Plans to create a museum of European history in Brussels have existed ever since 2007. It took ten years of preparation for the House of European History to finally open in the beginning of May 2017. The purpose of the museum is to communicate to the public Europe’s common story, which stands above the 28 national histories, and to be a place for exploring and creating a European identity in the future. Can it successfully achieve its mission?
The Museum of Soviet Occupation in Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, which opened in 2006, is a site of mnemonic contestation where the Soviet past is being displayed in a manner meant to reflect current disputes over politics and memory. This article discusses some of the discourses behind the museum’s current permanent exhibition linking it to Georgia’s geopolitical mission to become European, to mend relations with Russia and overcome internal political friction.
"No more war" is the message the Yser Tower Museum in the small Belgian town of Dixmunde tries to convey. It seems as if this war museum which showcases the atrocities of the First World War at an authentic site would like to be a museum for peace. Yet by opting for a pacifist narrative the museum bypasses the complex history of the site itself. It avoids any in-depth discussion about the controversial history of the Yser Tower and its role in the efforts to construct a Flemish nation.
The "Museum of Socialist Art" in Sofia is the first state-supported museum focused on the communist period in Bulgaria. Paying attention to debatable issues regarding its concept and structure, the article outlines the anxieties of the Bulgarian public about this museum, particularly regarding the "resurrection" of socialist ideology and the "re-habilitation" of artistic production during communist rule. It shows the lack of clear principles in the selection and arrangement of the exhibited items, and the hesitation to take a critical stance on the former regime.
Against the backdrop of rampant racism and xenophobia in both public life and the social media, the 'Racism'-exhibition in Dresden came at the right time. It gave interesting insights into how 'race' as a category was invented as well as into the Hygiene Museum's own history in promoting racialized thinking. The article provides a critical review of the exhibition and its uses of media, interventions and other didactic tools in presenting a most sensitive issue.
How are women who lived in and escaped from the GDR represented in two of the most popular tourist sites in Berlin: the Checkpoint Charlie Museum and the Tränenpalast? In comparing both exhibitions from a gender perspective, the article highlights different modes and key differences in how these two Wall museums address issues of gendered experiences, motivations and agency in stories of resistance and escape.
In spring 2016, a new permanent exhibition opened at the Buchenwald Memorial near Weimar. The article provides a critical review of the exhibition against the backdrop of previous exhibitions: the first which was opened by the GDR regime in 1954 and the second one after re-unification in 1995. Compared to these, the new exhibition appears less raw and more aestetic in appearance. Moreover, it engages more than its predecessors with stories of perpetrators in addition to those of the victims.
The article critiques a recently opened temporary exhibition about Europe’s post-war history at the German Historical Museum (DHM). While the exhibition treats all major themes of the war's end with political and historical correctness, it poses no guiding questions for visitors; neither does provide comparative perspectives. Therefore, it ultimately fails to rise above mere eclecticism. Overall the DHM fails in its attempt to grasp European history as a zone of interconnections rather than of parallel strands.
The identity of Germany’s Ruhr area has been shaped by industrialisation, which transformed the former rural landscape and small towns into a centre of the industrial revolution on the continent. However, the history of civilization in the Ruhr stretches back to the early middle ages. All this is examined at the Ruhr Museum Essen, including the preconditions for and the serious consequences of industrialisation in in terms of the environment, as well as the long and largely unknown history of the Ruhr area before industrial times.
How were processes of nation state-building and modernization reflected in early 20th century architecture? This and other questions guided a recent exhibition at the International Cultural Centre in Krákow. In tracing the 'language of architecture' across the region, the exhibit provided an interesting and original contribution to understanding the fundamental changes that marked the beginning of modern Europe.
Since 2015 when the Law and Justice (PiS) party returned to power, ‘history policy’ has become an important part of the political agenda in Poland. Its main targets are museums and public education more broadly. The article reviews a recent temporary exhibition about former Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek in the small town of Sosnowiec and places it in the wider discourses on de-communization and on regional-vs-centralized historical narratives of the recent past.
