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Tag: history

The best story: The Ukrainian past in Zelenskyy’s words and the eyes of the public

In the current Russian war in Ukraine, history and the historical narratives underpinning the conflict are featuring front and centre. The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has been very effective in his use of historical references, especially when addressing international audiences.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent fighting in that country have been accompanied by an avalanche of historical rhetoric from both sides, underlining just how important narratives about the past are for this conflict. As Joseph Nye reminds us: “Conventional wisdom has always held that the state with the largest military prevails, but in the information age it may be the state (or non-states) with the best story that wins.”

December 7, 2022 - Félix Krawatzek George Soroka

What the past is for. Polish-Ukrainian memory politics and Putin’s war

Despite contentious differences in memory, Polish-Ukrainian relations have remained close and notably strong in important national moments. This reflects two aspects of Polish society: a generation of youth acclimated to supporting Ukrainian sovereignty with compassion, and a national memory politics which allows humanitarianism, but only when it fits into a politically suitable narrative.

In 2003 the Polish philosopher and historian of ideas Leszek Kołakowski gave a speech at the American Library of Congress titled, “What the Past is For”. Kołakowski believed that history serves not to predict the future nor to gain technical advice on how to deal with the present, but to discover the values constitutive of human identities. He told his listeners that “to say that [the events of the past] do not matter to our lives would be almost as silly as saying that it would not matter to me if I were suddenly to erase from my memory my own past personal life … The history of past generations is our history, and we need to know it in order to be aware of our identity; in the same sense in which my own memory builds my personal identity, makes me a human subject.”

December 7, 2022 - Daniel Edison

History lost. How Vladimir Putin’s historical conceptions led to the invasion of Ukraine

Vladimir Putin’s 2021 article on Ukraine was primarily dedicated to the notion that Ukraine is historically inseparable from Russia. He at least conceded that a Ukrainian culture and language exists. However, in his February 2022 speech, Putin ignores these ideas completely, using revisionist history to eradicate an entire nation, its language, and culture. According to Putin, the history of Ukraine is now solely the history of Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s historical conceptions, or rather misconceptions, have led to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Putin is manipulating, altering, rewriting and at times even completely inventing history in order to justify his actions against Ukraine and the Ukrainian people.

October 3, 2022 - Joshua Kroeker

The unfin(n)ished story of the Baltic alliance

From the region’s perspective, the 1922 Warsaw Accord between Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland was a significant step in strengthening geopolitical interests and safeguarding against Russian aggression. Unfortunately, the agreement ultimately failed. This year’s ratification by Finland’s parliament of its application to join NATO can be seen as a final step in this process that began over 100 years ago.

The most promising and – to a certain degree – surprising declaration made by Finland on its interest in joining the NATO Alliance immediately reminded me of the so-called Warsaw Accord. This treaty was drafted 100 years ago on March 17th 1922 and embodied the initiative of a Baltic alliance between Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Poland. Anti-Soviet in nature, cooperation ultimately failed due to reservations expressed by Helsinki. In the summer of 1922 the Finnish parliament – Eduskunta – decided not to ratify the pact. A century later, on May 17th 2022, 188 out of 200 Finnish MPs voted on accession to NATO. The story has come full circle. A story which deserves to be told.

September 29, 2022 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Caution, “concrete utopias” and common threats. Dutch perspectives on German unity

Dutch reactions to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification were, all in all, more positive than many Germans perceived them at the time. The main point of Dutch concern was the role that a united Germany would play in a (not yet united) Europe. Three decades later, some elements of the “concrete utopia” of a closer union have been realised. Yet, both countries also face massive challenges in the years to come.

September 29, 2022 - Florian Hartleb Florian Lippert Friso Wielenga

More Europe in the face of realpolitik’s return? French perspectives on 30 years of German reunification

The current geopolitical situation has disrupted the European and global order, which were both consolidated in the 1990s and have been key factors in the modern German model. The Franco-German duo is currently facing new challenges and it will have to respond appropriately in a time when the EU’s global influence is shrinking in the face of what some analysts call a “new Cold War”.

