May Seminar I: Sabina Mihelj on Socialist TV

All are welcome at the next Media History seminar for Sabina Mihelj’s presentation “Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe.” This will be the seminar’s first session organised by the Institute of Historical Research. We’ll be meeting on Thursday May 7 at 6pm in G34 on the ground floor of Senate House.

“Screening Socialism: Television and Everyday Life in Socialist Eastern Europe”

The post-1989 wave of research into Cold War history threw into sharper relief aspects of the Cold War contest that had previously received little attention. One of these was the role of cultural forms and practices, ranging from religion, literature and the fine arts to film and the media.  Despite this surge of interest, our knowledge of the cultural Cold War and, in particular, our understanding of the role of popular culture and media in socialist societies remains patchy. At least initially, much of the literature was focused on elite, ‘respectable’ cultural forms such as literature and theatre, while the study of media and popular culture has gathered momentum only in recent years.

This paper seeks to redress this balance by focusing on socialist television, a medium that functioned as a key source of popular entertainment and information especially in the period of late socialism. Building on preliminary results of ongoing research funded by the Leverhulme Trust, this paper seeks to identify some of the key traits of state socialist television, focusing on the involvement of television in shaping the perceptions and practices of private and public life, as well as the engagement with the passage of time. The materials presented span five countries – East Germany, Poland, Romania, Soviet Union and Yugoslavia – and draw on a variety of sources ranging from archival documents, programme and schedule analysis to oral history interviews.

The talk will be followed by brief screenings of selected television programmes across Eastern Europe, introduced by the three  Research Associates working on the Screening Socialism project: Alice Bardan, Simon Huxtable and Sylwia Szostak.

For more information on the project and publications, please see the project website:

Dr Mihelj’s profile can be found here:

Further information about the seminar is available through the Institute of Historical Research ( and the Institute of English Studies (