What happens when the Church engages in public negotiations of history by hosting and funding a museum? “The Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko Museum in Warsaw” poses this question as it is located in a church and presents the life of Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Catholic priest who fought against the communist regime and was murdered in 1984. Today he is perceived both as a national hero and a Catholic martyr. The article critically reviews the current exhibition and how it combines questions of history and religion.
In recent years, no other museum exhibition in Poland has been disputed to a similar extent as the one in the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk. The dispute seemingly concerned the main storyline of the exhibition but, in fact, it had little to do with history and more with current Polish politics. The article takes a sober look at the exhibition and analyses the extent to which it goes beyond merely presenting a selection of historical issues and allows visitors to experience history in different ways.
A small but state-of-the-art museum in the countryside of Poland’s southeast opened its doors in 2016 to commemorate Józef and Wiktoria Ulma, who shielded two Jewish families in their cottage. The twofold dedication of this museum, both to the Ulma family and to "Poles Saving Jews in World War II" opens up a window to understand 'big history' in the framework of the small. However, this approach also carries some risks.
The Silesian Museum opened in 2015 in a former coal mine in Katowice. The new permanent exhibition is the first attempt to exhibit the history of Upper Silesia, one of Poland’s most contested regions. The turbulent background regarding the development of the exhibition offers insights into the continuing processes of self-discovery in a post-industrial Upper Silesia in search of its place within contemporary Poland.
While the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk was still awaiting the opening of its final location, its staff prepared an exhibition that in 45 artefacts tells the story (or perhaps, stories) of the difficult process of transitioning out of war. The artefacts not only speak to us about the chaos and destruction that defined post-war life, but also about the daily practices that helped people create the intervals of peace necessary to maintain their sanity in the midst of destruction.
The new exhibition at Wrocław’s Contemporary Museum collected around thirty works centred on the formation of a Vratislavian identity following World War II. According to the organisers, the exhibition's title - The Germans Did Not Come - reflects the fear among the population of Wrocław at the time that the city might fall back into German hands - a fear that also provides a read line throughout this exhibition.
The European Solidarity Center, which opened its doors in Gdańsk in August 2014, is one of several new museum projects in recent Poland. Maybe this is why the museum’s founders emphasize the distinguishing characteristics of their institution. The center has two ambitious aims: to present exhibits on the history of Poland’s Solidarity movement as well as on the present-day meaning of solidarity as a social value. Does it achieve its own aims?
Alexandra Wachter and Ekaterina Shapiro-Obermair · 06. Mar 2017
This article discusses the new memorial site “Territory of Terror” in L’viv. It explores the ways in which the creators have tried to produce ‘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. It also places the exhibition in a wider context of similar sites in the area and discusses current memorialization processes more broadly regarding Soviet history in Ukraine.
What is really behind the growing popularity of Stalin in contemporary Russia? The article discusses different expressions of what has been termed a new “Stalin cult” or “Stalin renaissance” in Russian public and political discourse today, despite widespread knowledge and official acknowledgment of Stalinist mass crimes. It argues that short of constituting a rehabilitation of Stalinism, this phenomenon primarily reflects on people’s desire for stability and order.
The article gives an overview of the fragmented historical culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty years after the end of the war, which left the country deeply divided along political and ethnic lines. Parallel ethnonational narratives about the past, both recent and distant, are dominating the public sphere. Yet, the memory landscape in the country should not be reduced to its ethnonational divisions: variations within the dominating narratives and a wide range of attitudes towards them also exist.
Sarajevo’s tension-laden historical culture, in particular with reference to the war of the 1990s, is the focus of this article. Some historical background information on the city’s political divisions is provided by way of an introduction. An overview of the development and implementation of initiatives for cultural remembrance follows using the example of two permanent exhibitions. Finally, a number of blind spots and points of contention are discussed with regard to official cultures of remembrance in Sarajevo.
This article discusses the ways in which history and historical reasoning are integrated into memorialization practices in Kosovo, with a special focus on the Jashari Family Memorial. It demonstrates that as a dominant part of collective memory in Kosovo, the memorial is a site of discursive and memorial acts as well as performative cultural practices in the service of the nation. It is a staple of the ways in which the past is represented and how its meaning is maintained through commemoration.
