Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2020 Citation Recipient


R. Chris Davis

The Barbara Jelavich Book Prize, established in 1995 and sponsored by the Jelavich estate, is awarded annually for a distinguished monograph published on any aspect of Southeast European or Habsburg studies since 1600, or nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ottoman or Russian diplomatic history in the previous calendar year.

Winner: R. Chris Davis

Title: Hungarian Religion, Romanian Blood: A Minority’s Struggle for National Belonging, 1920–1945 (University of Wisconsin Press)

This intricately drawn study of the Csangos, Hungarian-speaking Roman Catholics living in small agricultural settlements in the Moldavia region of Romania, uses this little-known group to explore nation building and minority politics in twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe. Davis brings together sources and methods from history, anthropology, political science, sociology, and religious studies to explicate the construction of the Csango identity as an ever-changing reflection of views from both within and outside the community. State-level actors have imposed their definitions of the group’s identity to serve geopolitical interests, while the ideas of local elites reflect their own shifting agendas. Rather than ask simply “who is a Csango,” Davis instead asks “what is a Csango?,” a more difficult question. His answer eschews romantic ideas about the purity and timelessness of a rural people, which ignore the powerful cultural and political forces operating under the surface. The book is beautifully written, with a lightness of touch that makes it accessible to both specialists and lay readers.