The George Blazyca Prize in East European Studies

BASEES has established the George Blazyca Prize in recognition of the outstanding contribution to its field of study made by the late George Blazyca.

The George Blazyca Prize is offered annually by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies for scholarly work of high quality in East European studies. This is taken to include those countries of Eastern Europe that were formerly under communist rule that were not part of the Soviet Union. Items eligible for nomination are singly or jointly authored monographs, or two or more related journal articles or book chapters. The authors of nominated works must at the time of nomination be members or associate members of the Association.

For the 2017-18 cycle, the Blazyca Prize scheme is accepting nominations for books published in 2016. The deadline for nominations is 1 July 2017. The judges for the 2017/18 award are Anne White and Nigel Swain. The winners will be announced early in 2018 and the prize (if awarded) will be presented at the annual dinner of the 2017 conference.

The regulations are proposed as follows: 

  1. The prize, of one hundred and fifty pounds, is offered annually for scholarly work of high quality in East European studies. This is taken to include those countries of Eastern Europe that were formerly under communist rule that were not part of the Soviet Union 
  2. A nomination may take the form of a singly or jointly authored monograph, or two or more related journal articles or chapters.  Edited collections of essays are not eligible for the scheme.
  3. Works nominated for consideration must be of a scholarly character, must be in English, and must have been published - as defined by the date of imprint or, if a periodical, the cover date – according to point 9 below.  
  4. The authors of nominated work must at the time of nomination be members or associate members of the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies. It is the responsibility of the nominator to check the BASEES membership status of potential nominees and ensure that membership is in place prior to nomination. Nominations of non-members will not be considered.
  5. Awards will be made by a jury whose membership will be approved by the Executive Committee of the Association.  
  6. The jury may divide the Prize equally between not more than two nominated works in any year; or they may make no award in any year in which no work of sufficient merit presents itself.  
  7. Works may be nominated for consideration by the authors, or by publishers, librarians or other scholars.  
  8. Two copies of the nominated work(s) should also be sent to the Secretary of the Association. The Secretary’s name and contact details may be found on the BASEES Committee page. 
  9. The deadline for submission of nominations shall be 1 July each year in respect of publications whose imprint date is the previous calendar year. The prize is awarded (if a recommendation is made to do so) at the Association's annual conference in the spring of the calendar year following the deadline for submission of nominations. 
  10. Nominations should be made on the standard form for this purpose, which is available as a download from this page, and submitted to the Secretary of the Association, or via electronic submission below. 

The George Blazyca Prize is offered annually by the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies for scholarly work of high quality in East European studies. This is taken to include those countries of Eastern Europe that were formerly under communist rule that were not part of the Soviet Union. Items eligible for nomination are singly or jointly authored books, or two or more related journal articles or book chapters. The authors of nominated works must at the time of nomination be members or associate members of the Association. 


Past Winners

2007

Frances Millard, Elections, Parties and Representation in Post-Communist Europe (Palgrave, 2004)

2007

Neil Bermel, Linguistic authority, language ideology, and metaphor: the Czech orthography wars (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2007)

2008

Lucian N. Leustean, Orthodoxy and the Cold War. Religion and Political Power in Romania, 1947-65 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

2009

Frances Millard (University of Essex): Democratic Elections in Poland, 1991-2007 (BASEES-Routledge, 2009)

2010

Catherine Baker (University of Southampton and UCL SSEES): Sounds of the Borderland: Popular Music, War and Nationalism in Croatia since 1991 (Ashgate, 2010)

2011

Anne White, Polish Families and Migration since EU Accession (Policy Press, 2011)

2012

Longina Jakubowska, Patrons of History: Nobility, Capital and Political Transitions in Poland (Ashgate, 2012)

2013

James Krapfl (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) for Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Cornell University Press, 2013) 

2014

James Dawson (University College London) for Cultures of Democracy in Serbia and Bulgaria: How Ideas Shape Publics (Ashgate, 2014)