In October 2012 a conference took place at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski that was dedicated to Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov and chairperson of the Bulgarian Committee of Culture (1975-1981). This was an attempt to remember Lyudmila Zhivkova and promote a positive image in the public sphere, yet it provoked a fierce response in the media from political parties and citizens indicating that the memory of socialism is a 'hot' issue in Bulgaria.
Every year in May thousands of Croats gather in the small Austrian town of Bleiburg to commemorate the so called “Bleiburg tragedy” at the end of the Second World War. Considered by some as the 'biggest neo-Nazi meeting in Europe', this event has triggered considerable controversy, not least due to its political backing from among governing parties. The article provides the historical and memory political backdrop to these controversies shedding light on Croatia's struggle with historical revisionism.
How does Croatia come to terms with the violent history of 20th century wars? Croatian society is deeply polarized over the narratives of the Second World War. Moreover, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s have been framed within the imagery of the Second World War and are understood either as a continuation of that war, or as the same event conducted under new circumstances. This results in an intertwining of the memories of communism, fascism and the recent Yugoslav wars.
The article analyzes the official, state-sponsored celebration of “Operation Storm”, a military action that took place in Croatia in August 1995, and shows how the celebration has been used in constructing the official narrative about the 1991–1995 war, but also in creating and reinforcing Croatian national identity. The article also explores how the official narrative regarding the 1990s war has been deconstructed and contested by oppositional, sectarian narratives.
The Hague Tribunal (ICTY) is one of the most important transitional justice institutions with regard to the wars in former Yugoslavia. This article focusses on the different perceptions of the acquittals of the Croatian war-time generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTY in 2012. While this verdict was greatly welcomed in Croatia (96 percent of the population), it was met with outrage in Serbia.
50 years after the 'Prague Spring' ended, Czech political leaders remain strangely silent in commemorative events. A gradual shift is taking place in the Czech national conversation about 1968, away from the strong anti-communist narrative of the first post-communist decades. However, the opportunity is missed to finally engage a wider public in discussing the political ideas and legacies of 1968 for the country today, leaving room for populists and illiberals to shape the narrative.
This article explores public opinion, commemorations and debates surrounding the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War and traces commemoration-related changes since 1989 in the Czech Republic. It argues that the period of essentially ignoring the memories of the former communist narrative has come to an end: we now see a tendency to retrieve those former memories and, as a result, there is greater pluralism in the narration of the past in the public space.
Dealing with the communist past was one of the constitutive elements of the new or reborn democracies of East Central Europe after 1989. 'Coming to terms with the communist past' was especially important as a means of securing the legitimacy of new democratic regimes. This article provides an overview of how this process was shaped in the Czech Republic and touches upon the most significant events and actors since 1989.
Michal Pullmann's book “The End of the Experiment” distanced itself from earlier approaches to the last period of state socialism from a methodological and theoretical perspective and thus provoked a debate at various levels in the Czech Republic. This article focuses on these debates, which first and foremost touch the question of the characteristics of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia until 1989.
The ‘House of Fates’, the future Holocaust memorial museum in Budapest, stands empty. Efforts to realize this project have divided the Hungarian Jewish community and have been widely criticized as an attempt by the Orbán government to re-write the history of the Holocaust in Hungary. The article reconstructs the main trajectories of this highly politicized conflict by focusing on the key actors, their political manoeuvrings and motives in this ongoing power struggle over the representation of Hungary’s past.
This is an analysis of the official initiatives, main controversies, and key scholarly activities related to the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary in 2014. It reveals the dualistic agenda behind the official commemoration, an effort to commemorate victims without foregrounding historical responsibility. It also shows that this anniversary only reinforced the bitter societal divisions it was meant to help overcome.
