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Tag: history

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

Why Russians still regret the Soviet collapse

In 2019, a Levada Centre poll revealed that 66 per cent of Russians regretted the collapse of the Soviet Union while just a quarter did not. This represented an increase of 11 per cent in ten years. In the same time, Russia’s economy shrank by 23.2 per cent. The most stated, and consistent, reason for regret was the “destruction of a unified economic system”.

On December 25th 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev admitted defeat live on Russian television. The red flag came down from the Kremlin after more than 70 years. Thirty years later, Muscovites found themselves voting in a referendum on whether to restore Felix Dzerzhinsky’s statue to Lubyanka Square (headquarters of the FSB, formerly the KGB). Its toppling symbolised the rejection of Soviet socialism and a repudiation of the October 1917 revolution, which few initially believed in. Yet since 1991, a clear majority of Russians have consistently regretted the USSR’s collapse.

April 25, 2022 - James C. Pearce

Raphael Lemkin: the ambassador of our conscience

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to massive killings and casualties among civilian population. War crimes committed during the conflict remind us of the menace of genocide, especially while the invaders put the “denazification” motto on their banners. When dealing with such a divisive topic, it is important to remember the legacy left by the man who first coined the term “genocide”.

He was the first to call genocide by its proper name. He was the one who dedicated his life to one mission and enhanced international law via his “own” convention. Like many selfless humanists, this man accomplished his goal at the expense of his private life, welfare and premature death. He was unsuccessfully nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize ten times. He was not heard, when needed. He was accepted, only when the world had no choice. He was forgotten, once the world had no more use of him. That was the fate of Raphael Lemkin.

April 25, 2022 - Grzegorz Szymborski

The Eurasian Dream. In the pursuit of splendour

Throughout the last 500 years, Russia has looked for different concepts with which it can strengthen its greatness and image of prestige. The ideology of Eurasianism is a relatively modern example of just one of these inspiring concepts, with the belief directly influenced by various intellectual and political legacies throughout the country’s history.

The history of Russia, apart from being the story of a nation, is by no means simply a tale of intriguing people desperately seeking greatness above all. However, striving for exceptionality remains a key feature of many national outlooks. As a Pole, I am at least partially aware of how often my fellow countrymen praise Polish history and its significance, exaggerating our achievements and showing off before the rest of the world. I believe such grand rhetoric is at least partly based on a nation’s genuine struggle for its place and identity.

February 15, 2022 - Grzegorz Szymborski

Between nationalist propaganda and recognition of minority victims: the Russian interpretation of the Second World War

A conversation with Sergey Lukashevsky, director of the Sakharov Center in Moscow. Interviewer: Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

KRISTINA SMOLIJANINOVAITĖ: The Sakharov Center as we know deals with the history of Soviet totalitarianism as part of its mission to promote freedom, democracy and human rights. It once held the exhibition “Different Wars” by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, which concerned conflicting memories of the Second World War across different parts of Europe. That war often serves as a focal point for collective memory on fascism or imperialism and is therefore a key reference point for defining national and regional identities. It also helps to remind people of the ideals of peace and respect for human lives. So how relevant is the remembrance of the Second World War in your country today? One underlying question also concerns the choice of narrative, with the specific ideals of the Great Patriotic War contrasting with the more general Second World War.

SERGEY LUKASHEVSKY: I do not think that there is generally any real remembrance of the Second World War, but rather of the Great Patriotic War. Basically, one can describe it in just four sentences: 1) The Great Patriotic War was fought by the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany; 2) this conflict was the bloodiest and most destructive episode of the Second World War; 3) the Soviet Union triumphed over Nazi Germany, in a war that left millions of people dead, wounded or crippled, with major destruction in all parts of the Soviet Union where the war took place; and 4) due to this, remembrance is considered relevant nationwide.

February 15, 2022 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė Sergey Lukashevsky

Georgia. The cradle of viticulture

Georgia has over 525 indigenous grape varieties, which is roughly 1/6th of the world’s total grape species. Approximately 40 varieties are officially grown for commercial viticulture production. While Georgian wine has been known locally for centuries, its global consumption is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Georgia lies in the oldest wine-producing region in the world, with Georgian viticulture tracing back to over 8,000 years of grape cultivation and winemaking. While excavating a Neolithic village just 50 kilometres south of Tbilisi in the south-eastern region called Kvemo Kartli, archaeologists found prehistoric winemaking artefacts, specifically, clay vessel pieces containing residues of the world's oldest wine dating back to the 6th millennium BC.

February 15, 2022 - Natalia Mosashvili

The origins of modern political thinking

A review of Confronting Leviathan: A History of Ideas . By: David Runciman. Publisher: Profile Books, London, 2021.

February 15, 2022 - Simona Merkinaite

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