Business History and Transformations in Central & Eastern Europe

The 6th Workshop on Business History in Central and Eastern Europe

supported by 

European Business History Association (EBHA)

Business History and Transformations in Central & Eastern Europe

Place: University of Vienna 

Date: October 24-25, 2024

Call for papers 

Abstract template

This year’s workshop focuses on the variety of challenges that enterprises and entrepreneurs had to cope with during times of significant political, economic, social, and cultural changes and upheavals in the region of CEE from the 19th century to the early 21st century. We recognize the events of the revolutionary uprisings across CEE in 1848/49, the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 1867, the (re)emergence of new states in CEE after the end of the First World War 1918, the rise of state-socialist dictatorships in CEE after 1945, or the systemic transformations of 1989-91 as profound turning points in the history of CEE. However, we also agree that these events cannot be reduced to isolated “numeric keywords” as they were rather peaks of longer-lasting processes of change(s). We thus refer to concepts of transformation that emphasize transformation as a process of “accelerated” political, economic, and societal change with an often “unspecified” time frame of its beginning and its end. Although there is a scholarly consensus that entrepreneurship is an important driver of transformational processes, the question of "how entrepreneurs initiate, contribute to, prevent, or foster transformation in markets and societies" remains largely unexplored. This question also applies to the role of companies and their various stakeholders in transformation processes. 

The workshop intends to make an important contribution to filling this research gap and the organizers are thus welcoming proposals that fit the general scope of the workshop; however, we are especially interested in proposals addressing one or more of the following (interlinked) topics:

Transformations & enterprises from a long-term and global perspective 

We are looking forward to analyses of linkages between business in CEE and (global) political, economic, societal and cultural changes and the question of companies and entrepreneurs as important actors and respondents of transformations. Case studies of dis/continuities in (long-term) histories of companies and entrepreneurship related to fundamental transformations in CEE are thus welcomed. We particularly welcome proposals that consider fundamental economic policy shifts related to transformations, such as collectivization, market liberalization and/or economic nationalism and their impacts on business in CEE. As the comparison of different historical transformations in CEE provides an interesting object of research (Ther 2014), we appreciate case studies with comparative approaches. 

Business practices and transformation / Transformations of business practices

The focus here is on particular business practices: How did transformations influence business practices on the one hand, and how did they themselves contribute to the dynamics of changes on the other? Specifically, we welcome papers that deal with questions about (entrepreneurial) re/actions to changing political, social, and cultural contexts around businesses as well as forms of adaptation, resistance and/or resilience to change(s). How business organizations maneuvered through transformational periods and how agencies of various business actors can be embedded analytically in larger (macro-level) contexts of systemic transformation? 

Transformation “from below” 

We also encourage involving non-salient stakeholders of business organizations other than top management as important historical actors of transformations, particularly labour. We hereby want to consider shifting power relations between various stakeholders in business organizations in the course of transformations in CEE and/or in its aftermath. We are interested in proposals that explore new forms of grassroots activities related to business in times of accelerated political, economic and social change(s) and their impact on such changes. Accordingly, (new) forms of social upward mobility as well as new or persisting inequalities (in its intersectional dimension) related to business and transformations in CEE are to be scrutinized. 

Retrospective perceptions of transformations

Lubinski et al. (2023) suggest combining the “temporality of transformation” from the following two-time perceptions: “Over time”, as a retrospective that assesses transformation according to its consequences and “in time”, as the "prospective" perception of transformation of business actors and their associated ideas of imagined future(s). Accordingly, we invite proposals dealing with retrospective perceptions of various corporate actors on transformations. How are transformations told in corporate narratives, and how are these narratives shaped by corporate museums, corporate books, and (business) archives? On the other hand, how did other stakeholders, such as ordinary employees, reflect on their experiences in enterprises during times of accelerated change/s?

We are looking forward to receiving your proposals (abstracts of circa 600 words, including a clear statement of the research question and brief information on the conceptual framework and, if applicable, the sources + short bio and contact details) to wbhcee@gmail.com by April 15, 2024. When preparing your proposal please use the following template. We especially encourage submitting proposals of papers in progress and particularly encourage Ph.D. students to apply.

The organizing committee reserves the right to select the applications received.  Notifications of full acceptance will be communicated by the beginning of May 2024.

Participants are responsible for their own travel and accommodation. PhD students without their own funding should indicate this when submitting their proposal. Depending on the availability of funds, the hosts will endeavour to secure additional resources to assist with the travel and accommodation costs for these PhD-students.

For further information and questions, please feel free to contact:

Martin Gumiela e-mail: martin.gumiela@univie.ac.at 

Organizing committee: Tomasz Olejniczak (Kozminski University, Warsaw), Volodymyr Kulikov (The University of Texas at Austin), Alfred Reckendrees (Copenhagen Business School), Valentina Fava (Università Ca' Foscari, Venice), Ágnes Pogány and Judit Klement (Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest), Maiju Wuokko (University of Helsinki)


Day 1 (Thursday) October 24th

Panel 1: Key concepts and approaches

09:00-10:00 a.m.

