Dr Stefano Bottoni

Curriculum Vitae

Stefano Bottoni is Senior Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Research Centre for the Humanities in the Institute of History, Budapest. Between 2005 and 2013, he taught History of Contemporary Eastern Europe at the University of Bologna. His main field of interest is the social history of the Romanian communist system, with a particular emphasis on the Hungarian minority in Transylvania. He has taken part in several international research projects including: „Schleichwege“: Inoffizielle Begegnungen und Kontakte sozialistischer Staatsbürger 1956 – 1989, supported by Volkswagen Stiftung, 2007-2008; and Physical Violence in State Socialism, coordinated by Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam, 2012-2014. His publications include the monographs: Sztálin a székelyeknél. A Magyar Autonóm Tartomány története 1952-1960, Csíkszereda, Pro-Print, 2008; A várva várt Nyugat. Kelet-Európa története 1944-től napjainkig, Budapest, MTA Bölcsészettudományi Központ, 2014; and an edited volume on the impact of the 1956 Hungarian revolution on Romania: Az 1956-os forradalom és a romániai magyarság (1955-1959), Csíkszereda, Pro-Print, 2006.

Research project at the Kolleg

The starting point and general framework of my research is the entangled relationship between nationalism and communism throughout the history of the Soviet Bloc. Other scholars have investigated the earlier periods of this very issue, largely from a theoretical standpoint. Special attention was paid to the intellectual debate over the national feelings and the national history, that is, to the symbolic sphere. On the contrary, little knowledge has been gained so far about the role played in the ethnicization of the communist rule by the so-called „hard” apparatus, such as the army and the secret police. This issue provides a good opportunity to compare state-and nation-building processes in several multiethnic Eastern European states, such as Romania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia or Yugoslavia. My argument is that, beyond the official rhetorical statements about „brotherhood” and „fraternal unity”, all these multinational countries – following the Soviet pattern – acted as „nationalising states” (to borrow Rogers Brubaker’s definition). In the Romanian case, I am going to bring substantial evidence concerning the role of the state security services (Securitate) in the political management of ethnic issues in Transylvania. My assertion is that they played a crucial role – and for a long time succeeded – in preventing the escalation of unrest linked to state-promoted nationalism. Using the outstanding biography of the intellectual politician, Imre Mikó, my research will seek to explore the entangled relationship between the Romanian secret police and the Hungarian community. Mikó spent his active life, from the early 1930s to the 1970s, working between two different countries and four different political systems; namely, between Romania and Hungary. To fulfil this task, I am going to make use of both published and unpublished archival sources, such as the personal files opened on Mikó by the Romanian Securitate. The scientific relevance of such an investigation lies in the complex analysis of a minority community (i.e. the Transylvanian Hungarian community), and their reactions, both public and private, to the challenges of living in such a peculiar totalitarian system – Romanian national communism. The historical analysis of the relationship between Mikó and the communist Romanian state security, unavoidably raises a further question: under which circumstances, and for what purpose, might a notably bourgeois-conservative Hungarian politician cooperate with the Securitate?

Main areas of research

  • Social history of Communist Romania
  • Ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe and post-Soviet area
  • State-Church relationships in Eastern Europe in the communist period
  • State security in Communist Eastern Europe: violence, prevention and social consent

Positions and Memberships

  • Chief Editor of the historical journal Világörténet (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)
  • Member of the Italian Association of Contemporary Historians, SISSCO
  • Former Associate Editor of the historical journal Il Mestiere di Storico