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This chapter focuses on a quintessential genre of popular socialist fictional television in its first two decades: the historical adventure series. The argument is centered on two popular serials that exemplify broader aesthetic, social, and media policy trends of the 1960s and 1970s: the Hungarian A Tenkes kapitánya (The captain of the Tenkes, 1964) and the Polish Janosik (1974). Their success with audiences and the effectiveness of their political messages are rooted in three interrelated factors, all of which identify television entertainment as a key terrain for sustaining nationalisms and, simultaneously, for visualizing the contradictions at the core of these nationalisms. The first aspect is their loose treatment of historical facts, places, and people. Second, the nationalistic projects at the heart of these adventure serials drew simultaneously on the alleged authenticity of folk culture and a high cultural legitimation. Third, the protagonists are all modeled after social bandits, who embody a wish-fulfilling, contradictory national belonging to a European cultural sphere and a voluntary submission to exoticizing Western European images of the periphery. The prevalence of such outlaw heroes lends a regional specificity to the development of nationalisms and nation-states in Eastern and Southern Europe.

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