Alexandra Wachter and Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair · 07. Mar 2017
“It's a memorial to victims, either of the ghetto, or of the Holodomor”, a young man who introduced himself as Oleksandr informed us. We were standing outside the unfinished museum known as Territory of Terror on Chornovola Street to find out what the citizens of L’viv, as well as visitors knew and thought about the project; it turned out that most had, at best, a vague idea about what exactly lay behind the gate with the ominous inscription. Like Oleksandr, many of them quite justifiably assumed a connection with the Memorial to Victims of the L’viv Ghetto on the other side of the busy street, or wondered whether the inscription might be connected to the Holodomor, a topic that is actively promoted in current Ukrainian politics of memory. Still others just saw a restaurant – Neptun, prominently overseeing the surrounding wall and the empty square outside of it. The entire area is a pick ’n’ mix of visual icons borrowed from regional sites of mass murder and internationally known imagery of the Holocaust, that give no clear hints as to which dark aspects of L’viv’s history they might be referring to.
This article explores how museum creators, both privately and state employed, have gone about the task of producing ‘new’ narratives of Western Ukrainian history by initiating museums at original sites of terror and violence committed during the Second World War and in its aftermath. Although crimes committed in the Polish era and under German occupation are also mentioned, the emphasis is clearly on crimes committed under and by the Soviet regime. The main bulk of the article will be on the unfinished museum Territory of Terror. Memorial Museum of Totalitarian Regimes and its representation of the recent history. In order to show how this particular project fits within the broader context of current memoralization processes regarding Soviet history, we will briefly consider a number of other planned or already realized memorial sites and museums in the area as well as take a closer look at the ‘Museum on Lonts’koho. National Memorial Museum of Victims of Occupational Regimes’. The analysis is based on observations made during several field trips to L’viv between August 2015 and January 2017 whereby we visited museums, observed social practices, and conducted street and more formal interviews with representatives of historical narratives (Jewish, Ukrainian, Soviet, and Polish) and experts, such as curators, architects, and artists.