The debate on the significance of the events of 1989 has so far taken place only within the realm of politics. The governing Fidesz party is attempting to reinterpret the events, which up to now have been ascribed a mostly positive connotation, and to re-tell them and the subsequent period of transition as a period of crisis that ended only with Viktor Orbán's victory in the elections of 2010. The article scrutinizes why the new interpretations of 1989 are relatively popular and wonders why academic circles have not reacted much to the issues raised.
The recent debate between Éva Kovács and Krisztián Ungváry, two Hungarian intellectuals, about the memory of Trianon took place in a political context that was defined by new government policies and laws regarding dual citizenship for Hungarians living outside state borders and by ongoing political and symbolic conflicts between Slovakia and Hungary. These conflicts are deeply intertwined with the divergent interpretations of the shared history. The article reviews the main arguments made in this debate and identifies the issues that were left untouched.
In 2012 a debate took place among Hungarian academics about how to write the country's 20th-century history in an ethically and professionally adequate way, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust. This article summarizes the main points of the original exchange between two historians and examines which threads of the subsequent discussion were the most fruitful in terms of initiating a debate about the controversial legacies of 20th-century Hungarian history.
The Hungarian government declared 2014 the ‘Year of Holocaust Remembrance’ in response to accusations that it had failed to stem anti-Semitic tendencies in the country. In July 2014 a monument was erected on Liberty Square in Budapest to commemorate the victims of Nazi occupation of Hungary. The article discusses the historically problematic message conveyed by this monument as well as the politics and protests that surrounded its creation.
Hungarian post-1989 politics has been very much defined by contrasting interpretations of the regime change and its aftermath. The article shows how these differences shaped Hungary’s political landscape, now very much defined by the Fidesz party. Moreover, the article reveals how the political context has shaped (and often distorted) debates about fundamental issues in the country’s more distant past, including the loss of territory after 1918, the interwar period and the comparison of German and Soviet occupations as two totalitarian evils.
A recently published personal story by American-Lithuanian writer Silvia Foti about her grandfather's involvement in the Holocaust in Lithuania has raised critical questions in the Lithuanain public about who has the right and authority to pronounce judgement on the nation’s history. The article reviews this debate and discusses how intimate and self-critical stories like Foti's fit within the official narrative and public celebration of the heroic resistance nation in contemporary Lithuania.
Against the backdrop of Russia's military aggression against Ukraine and its ongoing political warfare against the West, Lithuanians have mounted a social and cultural campaign to elevate the post-WWII anti-Soviet insurgents as exemplars of patriotic resistance and statesmanship. Yet some critics have pointed to the controversial aspects of this armed struggle. The article outlines the historical and cultural context to an emotionally charged debate, arguing for a full and frank examination of the traumatic past.
A recently published travelogue by Lithuanian journalist Rūta Vanagaitė raised critical questions about Lithuanians’ complicity in the extermination of their Jewish neighbours. The book sparked vivid responses among both historians and the wider Lithuanian public. The article places the debate in the broader context of Lithuania’s post-Soviet politics of memory vis á vis the Holocaust and reflects on whether the popularity of this book constitutes a shift in public historical consciousness about this controversial period.
In recent years Lithuania has witnessed many heated debates and an extreme polarization of opinions regarding its Soviet heritage. At the epicentre of the most recent debate are four group statues representing major social groups of the Soviet period – industrial workers, peasants, students and soldiers – which were erected on the Green Bridge in Vilnius in 1952. In 2010 the controversy over what to do with the slowly decaying statues – remove or renovate - revealed a cultural conflict that has lasted for the past five years without reconciliation.
The latest temporary exhibition by the Museum Polin in Warsaw entitled 'Estranged. March ’68 and its Aftermath' has been controversially discussed in the Polish public. The article gives a brief review of the exhibition to then analyse the subsequent debates as they provide an insight into contemporary Polish culture of remembrance and into the particularly sensitive issue of Poland's postwar Jewish-Polish relations.
The partial opening of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk in January 2017 has become an occasion to reflect on the political struggles and rhetoric surrounding this museum. Reconstructing and discussing the most recent administrative and pseudo-academic attempts by the PiS government to prevent the museum from opening its doors, the article shows how this fight is part of a broader, still ongoing government policy to re-orient Polish ‘history politics’ along nationalist lines.
