Beth Holmgren Graduate Student Essay Prize

2022 Citation Recipient

Zora Piskačová

The Beth Holmgren Graduate Student Essay Prize, established in 1990 and named in honor of Professor Holmgren in 2021, is awarded for an outstanding essay by a graduate student in Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies.

Co-Winner: Zora Piskačová, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Title: “A ‘Common Enterprise?’: The Role of Utility Infrastructures in the Divided City of Teschen, 1920-1938”

The emergence of new nation-states in Central and Eastern Europe at the end of World War I produced awkward border situations. One such phenomenon was divided cities. Zora Piskačová’s essay focuses on the fate of the Teschen, which was divided between Poland and Czechoslovakia, just as, for example, the former Russian imperial town of Walk was divided between Estonia (Valga) and Latvia (Valka). Piskačová’s research finds that although political relations between Poland and Czechoslovakia were quite strained at the time, the municipalities on both sides of sovereignty managed to work reasonably together, usually out of economic interest and pragmatism. Occasionally, the respective municipalities even worked against their governments’ preferences and national politics. The value of Piskačová’s essay is that focusing on economic and infrastructure aspects casts a new light on national and local politics in situations in which sovereignty in Central Europe was new, complicated, and contested.

Co-Winner: Eoin Lazaridis Power, University of Texas at Austin

Title: “A Balkan Neofunctional Success Story or, the Curious Case of the CBBH”

This essay explores the role of the Central Bank of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Eoin Lazaridis Power explains that although many public institutions in this country emerged from former Yugoslavia and are often characterized by ethnic mistrust, the Central Bank is still relatively well respected and trusted. Power has done interesting research on the ground, using an institutional ethnographic approach (including interviews). In the end, Power offers a neo-functionalist explanation. The essay contains valuable policy ideas on how the institutional design might look in difficult political environments in which different ethnic, economic, and fiscal interests must be balanced and is an excellent example of policy-oriented research that pays attention to economic and fiscal problems and institutional design in historically complex circumstances. “A Balkan Neofunctional Success Story or, the Curious Case of the CBBH” is animated by intellectual curiosity and invites the reader to think and solve the puzzle the author has captivatingly presented.