The name of Indiana University historian Barbara Jelavich was misspelled in Monday's Style section. (Published 1/2/91)

NEW YORK -- Recent history took center stage at the 105th annual meeting of the American Historical Association, held in New York during the weekend. More than 3,000 historians gathered to debate and discuss, among other more distant topics, the whirlwind of change in Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union's domestic struggles and the deepening crisis in the Persian Gulf.

In one of the more than 140 sessions, former Democratic senator George McGovern was critical of the current administration's strategy in the gulf. He stressed the danger of accelerating policy through presidential order without sufficiently consulting Congress, while promoting the importance of strictly following the U.N. resolutions. As for future U.S. policy in the region, McGovern said the United States should follow the maxim of patriot Thomas Paine, who said, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

In addition, a group of members in attendance, calling themselves Historians Against the War in the Persian Gulf, lobbied in extra session to find new ways to avoid war and end the U.S. presence in the gulf.

Speaking to the revolutionary series of events in Eastern Europe was Bela K. Kiraly, a Hungarian historian with firsthand knowledge from another revolutionary period almost four decades ago. Kiraly, who was with Hungarian revolution leader Imre Nagy during the revolt of 1956, compared that violent tumult with the less bloody changes in the past two years.

In another session, Indiana University historian Barbara Jalavich, talking on the European state system, pointed out that current regional and ethnic upheaval in Yugoslavia is nothing new and, in fact, has existed at least since the republic was officially formed in the mid-1940s.

Benedict Maciucha, of the University of Connecticut-Storrs, addressed the ethnic divisions and the possibility of civil war in the Soviet Union. Foreign aid, including food and other supplies, may not be enough to prevent the dissolution of the Russian republics, he said.

Among the other presentations was a session sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, located in Washington, on new perspectives on the Holocaust. Included were discussions on the mass murder of Gypsies, the Bucharest pogrom and the resistance during the period.