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Jan Rybak
Postdoctoral Research Fellow



Jan joined the Department in October 2019, as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the Leverhulme Trust-funded project Rethinking Civil Society: History, Theory, Critique. He works on the relations between civil society and the state, concepts of state and nation in the Weimar Republic.

Jan completed his Doctorate in History at the European University Institute in Florence in July 2019 and held visiting fellowships at POLIN: Museum for the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw and New York University. His thesis entitled ‘Everyday Zionism in East-Central Europe, 1914–1921: Nation-Building in War and Revolution’ analysed the way in which Zionist activists throughout the region, built community and identity during the upheavals of the First World War and its aftermath. It connects the history of ideas with social history, showing how everyday forms of activism, informed the way people thought about nation and belonging and how the ‘big’ story played out on a local level.

Before starting his BA and MA studies in history at the University of Salzburg, Jan worked for five years as a caretaker for people with disabilities.



I generally approach historical research from a grassroots perspective, showing what the ‘big’ stories played out on a local level, how people made sense of them, and how, in turn, the larger narratives and ideologies had to be adapted to reflect local conditions and developments. This allows us to re-think the major stories which (we believe) we know already and to show how very different they could play out depending on local and regional circumstances and different decisions local activists made. It shows how the supposedly grand ideas of empire, nation, community, etc. could have very different meanings to different people.

My current research continues to explore ‘big’ ideas from this perspective, looking at the relations between civil society, state, and nation in Weimar Germany. I analyse the re-thinking of Germany and the reformulation of relations between citizen and state in the Weimar Republic. I propose to connect the history of ideas about nation, state, and civil society with the everyday practices of social and political organisations from the foundation of the Republic through the rise of Nazism. With the collapse of the old imperial order, concepts of Germanness and national self-identification were subject to debate and the question of ‘who makes Germany’, who would be entitled to participate in society’s reshaping, was at the centre of mobilisation and debates. I analyse these debates over German identity, belonging, and civil society on three different levels: I first focus on four key intellectuals – Friedrich Meinecke, Harry Graf Kessler, Kurt Tucholsky, and Martin Buber – analysing how they perceived and interpreted the end of the old order and the formation of a new German society. It then connects these ideological debates with the social and political practices of two organisations that were central for both the debate over German identity and for civil society engagement: the organisation of recent German emigrants from regions seceded to Poland, and the Central-Verein Deutscher Staatsbürger Jüdischen Glaubens, as a key civil society organisation of the Jewish community in the Weimar Republic. The project shows how ideas and debates over identity and belonging translated into the daily practices in civil society, how civil society ‘made sense’ of these concepts and aimed to participate in the making of a new Germany.


Selected publications

Journal Articles

  • “Universal Freedom’ and the Balfour Declaration: Watershed Moments for Radical Jewish Politics.” European Review of History/Revuee européenne d’histoire. Vol. 26, No. 5 (2019): 783–806.
  • “Sozialistischer Zionismus in der europäischen Revolution 1917–1920: Widersprüche emanzipatorischer Identitäten.” Arbeit – Bewegung – Geschichte. Zeitschrift für Historische Studien, Vol. 16, No. 2 (2017): 31–48.
  • “Marxismus, jüdischer Nationalismus und Zionismus: Historische Analyse eines angespannten Verhältnisses.” Chilufim: Zeitschrift für Jüdische Kulturgeschichte, No. 20 (2016): 3–32.
  • “‘Unheilige Allianzen’ und Projektionsbedürfnisse im Kontext der Gaza-Protestbewegung in Deutschland.” Chilufim: Zeitschrift für Jüdische Kulturgeschichte, No. 18 (2015): 151–200.
  • “Die Entwicklung des frühen arabischen Nationalismus.” historioPLUS, No. 1 (2014): 122–49.


  • “Die Politische Ökonomie syrischer (Nicht-)Demokratisierung.” In Demokratie – ein interdisziplinäres Forschungsprojekt. Edited by Franz Gmainer-Pranzl, 387–406. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2017.
  • “Antisemitism in Muslim Communities and Islamophobia in the Context of the Gaza War 2014: The Example of Germany and Austria.” In Anti-Jewish and Anti-Muslim Racisms and the Question of Palestine/Israel. Online Paper Series by the Centre of for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging at the University of East London. Edited by Nira Yuval-Davies and Jamie Hakim (London, 2015).

