Technology and the Making of Europe

Experts in CEE

The International Community of Experts and the Transformation of the Fatherland. Central Eastern Europe in the European Context since WWI

Martin Kohlrausch, Katrin Steffen, Stefan Wiederkehr

The projects of the research team focused on two phenomena that have so far mostly been treated separately: on the one hand, the evolution of an "international community of experts" and on the other the development of the Central Eastern European states during the "short" 20th century, which is characterized by many breaks and ruptures. The expert as a new type, characteristic for the 20th century, is at the center of attention. We assumed that the interplay between internationalization and nation state played a significant role in the emergence of the expert. It is characteristic for the expert that he operates between a universalist understanding of science or technology and the politically as well as culturally defined requirements of the state or nation. Our hypothesis was that the possibilities and problems that arise from this interplay are particularly pronounced in the countries of Central Eastern Europe. Especially three structural characteristics that shaped the region in the 20th century are decisive in this context: firstly, the "imperial heritage" of more or less forced internationalization; secondly, the various new foundations of states particularly after 1918 and the drastic political system changes after 1945; and thirdly, the specific economic situation in the region. Concentrating on Central Eastern Europe thus promises important new insights into knowledge transfer during the 20th century –a phenomenon whose systematic historicization has only just begun. Moreover, a socio-cultural examination of the expert provides a new perspective on the history of the region Central Eastern Europe in the 20th century – beyond the mostly political and economic interpretations of the past. Uncovering the specific modernization experiences of the region – including references to current transformation processes – will undoubtedly contribute to dislodging the still prevalent idea of a "belated" development in the Eastern part of the continent. The project thus aimed to interpret developments above and beyond the region Central Eastern Europe.

The project was concluded in 2010 with the publication of the volume:

  • Martin Kohlrausch / Katrin Steffen / Stefan Wiederkehr (eds), Expert Cultures in Central Eastern Europe. The Internationalization of Knowledge and the Transformation of Nation States since World War I, Osnabrück 2010. Download the online version