2015

Laurien Crump The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered: International Relations in Eastern Europe, 1955 – 1969 (Routledge, 2015)


The George Blazyca Prize 2015 (Awarded 2017)

Laurien Crump The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered: International Relations in Eastern Europe, 1955 – 1969 (Routledge, 2015)

The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered offers us an original and nuanced insight into what had been previously understood to be a mere instrument of Soviet domination. This book demonstrates the fallacy of this supposition, using a detailed and very impressive body of multi-archival data. The author reveals the extent to which the Pact was disrupted by internal turmoil, disagreements, tensions and the downright incompatibility of preferences, all of which rendered the organisation, at times, barely coherent. Indeed, so revealing are some of the details the book provides, that it may not be far-fetched to say that it will transform our understanding of the functioning of the Soviet bloc, certainly from the security perspective. Moreover, The Warsaw Pact Reconsidered is a thoroughly pleasurable read.  At times, it resembles a political thriller, enticing the reader to work through it at a cracking pace. The book certainly deserves a wide audience insofar as it offers insights that go well beyond those which might typically be expected from a book on the defunct security alliance. While all the books submitted for the 2015 Blazyca Prize were strong contenders for one reason or another, the judges readily agreed that Laurien Crump’s fine monograph was a worthy winner.


The George Blazyca Prize 2014 (Awarded 2016)

James Dawson, Cultures of Democracy in Serbia and Bulgaria: How Ideas Shape Publics (Ashgate, 2014)

This is a very original book which presents a vivid account of the political culture in two cities of South-East Europe. By conducting focus groups, interviews and participant observation in Niš and Plovdiv, Dr Dawson was able to identify and analyse common discourses about politics which underpin the ‘public sphere’. These help explain the persistence of a liberal strand of public opinion in Serbia which Dawson claims to be nearly absent in Bulgaria. The book skilfully shows how political cultures originating in the communist period are constantly reproduced in discussions among ordinary citizens, and how they both support but also contradict messages coming from the media and politicians. The book makes a great contribution to reinvigorating debates on democracy and democratisation in post-communist countries by the focus away from institutions and by bringing ‘the people’ in. The book sets new standards for political ethnography and illuminates the pivotal role of the cultural dimension.


James Krapfl (McGill University, Montreal, Canada) for Revolution with a Human Face: Politics, Culture, and Community in Czechoslovakia, 1989-1992 (Cornell University Press, 2013) 

This analysis of Czechoslovakia’s ‘gentle revolution’ and the role of citizens’ movements in the changes that followed  is based on painstaking original research of contemporary material from a variety of sources throughout Czechoslovakia which the author has succeeded in presenting to readers in an eminently readable book.  The bottom-up, citizen-centred perspective on the events of 1989 provides the reader with an insight into the debates, discussions, thinking and narratives which accompanied them. In doing so, the book elevates the ordinary citizens to a justified prominence in our understanding of the revolution, thereby allowing the reader a privileged insight which might otherwise have been lost to time, crowded out by 'high politics'. This is a fresh and original perspective, which 'brings the people back into revolutions'. Twenty-five years on, as politicians and political scientists have to address the contemporary distrust and disillusionment towards established political elites throughout the region, this is a timely reminder of how different politics looked when communism first fell.


Frances Millard (University of Essex) for Elections, Parties and Representation in Post-Communist Europe (Palgrave, 2004)

"This excellent book provides a timely exploration of the relationship between the development of political parties and the quality of democracy in Central and Eastern Europe. It combines innovative approaches from political science with a deep knowledge of the new political systems of the region to identify a complex set of different emerging trends. Millard makes clear that it is only in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia that the political systems have fully stabilized. Elsewhere there continues to be considerable electoral volatility as new political elites struggle to win the confidence of the electorate. With chapters devoted to such issues as the variety of electoral mechanisms employed throughout the region, the character of different party systems, the selection of candidates and their social background, and the decline in the number of women in political life, the book brings real breadth as well as depth to its subject. 
Millard concludes by citing a comment made about Latvia, but bearing on the region as a whole: ‘ordinary citizens have doubts as to the quality and trustworthiness of their political representatives and their mistrust and cynicism over the political process is widespread.’ She thus reveals that, despite many differences, the politics of Post-Communist Europe is not so very different from our own." (Terry Cox and Geoffrey Swain, April 2007)


Neil Bermel, Linguistic authority, language ideology, and metaphor: the Czech orthography wars (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2007).

