Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Jakub Szumski M.A.

Academic Staff Imre Kertész Kolleg Jakub Szumski M.A.

Am Planetarium 7 | 07743 Jena
Fon + 49 (0) 3641 9 440 55

Jakub Szumski’s main area of research is the history of politics and law in state socialist Eastern Europe, with a particular focus on East Germany and Poland. Szumski has been a researcher at the Imre Kertész Kolleg since 2021, currently working within the Volkswagen Foundation project ‘Towards Illiberal Constitutionalism in East Central Europe: Historical Analysis in Comparative and Transnational Perspectives’. Prior to which he served as a research assistant for The GDR and European Dictatorships after 1945 Graduate School at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena from 2017 to 2020. He has received research fellowships from the Open Society Archive in Budapest (2019), the Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe in Marburg (2017) and GFPS in Berlin (2017).

Szumski completed his doctoral studies at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena in January 2022. Previously, he studied history and philosophy at the University of Warsaw, the University of Konstanz and Humboldt University in Berlin, and graduated with an M.A. in history from the University of Warsaw in 2014. His M.A. thesis received the Wladyslaw Pobóg Malinowski award for the best historical debut of 2014 in Poland and won an honourable mention of the Mieczysław Rakowski award, granted by the weekly Polityka; it was later published in book form in 2018. His current project deals with conflicting concepts and interpretations of legality in late socialist Eastern Europe.

Research project at the Kolleg

From Socialist Legality to Illiberal Democracy? Legal Thinking in East-Central Europe Revisited

The period of state socialism in East-Central Europe is often associated with the instrumentalization of law for political purposes. At the same time, attitudes towards the law evolved over this era and the various countries of the Eastern bloc developed their own legal ideas. Some of these concepts were deeply rooted in socialist ideology and politics, but others openly corresponded with older traditions and were grounded in international debates and discourses. My project traces this complicated historical development in order to reflect on the rule of law crisis in contemporary East-Central Europe. It explores how socialist notions of legality and internationalism evolved in the region, and how they encountered and engaged with their counterparts around the world, especially liberal ones. This project asks how legal scholars, practicing lawyers, intellectuals and politicians dealt with these concepts during and after the fall of state socialism and what consequences it had on the establishment and the subsequent crisis of the liberal order in the region.

Main areas of research

  • History of state socialism in Poland
  • German-Polish relations
  • Legal history

Positions and memberships

  • Member – Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies (ASEEES)
  • Member – Polish Studies Association
  • Member - Gemeinschaft für studentischen Austausch in Mittel- und Osteuropa (GFPS)


Rozliczenia z ekipą Gierka 1980-1984 (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2018).


Edited volume

Łukasz Kamiński and Jakub Szumski, eds. Letnia Szkoła Historii Najnowszej 2015: Referaty (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2016).

Łukasz Kamiński and Jakub Szumski, eds. Letnia Szkoła Historii Najnowszej 2014: Referaty. (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2015).


Article (journal)

‘The State Tribunal and the Paradoxes of Socialist Legality in 1980s Poland’, Journal of Modern European History 18, no 3 (2020): 297–311.

‘Leonid Brezhnev and Edward Gierek: The Making and Breaking of an Uneven Friendship’, The Soviet and Post-Soviet Review 45, no. 3 (2018): 253–286.

‘Allein Gegen Die Partei. Zbigniew Iwanów – Der Rebell in Der Polnischen Vereinigten Arbeiterpartei 1980/81‘, Jahrbuch Für Historische Kommunismusforschung (2018), 127–141.

‘Międzynarodowy Terroryzm w Polskiej Literaturze i Prasie Lat Siedemdziesiątych XX Wieku (Wybrane Przykłady)’ Polska 1944/45-1989. Studia i Materiały, no. 14 (2016): 161–187.

‘Na marginesie Człowieka z węgla’, Polska 1944-45/1989. Studia i Materiały no. 13 (2015): 247-259.

‘Między Stabilizacją a Radykalizmem - Polska Emigracja Górnicza w Belgii’, Neerlandica Wratislaviensia, no. 25 (2015): 19–37.


Article (book)

‘What Happened in 1980? Memory Forging and the Official Story of Martial Law in the Polish United Workers’ Party’ in Historical Memory of Central and East European Communism, edited by Agnieszka Mrozik and Stanislav Holubec, (New York: Routledge, 2018): 165–192.

‘Pożar Mostu Łazienkowskiego w 1975 r. - fakty i konteksty’ in Letnia Szkoła Historii Najnowszej 2015. Referaty, edited by Łukasz Kamiński and Jakub Szumski, (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2016): 34-47.

‘Zanim wyrosły „poziomki”. Zbigniew Iwanów do września 1980 r.’ In Letnia Szkoła Historii Najnowszej 2014. Referaty, edited by Łukasz Kamiński and Jakub Szumski, (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2015): 178-187.

‘Rozliczenia z ekipą Edwarda Gierka. Przyczynek do zrozumienia zjawiska’ in Zimowa Szkoła Historii Najnowszej 2014. Referaty, edited by Marek Hańderek, Łukasz Kamiński, (Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej 2015): 51-60.

‘”Puls” wobec Warszawy. Z geografii opozycji politycznej w PRL 1977-1981’ in Przeciw, obok, pomimo: kultura niezależna w Łodzi w latach 70. i 80. XX wieku w PRL, edited by Konrad. W. Tatarowski, Agnieszka Barczyk, Renata Nolbrzak,( Łódź: Dom Literatury, 2013): 74-87.



review of Mirosław Sikora: Wyniki pracy wywiadu naukowo-technicznego MSW PRL 1971–1989 [The Results of the Operations of the Scientific-Technical Intelligence of the Polish People’s Republic 1971–1989] (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2019) In Zeitschrift für Ostmitteleuropa-Forschung, 69, no. 3 (2020): 443-444.

review of Agata Zysiak, Punkty za pochodzenie. Powojenna modernizacja i uniwersytet w robotniczym mieście [Points for Class Origin: Post-War Modernization and the University in a Working-Class City] (Universitas, 2016) In Kultura i Społeczeństwo 63, no 1 (2018): 251-263.

review of Filip Gańczak, Polski nie oddamy. Władze NRD wobec wydarzeń w PRL 1980–1981 [We are not giving up on Poland. GDR Authorities towards People’s Poland 1980-1981] (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2016) In Dzieje Najnowsze, no 2 (2018): 371-377.

review of Tomasz Kizwalter, W stronę równości [Towards Equality] (Universitas, 2014) In Civitas. Studia z filozofii polityki no. 16 (2015): 199-204.