Barbara Jelavich Book Prize

2009 Citation Recipient

Tara Zahra

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: Tara Zahra
Title: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell University Press)

Entering a well-trodden field of innovative studies on nationalism and national identity formation in Eastern and Central Europe, Zahra’s monograph breaks new ground by focusing on the fledgling identities of children in the Bohemian lands, and on nationalists’ efforts to wrest control of children’s education from parents, in order to inscribe the youngest members of society into German and Czech national categories. The committee found the book to be a “densely researched archival masterpiece.” Zahra documents ambiguous national identities among inhabitants of all ages in Bohemia and Moravia, and a profound sense of indifference to nationalism, an obstacle over which all nationalist activists in those regions stumbled.

Zahra’s research is original not only in the focus on children, and adult national fence sitters, but also in the bold way in which it traverses historical periods and regimes, from the supra-national Habsburg Monarchy to postwar communist Czechoslovakia in order to trace important continuities. Zahra’s book qualifies Czechoslovak democracy as nationalist democracy, as she points to utterly intertwined strands of a single German/Czech political culture.