"Linguistics is a science that is not always accessible to the non-specialist. However, Neil Bermel’s superb study of what he calls the ‘Czech Orthography Wars’ shows that linguistics can be made accessible to a more general scholarly audience. Not only does that mean that the reader of this book can soon take in his or her stride sentences like ‘this mismatch between spelling and pronunciation, called “final devoicing”, is a feature of the Czech morphophonemic writing system’, or ‘intervocalic and prevocalic “s” in Czech is pronounced “z”’, but the reader quickly realises why this matters so much to those living in the Czech Republic. Bermel goes through the history of the Czech language, looking at its evolution from the 15th to the 20th centuries and analysing how repeated attempts were made to bring sound into line with spelling; but he also makes clear how those attempts were always shaped by the political and cultural climate of the time. The centre piece of the study, the orthodoxy wars themselves in the early 1990s, were so bitterly fought, Bermel argues, because the proposals for a new orthography coincided with the end of communism and the breakdown of what Bermel calls ‘the fragile consensus that reforms would happen from time to time’. In other words, many Czechs were uncertain whether the application of strict spelling rules was a feature of communist oppression or five hundred years of Czech tradition. This fascinating study of linguistic and cultural politics, of what it means to be Czech, is a worthy winner of the Blazyca Prize for 2007." (Geoff Swain and Frances Millard, March 2009)


Lucian N. Leustean, (Aston University), Orthodoxy and the Cold War. Religion and Political Power in Romania, 1947-65 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008)

" When Petru Groza died in January 1958, Romania’s pro-communist Prime Minister from 1945 to 1952 was given a religious burial, officiated by Patriarch Justinian of the Romanian Orthodox Church and attended by leading officials from the Romanian Communist Party and foreign guests. As the son of a priest and a member of the Synod before the Second World War, there was a logic to this, but for communists to associate themselves so publicly with a church was unusual to say the least, especially as the funeral took place at a time when the communist authorities were arresting priests, including Patriarch Justinian’s own son-in-law. It is the unique and contradictory relationship between Romanian communists and the Romanian Orthodox Church which is explored by Lucian Leustean in this scholarly study. Leustean begins by establishing that for the Orthodox Church, relations with the state had always been guided by the concept of “symphonia”, Patriarch and Emperor working in harmony. This tradition had continued as Romania gained its independence, and the Orthodox Church saw no reason why it should not continue under communism. Stepping forward in this way, even supporting the collectivisation of agriculture, enabled the Orthodox Church to get the state’s backing in removing its Uniate rival, continued state funding for priests’ salaries and the preservation of many of its monasteries. Despite being caricatured in the West as the Red Patriarch, Justinian emerges from this study as someone who was genuinely interested in preserving the Church, even if this involved tolling Church bells on the occasion of Stalin’s death. When, after Stalin’s death, Romanian communists adopted a more nationalist version of communism, the Orthodox Church’s determination to canonise leaders from among the Romanian faithful complemented this strategy. Lucian Leustean has written a fascinating book about an unexplored aspect of the reality of communist rule in Eastern Europe. It is a worthy winner of this year’s Blazyca Prize." (Frances Millard and Geoff Swain, March 2010)


Frances Millard (University of Essex): Democratic Elections in Poland, 1991-2007 (BASEES-Routledge, 2009)

