Images and Languages of Despair and Violence Representations of Eastern Europe after the Great War

1st Part: “The Post-War”
Regensburg, October 11-12, 2018

2nd Part: “The Crises of the Inter-War”
Marburg, May 9-10, 2019

Leibniz Institute for East and Southeast European Studies, IOS (Regensburg)
Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe – Institute of the Leibniz Association (Marburg)
Collegium Carolinum (Munich)

In Co-operation with
Bavarian State Library (Munich)

When armistices were concluded in 1918, the Great War was not over in Eastern Europe: in some of its parts, armed conflict continued until the early 1920s; in newly occupied territories, armed bands would fight the new rulers; and all over the region, the rearranged political landscape amidst a landscape of social despair and humanitarian crisis. Millions of veterans, of war invalids, of orphans and widows, and of refugees had to be provided for by feeble states. The Bolshevik revolution added a further dose of fear – but for many, also of hopes for a new world.

This set of two interlinked conferences asks for the visual dimension of crisis in Eastern Europe after the Great War. The first conference (April 2018 in Regensburg) will focus on the immediate post-war years; the second (May 2019 in Marburg) will deal with representations of crisis in the interwar period, with a focus on the Great Depression.

The first conference will discuss which images of despair and misery, of violence and political disruption were produced and disseminated after the collapse of empire and the formal end of war. We are interested in the dynamics of media events and their patterns of production as well as reception – in national and in transnational contexts. We will ask, which iconographies of political turmoil and revolution were produced, and how different sets of actors used evocative images in order to rally support for their agendas, targeting domestic but also international audiences. The international level seems particularly important for the emergence of new modes of representation of humanitarian crisis that emerged after the Great War, for example in the photography of refugees in the Balkans or mass starvation in Russia in the early 1920s. Government and opposition movement also consciously employed the medium of the photograph for their domestic and international propaganda, A striking example is a collection of photos from the Russian Civil War, produced by General Wrangel’s Army, which were recently acquired and digitized by the Bavarian State Library.

The conference employs a broad understanding of image and language in order to capture the full range of representational techniques, and a variety of actors. We also encourage presentations that discuss the role of new technologies for the spread of such visual and oral images, especially cinema and radio. Contributions on the application of cartography and graphic design for the rendering of post-war crises are also invited.

It appears that post-war Eastern Europe was not only the “crisis zone of Europe” (Ivan Berend) but also an area where new modes and practices of representing the postwar and its multifold disruptions emerged. Post-imperial, national, and international actors produced images and languages of political rupture, of misery and violence that would shape patterns of representation throughout the 20th century.

» Conference Program