Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2020
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Power in the Village: Rural Political Culture and Participation in the Czechoslovak Countryside, 1945-1953

My dissertation is a microhistorical analysis of rural political culture and popular participation in postwar Czechoslovakia between liberation from Nazi occupation in 1945 and the end of the Stalinist period in 1953. I argue that the Czechoslovak Communist regime maintained a commitment to national unity and popular participation established after the Second World War, seeking to co-opt rather than eliminate existing rural institutions and practices and enlist farmers and villagers as partners of the working class in a project of national reconstruction. The uniquely participatory nature of the Czechoslovak regime offered surprising opportunities for rural citizens to take part in the Communist project without abandoning traditional practices and structures of authority. While historians studying the rise of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia have moved beyond an exclusive focus on high politics and diplomacy, little attention has been paid to the local dynamics of Communist consolidation. Few have examined the political agency of rural actors. I seek to understand how villagers in the Czech region of Moravian Wallachia engaged in national politics as modern citizens while maintaining a distinctive local political culture. By reading local and regional sources in conjunction with those produced by the central state, I provide an analysis of village institutions and political culture within a broader national context, examining how rural society shaped and constituted political power during a period of dramatic change. My project both offers a new interpretation of the Czechoslovak Communist regime and suggests new frameworks for understanding rural citizens as creative political agents.