Chair: Martin Gumiela

Philip Ther - Transformation

Daniel Raff - Radical agency in the History of Centrally-Planned Economies

Panel 2: Minority Entrepreneurship in the Habsburg and Romanov Empires

10:15-11:15 a.m.

Chair: Alfred Reckendrees

Andreea Kaltenbrunner - Trading against Jews and Tariffs: Antisemites in Vienna and Iași in the 1890s

Lilija Wedel - German Entrepreneurs in the Black See Region and Transcaucasia. Marketing Strategies, Networks and Contributions, 1870s –1914


Coffee break

11:15- 11:30 a.m.

Panel 3: Big Business and Cartels in the Shadow of War

11:30-13:00 p.m.

Chair: Valentina Fava

Maria Hidvégi, Tamás Vonyó - The business of war: The growth of big industry in Central Europe, 1914-29

Susanna Fellman - Firm strategies in an era of transformations: Eastern and Central European countries and international cartels in the interwar period

Aleš Skřivan, Tereza  Strejčková - Škoda Works and the post-war nationalization of Czechoslovak arms production


Lunch break

13:00- 14:15 p.m.

Panel 4: Economic and Business Transformations in Czechoslovakia in the First Half of the 20th Century

14:10-15:45 p.m.

Chair: Judit Klement

Ségolène Plyer - How to become an exporter. Czech textile overseas trade (1900-1930)

Eduard Kubů, Barbora Štolleová - „Weg von Österreich! “. The project of transformation of the economic space of the Bohemian lands born at the end of the Great War in an entrepreneurial perspective and its implementation

Jesse Siegel - Making Europeans: German-Czechoslovak Businessmen in Mitteleuropa after 1918

Coffee break

15:45- 16:00 p.m.

Panel 5: Foreign Business and Domestic Enterprise in Central and Southeastern Europe

16:00-17:30 p.m.

Chair: Ágnes Pogány

Andrea Gritti - Political and Economic Fragmentation in the Post-Imperial Balkans: Insights from Business Archives of Yugoslav Macedonia

Gyula Horváth - Hungarian insurance industry after World War I – successes and failures

Judit Klement - Political and business adaptation in the case of the Hungarian Siemens–Schuckert Works

Coffee break

17:30- 17:45 p.m.

Panel 6: Historical Revisions and Enterprises in Post-1991 Poland

17:45-18:45 p.m.

Chair: Maiju Wuokko

Marcin Leberschek - Removal of monuments to communist patrons as a way for enterprises to adjust to new realities in post-1989 Poland

Radosław Milczarski, Tomasz Olejniczak - Transformation with a pinch of reenactment: Strategic Use of Anniversaries in a Polish Development Bank


19:30 p.m.

Day 2 (Friday) October 25th

Panel 7: Transformation in Long Perspective

09:00-10:00 a.m.

Chair: Alfred Reckendrees

Antonie Doležalová - Neverending Story. 150 Years of Economic Transformations in Bohemian Lands and Czechoslovakia in Comparative Perspective

Milan Balaban, Jan Herman, Dalibor Savić - From Central Europe to the World and Back: Transformation of Bata Company's Business Policies from the End of the 19th to the Beginning of the 21st Century

Coffee break

10:00- 10:20 a.m.

Panel 8: Economic and Entrepreneurial Transformation: From Command Economy to Capitalism

10:20-11:50 a.m.

Chair: Tomasz Olejniczak

Marta Chmielewska - Privatization from below. The memory conflicts over the 1990s transformation of the undergarment industry in small-town Poland 

Aleksandra Maria Fila - „Young wolves” and „domestic hens”. Attribution of creativity and value of labor in the context of gendered transformations of the Polish ‘long ‘90s’.

Veronika Pehe, Petr Kupka - The Moral Economy of Small-Scale Enterprise between Late Socialism and Capitalism 

Lunch break

12:00- 13:20 p.m.

Panel 9: Economic Transformations in Post-Communist Europe

13:20-14:50 p.m.

Chair: Martin Gumiela

Václav Rameš - Trade unions and industrial relations in post-communism

Maiju Wuokko - Mixed Motives: Finnish Aid to Post-Socialist European Transition Economies in the Early 1990s

Nicolas Arendt - "Project Eastern Waltz." ARBED's takeover of the former VEB Maxhütte Unterwellenborn 1992-2001

Coffee break

14:50- 15:10 p.m.

Panel 10: Industrial Cooperation between the East and West in  Socialist Central and Eastern Europe

15:10-16:40 p.m.

Chair: Irina Yányshev-Nésterova

Maciej Tymiński, Dariusz Standerski - The role of Polish United Workers’ Party officials in the investment process. The case of Small-Engine Car Factory (FSM) in the early 1970s

Ioan Balaban, Valentina Fava - Waiting for the End of the Cold War. Failure and success of Italian/Romanian industrial cooperation, 1971-1989

Mara Mărginean - Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: ILO-Sponsored Management Training Programs in the late 1960s Romanian Industrial Enterprises

Coffee break

16:40- 17:00 p.m.

Panel 11: Concluding discussion

17:00-18:00 p.m.