientific publications etc.) (Declaration of use)

 

The Modules

The complete edition is divided into separate subject-specific modules, which are maintained and developed by specialised experts. Because the project is oriented towards meeting the needs of university courses, the initial focus will be, primarily, on creating modules for topics that are key for teaching at this level. For this purpose, and for purely pragmatic reasons, an entry point of “national history” was chosen and the topics initially addressed have been those that are most often dealt with. However, modules with a transnational, comparative focus also embrace a range of cross-curricular modules and, last but not least, they offer comprehensive and relevant cross-module links. These links make it possible to search and compile interesting sources beyond the particular area of national history the module focuses on and can be used, for example, to gather material for a seminar.

The aim of this resource is to encourage people to grapple with topics and questions that have, until now, remained relatively unexplored in the area of teaching. In the long-term, the goal is to integrate topics that have tended not to be as comprehensively covered alongside the “popular” subject areas.
The text sources and materials are intended to map key aspects of the various topics in a representative manner without defining a particular canon or providing interpretations. Consequently, the modules encompass a wide range of very different material, some of which has not yet been published and some of which has, on account of its significance.

In order to guarantee the high scientific quality of this resource, all the modules are subject to a double-blind appraisal procedure undertaken by two experts before they are then reworked if necessary and finally made accessible online.

 

The Set-up and Scope of the Modules

Each module has a homepage, which then offers access to contextualised sub-areas of the topic, but without interpreting the materials.

Text sources are compiled under “Documents”, while statistics, maps, images etc., can be found under “Materials”. In each case, sources are divided into separate sections (“Categories”) on an objective basis and/or according to chronology. The “Materials” are intended to illustrate and supplement text documents or present topic areas and issues or questions, which are not dealt with in the documents but are based on the character of the material. Over and above this, you can find further guidance under “Materials”: this section encompasses a selected bibliography aimed in particular at users who do not speak the local language as well as helpful resources such as governmental lists or chronologies.

All the sources are available in the original language - as (scanned) facsimiles and plain text – as well as in translation in German. In the case of works that are not in the public domain, the necessary publication rights have been secured within the framework of “documents and materials”. In line with the overall objective of the project, the German translation is always the focus, however the translation and the facsimile (scan) in the original language also can be accessed. Contemporary translations of the source material are also included where possible on the strength of their significance and authenticity. Short content summaries guide users to key related materials without giving longer explanations and interpretations.

Because the reliability and citability of all source materials is an important concern of “Documents and Materials relating to East Central European History”, every source is accompanied by detailed and precise citation information.

 

Contact

If you have suggestions or comments relating to the project as a whole or regarding individual modules, please contact the project coordinator (dokumente-materialien@herder-institut.de) who will pass your concern on to the relevant person.