After twenty years of post-communist democracy the structure of Poland's political parties remained confused, unstable and fluid. Parties had come and gone and leading politicians had frequently shifted their party bases. Frances Millard studies this process by focusing on the elections, both presidential and parliamentary, from 1990 to 2007. She brings a vast amount of knowledge, acquired from following Polish politics over the period, and sets developments against insights from political science literature. The book fills an important gap by providing, in a cohEmail Address of Person Submitting Nominationerent and accessible form, an account of recent Polish political history, thereby demonstrating why expectations of a straightforward consolidation of a stable party system have proved unrealistic. This book is likely to become an important source for all those following Polish politics and is a worthy winner of the Blazyca prize. (March 2011)


Catherine Baker (University of Southampton and UCL SSEES): Sounds of the Borderland: Popular Music, War and Nationalism in Croatia since 1991 (Ashgate, 2010)

Catherine Baker’s work is exceptional in both its originality and its careful research, and in its readability: it is unusual for a scholarly and thoroughly-researched work to be able to engage a broad academic audience without regard for discipline and area specialism. The book looks at the development of patriotic popular music in Croatia after the declaration of independence and outbreak of war in 1991, following the shifting political agendas for nearly two decades. The reader learns of the tamburica, Croatia’s national instrument used in the 1993 Eurovision song contest; of “war veterans” protest songs sung at nationalist rallies; and, in the last few year, of the popularity among Croatian youngsters of Serbian “pop-folk” music, although Catherine feels that this music’s current popularity does not signify an act of ethnic reconciliation. Catherine suggests that “popular music was one of the most important fields where contests over memory and historical revisionism were played out”. However, this is not primarily a book about politics, but about the interaction of music and society in a time of rapid change and heightened emotion. Special praise should be given to the author for the skilful writing of the book. Ordering and structuring the rich and diverse material gathered into a coherent manuscript is no mean feat. Despite the wealth of detail, song titles, names, venues and dates, the reader does not feel disoriented and can easily follow the dynamics of changing times. Should anyone doubt the significance of the subject matter, they should follow the advice of the author and look up the songs mentioned on YouTube – some of the videos have been viewed nearly a million times, even if uploaded well into the new millennium. And listening to the music also helps the reader understand the enthusiasm with which this book was researched and written, and which is successfully transferred to the written page. Sounds of the Borderland is thus a worthy winner of the 2012 Blazyca Prize. (Karen Henderson and Geoffrey Swain)


Anne White, Polish Families and Migration since EU Accession (Policy Press, 2011)

This book, which the judges considered model interdisciplinary work, contains fascinating original research which has been carefully crafted into a well-structured book that is admirably readable and accessible to a wide audience. The author shows a strong familiarity with theory and uses this well to explain important points to the readers without losing overall clarity of expression. Whilst much research on migrants from Central and Eastern Europe has tended to focus on their situation in the UK, this book considers both sides of the story and has also involved detailed research in Eastern Poland investigating the crucial push factors that influence family strategies. We discover a very Polish world where tradition is as important as the changes imposed by economics, and financial security is sought in a world full of uncertainties. The result is a book that is  timely and topical and will be of interest to policy makers and academics alike.


Longina Jakubowska, Patrons of History: Nobility, Capital and Political Transitions in Poland (Ashgate, 2012)

The author succeeds admirably in presenting original research in a way that both engages the reader and introduces what for most will be a fresh perspective on twentieth century Polish history. The book is the product of 15 years of interviews conducted with members of the Polish gentry as well as archival research and observation. Although it is firmly located in ethnology, the book has a very wide general appeal which the judges believe will become an essential text for scholars of the region. While providing many unusual vignettes of life in Poland, it also contributes to an understanding of the complexities of post-communist politics by analyzing how social capital can be transferred even through a protracted period of radical change. She illustrates how the ‘symbolic capital’ of class has remained important and the gentry have overcome their former disempowerment.  It is a subtle, but extremely well-written book, with excellent structure and a creative use of theory and will be lasting significance as it intersects well with other research being done in the field.  In many respects Jakubowska has succeeded in getting beyond a narrow focus on ethnicity and national identity as markers of difference and presented the reader with a different set of stories about contemporary Poland.