The Museum of the History of Polish Jews stirred up journalistic emotions long before its doors opened to visitors. The article discusses how this institution, located in a modern building in central Warsaw, gave rise to hopes and fears, satisfaction and sorrow. Some expected the museum would figuratively and literally become a place for debates, where 'Polish historical consciousness could mature'; others predicted that this investment would only serve as anti-Polish propaganda.
The recent past is frequently the subject of heightened public debates in Poland. Historians receive considerable media attention, their publications and statements draw comments from journalists and politicians. These disputes invariably revolve round three fundamental issues: Polish–Jewish relations, opinions about the Warsaw Uprising, and settling scores with communism. The article provides a critical review of the themes and arguments in each of these disputed areas.
The three-part German miniseries "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" (Generation War) gave rise to a heated German-Polish debate that focused on the depiction of members of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) as anti-Semitic. The article reconstructs this debate, demonstrating the widespread German ignorance about recent Polish history. It also concludes that the way the controversy was jointly moderated by both German and Polish actors was positive.
In 2012, while conferring a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on the Polish anti-Nazi resistance fighter Jan Karski, Barack Obama inadvertently touched off the greatest crisis in US-Polish relations in recent memory. It was his use of the phrase "Polish death camps" in his speech that set Polish officials off demanding an apology. The article takes this incident as an opportunity to reflect on the sensitivities and pitfalls of addressing recent Polish history during Nazi occupation.
The historical role played by the Orthodox Church and individual priests as both conspirators with and opponents to Ceauşescu’s rule continues to be debated in Romania today. Recent developments appear to associate the Church with a controversial movement that advocates for the canonisation of former political prisoners of Orthodox faith, some of whom were members of the fascist Iron Guard movement of interwar Romania. The article provides background and assesses the debate that spans issues of historical justice, memory and religion.
The past years have seen a growing public debate among Romanian writers both in Germany and Romania, and increasingly a wider public, over the nature and extent of certain writers' collaboration with Ceauşescu's secret police, the Securitate. This article traces the key positions and characteristics of that debate, offering insights into Romania's present-day process of confronting its communist past.
There is barely a hint that the buildings across from the most popular shopping mall in downtown Belgrade once housed the biggest fascist concentration camp in Serbia. Only the attentive observer will notice the derelict tower on the banks of the Sava river with rundown modernist pavilions clustered around it. How can it be that all attempts to create an appropriate place of memory at this site of the Holocaust and brutal repression against political prisoners have failed?
As Serbia began legislative debate on whether to renew a 2003 law on lustration, public debates erupted concerning issues of archival access and of dealing with past and present office holders who had allegedly committed mass human rights violations. An analysis of the public discourses, involving both media and civil society, however, shows that this subject is still largely up in the air.
The anti-fascist Slovak National Uprising in 1944 is generally considered one the most important events in modern Slovak history. This article focuses on the Uprising’s 2004 and 2014 anniversary celebrations and examines various approaches taken in defining its legacy. The text demonstrates how the political agenda of the day has influenced this process. Furthermore, it focuses on reactions to revisionist attempts to interpret the legacy of the Uprising and how the events of 1944 have been used to legitimize a new wave of nationalism.
The article discusses the 2014 total re-make of the cityscape of Skopje, Macedonia by a massive building offensive as well as the erecting of numerous monuments chosen for their value and utility in constructing a Macedonian national identity. The analysis focuses both on the remaking of the capital city as an effective means of changing the identity of a nation and on the unintended results of these efforts in a reawakened public sphere.
In May 1985, Yugoslav Slovenia celebrated Victory Day and the 40th anniversary of liberation. In May 2015, independent Slovenia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the war’s end as if it had been a kind of a natural process that ended, just like summer ends. What happened to the victory celebration? This article argues that the discursive differences between the two state celebrations reflect the deep crisis of official state/national ideology.
