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Tag: memory

Vladimir the historian: Putin’s political revision of Ukrainian history

For roughly a half a decade now, there has been a radicalising shift in the Kremlin’s understanding of its relations with Ukraine. As Ukraine continues to follow its own path, Vladimir Putin assumes an evermore extreme position that Ukraine, its peoples, language and culture simply do not exist. For Putin, Ukraine has always been and will always be a part of Russia.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s longest-serving president and champion of post-Soviet stability, has accomplished much over the past 21 years. He has delivered Russia from the economic turmoil left by Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, fought and won two wars in Chechnya, and brought unprecedented levels of prosperity and technological development to Russia. He has also defended traditional values the world over, once again placing Russia on the map of the world’s great powers at the expense of democracy and a fruitful relationship with the West. Putin has won many titles for this, including that of the most powerful man on earth, a modern dictator, or the greatest Russian.

December 2, 2021 - Joshua Kroeker

Blindspots in Second World War history

Historical memory related to the Second World War is too complex for there to be a single version recognised around the world. This is because historical “truth” is by no means a simple matter of black and white. Addressing various blindspots and imbalances in understandings of the past may subsequently help tackle difficult historical legacies at political, legal and civil society levels.

The Second World War, with its unprecedented death toll, is the most painful and widespread armed conflict present in the collective memories of nations in the modern era. It was in fact many wars in one, with different front lines, enemies and consequences that can still be felt today. In an attempt to bridge the gap between different perspectives across the continents, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum and its history programme “Confronting Memories” held the third discussion in its series on the Second World War in May 2021. This is part of various ongoing socio-political debates on postwar memory-making. This series of discussions aims to broaden understandings of the war’s history beyond the mainstream narratives and to draw lessons from human suffering and injustice that are often overlooked.

December 1, 2021 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

The forbidden theme of repression: History in the service of authoritarian politics

The Kremlin is striving to erase any historical discourse that undermines the official narrative that Russia must be ruled by an authoritarian system of government. History is rewritten, its dark chapters are glossed over, and independent historians are repressed. This is not just a whim of the former KGB officers who rule the country. Their goal is to perpetuate practices that strengthen Russian authoritarianism, which is based on systemic violence against the country’s citizens.

November 30, 2021 - Maria Domańska

Remembrance, history, and justice. Coming to terms with traumatic pasts in democratic societies

A review of Remembrance, History, and Justice: Coming to terms with traumatic pasts in democratic societies. Editors: Vladimir Tismaneanu and Bogdan C. Iacob. Publisher: Central European University Press, Budapest, 2016.

June 22, 2021 - Juho Nikko

Living with the beast

A review of Potwór pamięci (The Memory Monster). By: Yishai Sarid. Published in Polish by the Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe in Wrocław, Poland, 2021.

April 11, 2021 - Maciej Makulski

We took our victories for granted

An interview with Vladimir Tismaneanu, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park. Interviewer: Simona Merkinaite.

November 17, 2020 - Simona Merkinaite Vladimir Tismaneanu

Memory should be directed at the future

An interview with Ihor Poshyvailo, director of the National Memorial to the Heavenly Hundred Heroes and Revolution of Dignity Museum (Maidan Museum) in Kyiv. Interviewer: Tomasz Lachowski

TOMASZ LACHOWSKI: You are the director of the Maidan Museum, the fundamental role of which is to commemorate events of the Revolution of Dignity that occurred during the winter of 2013 and 2014 in Kyiv. We often understand museums as institutions that present historical events long after they happened. In the case of the Maidan, we are talking about events that happened only several years ago. When exactly did the idea to create a museum appear and how did you manage to develop the project?

IHOR POSHYVAILO: The Maidan Museum as an idea was initiated during the Revolution of Dignity itself. My museum colleagues and I decided to document as carefully as possible what was happening in Kyiv. We realised quite early that what was taking place in the winter of 2013 and 2014 certainly would not be a simple repetition of the Orange Revolution of 2004, and we became well aware that we had to be among and with the people at this exceptional time. The turning point was certainly January 16th 2014, when the so-called “dictatorial laws” were enacted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and violent clashes broke out, even though we had been documenting the protests at the very beginning of the movement.

September 4, 2020 - Ihor Poshyvailo Tomasz Lachowski

The challenge of commemoration. Cases from Poland and Germany

The Second World War remains one of the most painful and conflicting episodes of the European nations’ memories. Present conflicts are embedded in history and in the use of history as a political tool. The cases of Poland and Germany illustrate how challenging it can be to commemorate history, especially in a politicised environment.

In Poland during the communist period and until 1989, it was nearly impossible to openly talk about the Second World War. First, due to friendship with the Soviet Union and later, after the fall of communism, Poland was busy creating its own government, introducing the democratic culture and fighting with an economic crisis in order to transform the country it became between 1989 and 2000. After this period, history and commemoration events started to play a very important role for the national and political identity of the country. Like in other Central and Eastern European states, Poland is an example of how history is used as a political tool in the museum narratives and exhibition forms, which also trigger conflicts.

September 3, 2020 - Kristina Smolijaninovaitė

A deltiology of memory

A review of The Geopolitics of Memory. A Journey to Bosnia. By: James Riding. Publisher: Ibidem Verlag, Stuttgart, Germany, 2019.

July 7, 2020 - Kinga Gajda

Serbia’s fractured history is reflected in Belgrade’s museums

No single museum gives an overall narrative of Serbia’s development. Instead the country’s history is split between several different institutions.

May 11, 2020 - Luke Bacigalupo

Poland becomes a convenient target in Putin’s memory crusade

An interview with Ernest Wyciszkiewicz, director of the Centre for Polish-Russian Dialogue and Understanding. Interviewer: New Eastern Europe

NEW EASTERN EUROPE: On December 20th 2019 Vladimir Putin delivered a speech where he blamed Poland for the outbreak of the Second World War. These remarks caused outrage in Poland. The ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement in which it blamed the Russian leader for undermining joint efforts to find a way to truth and reconciliation in Polish-Russian relations. As director of the Polish-Russian Centre for Dialogue and Understanding in Warsaw, what was your institution’s response?

ERNEST WYCISZKIEWICZ: First let me start by saying that I was not outraged because what took place in December 2019 was actually nothing new. In the past ten years Poland has often been under historical – sometimes a bit hysterical – pressure from Russia. Periods of peaceful coexistence were rare and were quickly followed by stormy exchanges. So we have been there before. Yet, what we have been witnessing since Putin’s infamous comments in December is a new level of aggressiveness in Russian historical propaganda, as well as the fact that Poland was specifically chosen as enemy number one in this domain.

April 6, 2020 - Ernest Wyciszkiewicz

The revolution on the periphery and the reflection of 1989 in Slovakia

The developments in Slovakia leading up to 1989 can be interpreted as a belated response to momentous changes in Moscow and, more immediately, in Prague. They could be classified as a “revolution on the periphery” – a phenomenon describing how the wave of change travelled to provinces and distant cities from the centre. Nevertheless these events shaped Slovakia’s development and their interpretation plays a role in politics today.
Looking back now at the precarious post-communist transformation and pondering the turbulent period that we witness today, we might ask to what extent the current condition in Central Europe in general, and Slovakia in particular, were affected by the events of 1989 – that annus mirabilis when the communist regimes of Central Europe fell after four decades in power. Was the current status quo somehow predetermined by the events and developments of that year? Or did the post-communist transformation contain its own dynamics, reflecting the longer-term conditions and political cultures of the countries that now form the Visegrád Group?

January 28, 2020 - Samuel Abrahám

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