Numerology or the question of whether there is a kind of “cosmic order” behind major turning points in history is not usually on the minds of historians. At the same time, the historians are not particularly useful for predicting future events based on the analysis of recurrent past crises. Nevertheless, we find that some years feature prominently in historical overview. Occasionally we even speak of some sort of cyclical phenomena. Economic historians are most inclined to cyclicality proposing that economic crises occur every seventy years or so – despite the fact that there are as many arguments to support this claim as there are to oppose it. Many years ago, Dušan Nečak concluded: “years, ending with the number eight are among those in Slovene and Yugoslav history, which can rightly be marked as turning points.”
In modern history, we have many of those:
- 1848 the spring of nations;
- 1878 and the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia and Herzegovina followed by 1908’s annexation;
- 1908 and the universal suffrage in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but excluding women;
- 1918 and the end of the First World War, the emergence of the State of Slovenes, Croats, and Serbs, followed by the unification into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes;
- 1928 and the assassination in the Yugoslav Assembly prompting the end of parlamentarism;
- 1938 and the Anschluss of Austria;
- 1948 and the Tito-Stalin split;
- 1968 and the student resistance;
- 1988 as the “year of the masses” fighting for the democratization and the independence of Slovenia;
- 2008 and the world recession.
Will the year 2018 be another turning point?
With some luck and good health, a historian might experience three, possibly four years ending with number eight, featuring at least in the role of an observer – this is how Eric Hobsbawm, one of the last great authorities of the 20th Century Contemporary History saw himself. But unlike his modest self-evaluation, Hobsbawm was prominently affected by the events he was experiencing and has consequently engaged openly in politics on the left side of the political spectrum, much like Bertrand Russell, his contemporary, despite an age gap spanning a few decades. Tone Fornezzi – Tof, a Slovene humorist of the older generation, once described the “ill-luck” of those not actively involved in these breaking events, with words: “I was too young for the real revolution, but I was too old for the sexual kind.”
The significance of “eights” in modern history is that they are not “dead” and that one way or another they encroach on the present. In addition, they challenge us with an eternal question – who creates history – individuals or crowds?
The aim of this special issue of the Retrospektive journal is to gather new interpretations of the different aspects of the breaking points occurring in the years featuring number “eight”. We are interested in contributions spanning national histories, history of international relations, as well as all aspects of economic, cultural, and social histories.
The deadline for submitting the final paper is 31 August 2018.