The 2016 announcement that Tallinn's Museum of Occupations would soon be re-launched under the name "Museum of Freedom" brought swift and vitriolic critique from a diverse array of citizens, heritage groups, and politicians. The article analyses some of the key themes of the controversy showing how it emerged from competing ideas about what role the master narrative of Estonian victimhood should play; it also highlights the ways in which the debate was shaped by Estonia’s social and geopolitical context.
Official commemorations of the end of the Second World War in Estonia take place on May 8 and they focus on the victims of what is perceived as the most traumatic event in recent national history. A day later, another commemoration takes place that celebrates the war's end as victory and is attended by many Russian-speakers of Estonia. These two events epitomize the mnemonic landscape of Estonia characterized by two memory regimes that exist as parallel universes.
Kurapaty, the site of Stalin-era mass executions on the outskirts of Minsk, has long been a much contested space where memories and narratives of the Soviet past clashed. Against the backdrop of a national government that blocks any more critical engagement with the Soviet history of mass crimes, the article explores the way in which Kurapaty has been the birth place of various oppositional groups and memory activists who pursue rather different mnemonic agendas.
This article examines recent efforts by the Union of Poles in Belarus (ZPB) to preserve the memory of the Polish Home Army, an underground organisation of the Second World War, which also operated in areas that had been incorporated into the USSR in September 1939 and therefore belong to today’s Belarus. Particular emphasis is placed on analysing how the current political regime in Belarus has influenced the activists’ situation and efforts on the ground.
In 2015 the Serbian Supreme Court rehabilitated wartime General Dragoljub Mihailović, who had been prosecuted by a communist tribunal in 1946. The article places the protracted rehabilitation procedure into the context of both Cold War-era memory politics regarding the figure of Mihailović and post-Milošević transitional justice politics. Pointing to the highly politicized legal procedures of this case, it provides interesting insights into Serbia’s ongoing struggles over the legacies of the Second World War.
The focus of this article is the Russian state’s attempts to prepare for the challenges of commemorating the centenary of the 1917 revolutions, at precisely a time when the state has been acting as a bulwark against revolution in Ukraine and Syria, and has been attempting to undercut the bases for upheaval at home. What can we learn about the mindset of Russia’s ruling elite through examination of their approach to the centenary?
The sixtieth anniversary celebrations of the 1956 Hungarian revolution took a new turn when Viktor Orbán used the opportunity to criticize the European Union and further the Fidesz nationalist agenda. This article discusses the commemorations in their historical context since 1989 and closely analyses the speeches and festivities in Budapest. It shows the continuous uses of this date for partisan purposes and asks what this means for Hungarian collective memory.
Teaching about the Holocaust in Poland has become more difficult. Based on interactions with Polish teachers and on a review of the field of Holocaust education in Poland as it evolved over the past decades, the article discusses and comments on the current situation where teachers are faced with curriculum changes, public campaigns against a "pedagogy of shame" and multiple pressures to teach a more ‘patriotic’ history at school.
One year after the Polish parliament adopted an amendment that would criminalize certain statements about Polish involvement in the Holocaust, this article revisits both the original amendment and the political developments since. It argues that allthough the law was eventually changed to calm down concerns about freedom of speech, sanctions still exist and their longer-term effects on Polish society and public discourse are daunting.
A new wave of de-communization has swept over Poland: streets and squares are re-named and monuments dismantled. In the cities and towns of northern and western Poland, that became Polish only after 1945, these measures are met with mixed feelings as they touch upon specific local memories of the post-war years. The article gives an insight into how local councils and citizens have struggled to comply with state history policy while also protect local historical identities.
After bringing the constitutional court to a standstill and cleansing public television to make it conform to party-political criteria, the Polish government that dominated by the PiS party has shifted its attention to the politics of memory. The article gives a critical review of recent steps taken by the government and parliament to stir the public representation of contemporary history in a national conservative, “patriotic” direction. This "historical policy" not only comes at the expensive of pluralism, but it has also already resulted in public unrest.
History plays a huge role in Polish public debates, politics, and the ideology of the ruling PiS party. "Historical policy" is now officially on the agenda of the government and its agencies. Doctrine regarding the układ and all-pervading communist agents is now the official version of history. This article examines the way history has been used under the PiS government in Poland since November 2015.