September 29, 2022 - Marie Krpata

Overcoming imperial trauma

Perhaps Poland’s own troubled relationship with Europe and European values, flirtations with quasi-Russian authoritarianism, nationalism and xenophobia, underpinned by aggression, prejudice and contempt – are all symptoms of our unresolved contest with imperial Russia. In other words, we are not Eurosceptic at all. We would truly like to be Europeans, but are restrained by unfinished business with Russia.

News of the Russian invasion of Ukraine caught me off guard in Greece, to where I travelled for a few days of spring and peace, the deficit of both we often find chronic. We are experiencing a seemingly eternal pre-spring, arranged for, by and into variable tones of depression, aggression, despair and sterile dynamism. This is underlined by a repressed impression of pointlessness, sterility, perpetually alternating frost and thawing of the spirit. We anticipate war and an inability to find peace.

July 14, 2022 - Piotr Augustyniak

The Way of the Land: a podcast sheds light on the forgotten history of Roma slavery in Romania

Romania is not the first country people usually think of when it comes to slavery. Despite this, the country possesses an almost unknown history of Roma slavery that occurred over five centuries. The Way of the Land is a podcast that shows how this hidden history bleeds into the present discriminations against the Roma community.

In the small room of Romania’s National Theatre, the public frets in their seats, waiting for the play to start. They came to see a one-woman show written, directed and staged by Alina Șerban. She is the first Roma woman to ever direct a play for the National Theatre in Bucharest. Tonight, she plays in The Best Child in the World, a play about her life. The only poster displayed remains inside the theatre, where only the spectators can see it. It features Șerban wearing a traditional Roma dress. The curly haired woman stands back to back with a grotesque figure, a symbol of the most crushing insult against Roma, the crow. Șerban smiles.

July 14, 2022 - Miriam Țepeș-Handaric

The Russo-Japanese War. A forgotten lesson?

The Kremlin appeared very confident as it launched its invasion of a comparatively weaker Ukraine in February. In light of this, the Russian authorities appear to have forgotten their country’s defeat at the hands of a relatively untested Japanese military at the start of the 20th century.

Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918) was a model nobleman, a gentleman with a decidedly British air about him. His face was well defined and he had a well-cut beard, similar to the ones seen on Royal Navy officers. Should you be shown his photograph among a group of British naval commanders, you would not see much difference. Some people argue this was the result of genetics. Of course, Nicholas II was the grandson of Queen Victoria, who was also grandmother to Wilhelm II of Hohenzollern, the emperor of Germany. In addition to having the same grandmother, Nicholas and Wilhelm also shared the same dream – they both wanted to become admirals of a sea fleet.

July 14, 2022 - Andrzej Zaręba

Ignorance of history? Germany’s culture of memory and response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Whilst Germany’s work to keep alive the memory of the Holocaust is commendable, its uncertainty following the invasion of Ukraine flies in the face of this historical legacy. It is high time that German society fully stood up and supported Kyiv in its struggle against Russian aggression.

July 8, 2022 - Marcel Krueger

Adolf Hitler was not of Jewish descent, but the result of inbreeding

A recent comment from a high-ranking Kremlin official concerning Hitler’s ancestry has sparked controversy. Whilst Germany’s wartime leader did not have a Jewish grandfather as claimed, the dictator’s family tree was full of inbreeding.

May 13, 2022 - Asbjørn Svarstad

Learning “history” with Putin

On February 21st, ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin delivered a state-wide history lesson on national television. Since then, the country’s youth has become a key target group for state propaganda. School education has often been considered an effective vehicle for perpetuating and disseminating Russian state propaganda among these young impressionable minds.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began on February 24th with Putin’s announcement of a “special military operation”. His announcement followed a speech he made on February 21st, in which he outlined his justifications for the recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions’ independence. He took his audience on a bizarre “history lesson”, first outlining the country’s founding, when Russia was more commonly associated with Kyivan Rus’ (yet Putin often omits the “Kyivan” aspect).

April 25, 2022 - Allyson Edwards

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