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The Importance of Political Analogies during Crises: Reflections on Nyyssönen

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What is the salience of historical events and why are certain ones central to the narratives of politicians of opposing views? Students of nation-state building frequently contend that key moments of glory or disaster are central for telling the story of the nation and thereby uniting the people. The Hungarian experience in interpreting the revolutionary events of 1956 and 1989, therefore, is not unique; rather it highlights an important phenomenon of politics in authoritarian as well as democratic systems. As elites compete for power, particularly during times of crisis, they often offer particular interpretations of key historical events. How well they can convince and mold public perceptions of both the contemporary situation and its historical analogy affect the power that leaders can wield. In contemporary American politics, a duel between two analogies (9/11-mushroom cloud versus Iraq-Vietnam) is currently raging, and whichever memory wins will have important short-run political consequences in the United States.

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