The article puts a spotlight on recently discovered files about Lech Wałęsa’s collaboration with the state security forces in 1970 and the political debates that followed from this discovery. Showing how the right-wing PiS party seized this opportunity to bolster its narrative of the “treacherous” roundtable talks and of the post-1989 transition as engineered by the communist authorities, the article makes the point that once again, history is being instrumentalized by the party in power.
A new generation of historians and curators have taken over the former Museum of Occupations in Tallinn, Estonia. They renamed the museum and opened a permanent exhibition built less on historical facts than on 'fragments of memory'. Technologically savvy, it challenges not only previous ways of representing Estonia's history of occupations, but also more traditional modes of presenting history in the museum. How this is done and whether it is convincing is discussed in this article.
The Estonian National Museum (ERM) is one of Europe’s youngest state museum buildings, and it has a (national) story to tell. The article analyses how through a deliberate use of space – from the historical significance of its site and its architectural design to the presentation of displays in the permanent exhibits – the museum projects an Estonian identity and serves the larger project of contemporary cultural production of the nation.
When in February 2018 a new exhibition opened at the site of the former National Socialist 'Work Education Camp' Salaspils, its reception in the Latvian media was mixed. The history of the camp as well as its Soviet memorialisation are complex and have been frequently contested in Latvian society. The article reviews the new exhibition against this backdrop and asks how the curators present both the history and legacy of the place.
The complex history of Silesia with its shifting political, cultural and geographic boundaries and its current location spanning across three state borders, poses a challenge to anyone trying to define it. Associations of what constitutes ‘Silesian identity’ can vary considerably depending on the national context of the viewer. The article reviews three museums in Görlitz (Germany), Katowice (Poland) and Opava (Czech Republic) and evaluates how they present the region’s shared past to express Silesian identity.
A new exhibition was opened in Belgrade on 1 December 2012, the ninety-fifth anniversary of the unification of South Slavs in The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This was a symbolic opening day. Journalists from all over the region flocked to the museum to cover the event. Curiously enough, in the politically divided societies of ex-Yugoslavia, it seemed that everyone could agree upon one thing: an exhibition about Yugoslav history and the very existence of the country was not only desirable, but also necessary.
In 1996 the director of the Jewish Welcome Service in Austria, Leon Zelman, suggested for the first time to establish "a venue for vibrant encounters with history" in Austria. Yet the consensus-building and decision-making about such a House of History became a protracted process and its conclusion seems nowhere in sight. The article reconstructs this debate, which concerned not only the future location and space of the museum, but also the historical timespan of its future exhibition.
When in 2016 the decision was made to create an international Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv, the plan received much support from government officials, including President Petro Poroshenko. Yet opposition emerged from both the Ukrainian Jewish community and nationally-minded Ukrainian historians and public institutions. The article provides the (memory) political context to the debates and critically assesses the arguments and underlying historical perceptions behind them.
After years of political wrangling and public controversy, the Latvian parliament decided in fall 2018 to fully disclose the names of several thousand former KGB agents and informers. Ever since, the country has been plunged into a renewed confrontation with its recent past, all the more so as many well-known figures from Latvian cultural life appeared to have worked with the KGB. The article provides the political and legal background to the current debate and assesses the ongoing media engagement with the topic.
On 22 November 2014 a multi-level underground bunker from the Cold War was opened in Tirana. Constructed during the country’s socialist period in the 1970s to house the heads of state in the event of a nuclear attack on the nation, the bunker today serves as a combination museum and art installation space and is one of the most fraught and complex attempts on the part of the Albanian government to come to terms with the nation’s recent history.
The bloody events of December 1989 remain a most contentiously debated issue of Romania’s recent history. Both historians and prosecutors have tried to shed light on what exactly happened and who was responsible for the violence that occurred after the dictator, Nicolae Ceauşescu, had been captured. The article discusses the most recent indictment against former president Ion Iliescu against the backdrop of previous trials and Romania’s broader efforts to come to terms with the revolution of 1989.