Imagining the Cold War – Socialist and Post-Socialist Depictions of “East” and “West” in Romanian Textbooks

Comparative education studies of textbooks and curricula in countries from the former Soviet bloc point to persisting nation-centred discourses in contrast to Western European cases where a relativisation of national narratives has been systematically taken place from 1945 onwards (Schissler & Soysal, 2005). Research on civic education in post-socialist countries often refers to “cultural mismatch”, under-developed civic-political cultures, or national resistance in embracing new values as key explanations of reform failures. Resting on deeply entrenched notions of “the East” projected as backward other (Todorova, 1997), such studies contribute to a continuation of old divisions. The East vs. West dichotomy suffusing the school (and research about the school) is not an explanation of post-socialist dynamics, but rather a discursive regime that still requires explanation, particularly in today’s much complicated ‘Europeanisation’ context. How is this peculiar discursive regime about East and West reflected in the school particularly in times of strongly perceived societal change? Drawing on insights from sociological neo-institutionalism, the presentation will address the discursive shapes taken by Romanian depictions of “East and West” in history textbooks from before and after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Particular attention is paid to narratives of the Cold War - the conflict that arguably institutionalised the ‘East’ vs. ‘West’ dichotomy in relation to (post)-socialism - and the ways in which these narratives both changed and stayed the same at a time when Romania’s own post-socialist identity was being built in relation to (Western) Europe.