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Sebek, M. (1999). Psychoanalytic Training in Eastern Europe. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 47(3):983-988.

(1999). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 47(3):983-988

Psychoanalytic Training in Eastern Europe

Michael Sebek

The birth of Sigmund Freud in Freiberg, a small town in northern Moravia, in the middle of the last century is not so much an historical rarity as proof of the historical porosity of cultures in Europe. Generations of Freuds moved from Lithuania through modern-day Poland to Moravia, and from Moravia through Leipzig to Vienna. Finally, Freud had to flee to London at the end of his life, shortly before World War II, the greatest human disaster of this century. After the war, the splitting process in Europe continued during the Cold War, and the destruction of cultural and social institutions opened another chapter in a complicated European history. The process went so far that the political concepts of Eastern and Western Europe are still relevant ten years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. This split is referred to even now as two worlds, and so it is with psychoanalysis as well.

Sixty and more years ago, Otto Fenichel would sit in his Prague apartment writing his Rundbriefe—critical essays on the psychoanalysis of his time. In prewar Czechoslovakia, he was the symbol of the invention and transmission of psychoanalysis. He and his colleagues had established the Czech Study Group and taught and analyzed their pupils in Prague. His abrupt immigration to the U. S. just before the war marked both the fall of Czech psychoanalysis and the ascent of psychoanalysis in the New World—a new chapter in psychoanalytic history.

Now, at the turn of a new century, we ask ourselves, What chapter are analysts writing in Eastern Europe today?

Today no Fenichels move to Eastern Europe, where social life is affected by a disease that can be called—by analogy to posttraumatic stress disorder—posttotalitarian syndrome. Old internal objects clash with a new external reality, and centrifugal tendencies characterize group life.

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