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Developing the Carpathians. State Structural Policies, Usage Conflicts, and Environmental Change in a Mountainous Region under State Socialism 1945-1989

The Carpathian Mountains are to East Central Europe what the Alps are to West Central Europe. Stretching in an arc over 1,300 km from the Czech Republic to Romania, the mountain range not only determines the region’s geographical structure, but also has a profound influence on the daily lives and the imagination of its inhabitants.

Yet unlike the Alps, the processes governing the perception and appropriation of the Carpathian Mountains have not been sufficiently examined in previous research. This project seeks to fill this gap for the socialist period by casting light on the many ways in which the region was developed and used during this period and the consequences of this for society and the environment. In particular, the project asks whether these processes had a specifically socialist character, or whether they constituted features of modernity that were not unique to a particular political system.

This research project aims to be an “open regional history” that acknowledges space as a construction and investigates its subject beyond regional and national parameters. As such, the project will not only contribute to research on East Central Europe under State Socialism, but will also bring a hitherto neglected East Central European perspective to current historiographical discourse in environmental and infrastructure history.

Funded entirely by the Collegium Carolinum, the project comprises a post-doc project on Czechoslovakian structural policies and a doctoral project on the use of hydraulic power in the Slovakian and Romanian Carpathians. At the University of Basel work is under way on a further associated project on the history of the Tatra National Park. A workshop to discuss initial research findings and compare them with existing research into the history of the Alps is due to take place in the near future.



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