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Category: History and Memory

A “Eurasian” Ukraine

In Ukraine it has become popular to view the country as a bulwark of democratic Europe, one that protects the continent from Moscow’s expansion or Eurasian despotism. This vision, however, neglects the fact that for centuries Ukraine was connected to the Great Steppe, stretching from the Carpathians to Korea.

The Russian aggression in eastern Ukraine has given new life to the archetype of Ukraine as a bulwark which defends Europe. As Mykhailo Hrushevskiy, the father of Ukrainian historiography, once wrote, Ukraine has played “an honourable role in protecting European civilisation from Asiatic hordes”. Ukrainian nationalists tend to orientalise Russia which is portrayed as an Asiatic or Eurasian tyranny formed by the allegedly authoritarian Mongols.

February 26, 2018 - Adam Balcer

The forgotten border

Following the First World War, the new border established between Poland and Germany, finally implemented in 1921, stretched from the Upper Silesian Coal Basin all the way to the Baltic Sea. The border, however, remained a primary source of conflict; especially as the political decisions of the Weimar Republic allowed for a revision of the Versailles Treaty. Today it is the focus of a joint Polish-German project.

Only during concerts would he receive applause like this. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, a pianist and composer, arrived in Poznań on December 26th 1918 (18 days after the end of the First World War) and was greeted with much excitement by the Poles. Earlier, he had played a concert at the White House in Washington, DC and met with the US President Woodrow Wilson, whom he tried to convince that an independent Polish state had to be created. It was still yet unclear as to where exactly the borders of this state would lie.

February 26, 2018 - Uwe Rada

Justice delayed not denied. Stalin and history on trial in Kyiv

There is no question that transitional justice plays a significant role for a society in overcoming a past trauma. This was the case for Ukrainians seeking justice for the Holodomor events. It may also be the case as Ukraine seeks to end the conflict in Donbas.

On January 13th 2010 the court of appeals in Kyiv adopted a ruling stating that the Great Famine, known as Holodomor, which took place in 1932-33 was an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people. It further ruled that the crime of genocide was organised and committed by the Bolsheviks, specifically naming Joseph Stalin, Vyacheslav Molotov, Lazar Kaganovich, Pavel Postyshev, Stanisław Kosior, Vlas Chubar and Mendel Khataievich. However, the accused and principle architects of one of the most heinous crimes of the 20th century, in which several million people died, were unable to hear the final statement of the court – all had passed away decades before the proceedings were even launched.

February 26, 2018 - Tomasz Lachowski

Józef Obrębski’s work on display in Skopje

Ongoing exhibition: The Porechans. The Macedonian Poreche 1932-1933 according to Józef Obrębski’s Ethnographic Records. Prepared by Professor Anna Engelking, Slavic Studies Institute, Polish Academy of Sciences. Organised by the Polish Embassy in Skopje at the Museum of Macedonia, Skopje, Republic of Macedonia. December 15th 2017–March 31st 2018

January 22, 2018 - Kinga Nettmann-Multanowska

Rewriting Russian history

The battle for the future shape of Russia’s education system is now in full swing. Not only is the Kremlin increasing its control over what it considers the correct version of the past, there are also signs of a gradual ideological return to promote the glorification of Joseph Stalin.

In 2015 the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany was celebrated in grand style. During that time, a larger than usual number of Stalin monuments was erected in several cities especially in south-western parts of the country upon the proposal of the communist party. The communists’ call came after a 2014 law passed by the Duma introduced a criminal penalty for rehabilitating Nazism and criticising Soviet activities during the Second World War. The law stipulates up to five years in prison for “lying about history”. Similar steps have been taken with regards to teaching history in schools.

January 2, 2018 - Dagmara Moskwa

The story of the other Piłsudski

Many Poles still unfairly overlook the story of Bronisław Piłsudski, who remains in the shadow of his younger brother, the chief of state, Marshall Józef Piłsudski. Yet, Bronisław’s story is as prominent as his sibling’s, albeit with a more tragic ending.

Bronisław Piłsudski was a year older than his brother Józef. He was born in 1866 in the Piłsudski family mansion in Zułow, 60 kilometres outside of Vilnius. Maria Billewiczówna, their mother, gave birth to 12 children. The father, Józef Senior, was involved in the January Uprising of 1863 against the Russian Empire. They raised their children in the spirit of patriotism. In addition to Bronisław and Józef Junior, the couple had two older daughters, Helena and Zofia, and six younger children: Adam, Kazimierz, Maria, Jan, Ludwika, and Kacper. There was also a pair of twins who died shortly after birth.

January 2, 2018 - Grzegorz Nurek

The restless memory of Staro Sajmiste

The memory of Staro Sajmiste, the former Nazi concentration camp in Belgrade, will depend on how well Serbia’s discourse on the Holocaust continues to develop. Today, the Holocaust memory serves as a tool for highlighting both Serbia’s belonging to the European memory culture and the country’s narrative of Serbian victimhood.

The tower of the old Belgrade fairground, a former Nazi concentration camp, ominously peers down at the city. It is hard to miss, whether from the road connecting the airport with the Serbian capital or while wandering around the Belgrade fortress hill. Its characteristic spot right across the river can be well seen from the extravagant waterfront as the tower stands near the Hyatt Regency Hotel. It is an integral part of the city’s landscape.

In spite of the site’s proximity to the city centre, and its visibility, Staro Sajmiste is still a neglected and somewhat isolated area. Turning from the main road to Sajmiste Street feels like entering another world – trespassing the border and violating the privacy of the space. It can take some time to discover any sign of the site’s former purpose; especially since it has transformed into a residential area with a children’s playground and laundry hanging near to what was once a prison. Thus, while it has been officially recognised as a Holocaust memory site, Staro Sajmiste remains largely forgotten, in plain sight.

January 2, 2018 - Yulia Oreshina

The Ukrainian colony that never existed

The history of Ukrainians in the Far East is slowly coming to an end. It is a story of colonisation in the Russian Far East, attempts to maintain identity in unfavourable conditions and a fantastic colonial idea with humble attempts to implement it.

In Hej Sokoły (Hey, Falcons), the Polish-Ukrainian song from the mid-19th century written by Tomasz Pandura, the author yearns for “green Ukraine” – the Ukrainian steppe. The bilingual song is known to most Poles and almost as many Ukrainians. However, few people know that at a later stage the term “Green Ukraine” (written with capital letters) came to describe the territory in Russia’s Far East where, at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century, a significant number of Ukrainians settled. The areas of Amur and Primorskaya oblasts, where many Ukrainians lived, were called Zeleny Klyn. The term “Green Ukraine”, however, contrary to Zeleny Klyn, conveyed not only the ethnographic meaning but also the national aspirations.

January 2, 2018 - Marek Wojnar

Connecting histories and geographies: The Jews of Central Asia

Since the late 19th century much has been published about Central Asian Jews who came under Russian – and later Soviet – dominance and who became commonly known as the Bukharan Jews. Yet, it is only now when there are almost no Jews left in Central Asia that the study of Bukharan Jews has seriously started.

October 4, 2017 - Thomas Loy

Poland’s Protestant diversity

In the 16th century, Polish Protestantism began to flourish and this tolerance brought European civilisation many noble thinkers, including Jan Hevelius, Kazimierz Siemienowicz, Józef Naronowicz-Naronski and Krzysztof Arciszewski.

October 4, 2017 - Andrzej Zaręba

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