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Doctoral Defense of László Bence Bari

Friday, June 16, 2023, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

(Trans)national Concepts of Self-Determination and the Future of Central Europe in the Late First World War, 1917–1918

This dissertation studies the concept of ‘national self-determination’ or the ‘selfdetermination of peoples’ in the historical context of the Habsburg Monarchy. It argues against the scientific narratives that associate this term with that of the ‘nation-state’ and interpret it as one that would have fundamentally opposed the idea of ‘empire’. The main thesis is that local actors rather embedded the concept of ‘self-determination’ into the political vocabularies of the local contexts before the First World War. It became associated with ‘sovereignty’, ‘secession’ and the ‘nation-state’ only during the late phase of the war (1917–1918). The dissertation argues that this was due to the shared impact of local and international political developments and transnational discussions on the local discourses. It claims that the subjects of the concept, the ‘people’ or the ‘nation’ did not only refer to ethno-cultural interpretations of communities in political discussions. The author argues that the term ‘self-determination’ often applied concepts of the ‘nation’ with political or civic features, which came to shape the conceptualization, the political systems, and the local discourses of Central European nation-states in the interwar period.

Examination Committee

– Péter Balázs chair (Center for Center for European Neighborhood Studies , CEU)

– Balázs Trencsényi supervisor (Department of History, CEU)

– Constantin Iordachi internal member (Department of History, CEU)

– Börries Kuzmany external member (Department for East European History, University of Vienna)

– Natasha Wheatley external reader (Department of History, Princeton University)


The doctoral dissertation is available for inspection. Should you wish to access it, please contact
Margaretha Boockmann (