The Arc of Thinking About Nationalism in Challenging Time
In the introduction to the archival publication of documents by Hans Kohn the editors point out that Ab Imperio had earlier engaged with the scholar’s legacy. Kohn’s lectures published in the journal were delivered in 1919 and 1943. The editors briefly discuss Kohn’s biography. Born in Prague, Kohn became involved in discussions of Zionism early in his life. He served in the Austro-Hungarian army and spent time in Russia (in southern Siberia) as a prisoner of war. The editors argue that his understanding of nationalism was shaped by his historical encounters. In particular, Kohn’s lifelong commitment to Zionism was a formative influence on his ideas about political community. Kohn’s early embrace of nationalism was connected to his hopes for Zionism and his search for a suitable political language for describing a national community. In 1943, Kohn, by then a professor of modern European history at Smith College, had behind him several years of life in Palestine, where he worked in Zionist organizations and studied the Arab world. He also carefully observed and reported on the rise of Nazism and Stalinism in Europe. Kohn’s lecture of 1943 reflects more distance from nationalism.