Modernity and Religion Session 2: Religious State Ideologies

Session 2 of our workshop Modernity and Religion in Central European Art and Architecture will take place at

18.00 CET on 4 March 2021

on Zoom, featuring papers by

Bruce Berglund (Gustavus Adolphus College, Sankt Peter)


Janek Wasserman (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa).

The event is free to attend, but you need to register. Click here for the registration form. See the full workshop schedule here.

Watch the session on our Youtube channel:


Bruce Berglund (Gustavus Adolphus College, Sankt Peter)

Imagining a Modern Religion in Interwar Prague

Throughout his career as an academic and politician, Tomáš Masaryk wrote and spoke about religion and God. Masaryk insisted that religion was necessary in modern life. But, he clarified, it had to be modern religion – an awareness of God and the eternal, freed of doctrines ands rituals. The ideas that Masaryk incorporated into his new religion weren’t all that new, but what was novel was that he sought to build a philosophy of government and citizenship on these ideas. After becoming president of Czechoslovakia in 1918, Masaryk spoke repeatedly of the need for the new state to have a moral and religious foundation. This paper looks at these ideas, how they shaped Masaryk’s presidency, and how they were expressed in the renovations of Prague Castle by Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik.

Bruce Berglund is an historian and prior to coming to Gustavus Adolphus College, he spent two decades in different faculty and administrative roles in higher education. For 15 years, he was a faculty member in the History Department at Calvin College, teaching various courses on world history. He was also Director of the Honors Program at Calvin and served on the college’s teaching development team. Before that, he was Assistant Director of the Center for Russian & East European Studies at the University of Kansas. Bruce is an active researcher and writer. He is the author of The Fastest Game in the World: Hockey and the Globalization of Sports (University of California Press, 2020) and Castle and Cathedral in Modern Prague (Central European University Press, 2017). He has also written history books for young readers on Soviet women pilots during World War II and drummer boys in the Civil War, both published by Capstone Press.


Janek Wasserman (University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa)

Catholic Thought and Austrian Politics, 1891–1931

This paper will introduce some of the main Catholic ideas that prevailed in Austrian political discourse in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It focuses on the Austrian Catholic scientific society, the Leo-Gesellschaft, the circle of intellectuals around Richard Kralik, and the most influential Central European conservative journal of the interwar era, Das neue Reich. It will introduce the rubric ‘Black Vienna’ to describe the conservative, Catholic milieu, one which emerged in full force after the promulgation of the papal encyclical ‘Rerum Novarum’ and reached maturity with the decline of the First Republic in the early 1930s. By examining the popularity of ideas like political Catholicism, anti-modernism, corporatism, antisemitism, and anti-socialism, we see that among the educated middle class and political leaders, conservative ideas grounded in Catholic teachings held sway. Moreover, the conservative movement radicalized with time.  Moderate conservatives found themselves shoved aside by the organizations run by people like Kralik and Joseph Eberle, the founder of Das neue Reich. The talk shows how disparate intellectuals, once divided over questions of German nationalism and the place of Catholic institutions in Austrian conservatism, came together to combat the First Republic, socialism, and capitalism, paving the way for authoritarian and fascist solutions.

Janek Wasserman is Associate Professor of Modern German and Central European History at the University of Alabama. He received his Ph.D. in European history from Washington University in St. Louis. He was a recipient of the Richard Plaschka-Stipendium from the Österreichisches Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung (Austrian Ministry of Science and Research) in 2008-2009. He was a Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies Fellow for 2014–2015 and a Fellow at Duke University’s Center for the History of Political Economy in 2017. His research interests focus on European intellectual history, Central European history, and the history of economics. His first book, Black Vienna: The Radical Right in the Red City, 1918–1938 appeared with Cornell University Press in 2014 (paperback, 2017). He has also published articles on this subject in Central European History, Contemporary Austrian Studies, and Modern Intellectual History. His most recent book, The Marginal Revolutionaries: How Austrian Economists Fought the War of Ideas, appeared in September 2019 with Yale University Press and won the Joseph Spengler Book Prize from the History of Economics Society.  At the University of Alabama, he teaches regular courses on the history of the Holocaust, history of fascism, history of modern Germany, theories of nationalism and the philosophy of history.

This workshop is part of a project that has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 786314).

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