External activities


2019. “The Red Flag on Mount Moriah”: Revolution, Anti-Jewish Violence, and Socialist-Zionism in East-Central Europe, 1918-1920. Conference: Radicalism and Resistance in Modern Jewish History”. Institute for the History of the German Jews, Hamburg.

2018. Kontinuität zwischen “Empire” und “Nationalstaat”: Juden/Jüdinnen in Galizien 1917–1919. 28. Internationale Sommerakademie des Instituts für Jüdische Geschichte Österreichs. Vienna.

2018. Zionism, Security, and Belonging in Galicia, 1917–1919. Żydowski Instytut Historyczny/Jewish Historical Institute Warsaw.

2018. Everyday Zionism in East-Central Europe: Building a Nation in War and Revolution, 1914–1921. POLIN Museum for the History of Polish Jews; GEOP Doctoral Seminar

2017. A Nation among the Nations: A Local and Transnational Perspective on the Jewish National Councils, 1917–1920. Conference “Jews and Others: Ethnic Relations in Eastern and Central Europe from 1917 and Onwards.” POLIN Museum Warsaw.

2017. The Balfour Declaration and the European Revolution: On the Simultaneity of Contradicting Perspectives for Jewish Emancipation in Central/Eastern Europe. Zentrum für Jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg.

2017. Die Balfour-Deklaration und die Russische Revolution: Zwei Versprechen für jüdische Befreiung. University of Salzburg, Centre for Jewish Cultural Studies.

2017. Co-organization of the international conference “The Peripheries of the European Revolutionary Process(es) 1917–1923” at the European University Institute

2017. Antisemitism: a ‘Prejudice’ or a Worldview? New York University, Florence Campus; La Pietra Dialogues.

2017. Co-organization of the international Workshop “1967–2017: Nationalism and its Discontent in Israel/Palestine” at the European University Institute

2017. Co-organization of the international “Graduate Conference in European History” (GRACEH 2017) at the European University Institute.

2017. Between Petrograd and Zion: Socialist Zionism in the Revolutionary Process. Conference “Re-thinking the Russian Revolution 1917.” University of Essex.

2017. The Red Flag over Petrograd or Jerusalem? Socialist Zionism in the European Revolution. Conference of the European Network in Universal and Global History, Budapest.

2017. Creating a Nation within Nations: The Jewish National Councils, 1917–1919. Conference “Reform and Revolution in Europe 1917–1919.” University of Tampere.

2016. Jüdischer Nationalismus vom Imperium zur Nation: Die jüdischen Nationalräte in Zentral-/Osteuropa. Conference of “Forum Erster Weltkrieg” University of Graz.

2016. “Today’s Antisemitism is Imported”: Discourses about “Muslim Antisemitism” and Islamophobia during the Protests against the 2014 Gaza War. Conference of the European Sociology Association: “Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism: Refugees and migration – nationalist/racist responses.” University of Warsaw.

2016. Creating a New Jewish Identity: Zionism during Europe’s Post-War Crisis, 1917–1923. Conference “Traces of Multiculturalism in Central Europe”, University of Wrocław.

2016. Zwischen Zion und Revolution: Neue Perspektiven auf den Zionismus nach 1917. Österreichischer Zeitgeschichtetag. University of Graz.

2016. Enthusiasm for War? Popular Reactions to the Outbreak of World War One in the Province of Salzburg. Conference “Globalising and Localising the Great War.” Oxford University.

2016. Forging a Transnational Nationalism: Zionism During Europe’s Post-War Crisis, 1917–1923. 14th UCL SSEES International Postgraduate Conference; University College London.

2015. Die Politische Ökonomie syrischer (Nicht-)Demokratisierung. Conference: “Demokratie – Ein Interdisziplinäres Forschungsprojekt.” University of Salzburg.

2015 (with Helga Embacher). “Muslim Anti-Semitism” and Islamophobia in Germany and Austria in the Context of the 2014 Gaza War. Conference “Anti-Jewish and Anti-Muslim Racisms and the Question of Palestine/Israel.” School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

2014. Organiation of a public symposium on “The Outbreak of World War One in Salzburg – Popular Reactions” at the Salzburg Museum

Contact details

Dr Jan Rybak
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Politics and International Relations
University of York
Heslington Lane
YO10 5DD