'Territory of Terror': Observations on the Musealization of Soviet Crimes in L’viv
'Territory of Terror': Observations on the Musealization of Soviet Crimes in L’viv

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.

Facing a Difficult Past? The Yser Tower in Dixmude, Belgium
Facing a Difficult Past? The Yser Tower in Dixmude, Belgium

Maarten Van Alstein · 16. Nov 2016


In Dixmude, a provincial town in the remote western corner of Belgium, a bulky cross-shaped monument, the Yser Tower, rises up on the banks of the Yser River. Built on the site of once ferocious battles, the tower houses a permanent exhibition on the Belgian–German front during the First World War. The museum clearly has a message to convey. Visitors who fail to notice the catchphrase "No more war", inscribed not only on the foot of the tower but also on the walls of the newly built entrance pavilion, can't miss this pacifist message while visiting the permanent exhibition. By presenting the First World War as senseless violence and horror, the museum hopes to induce in visitors an awareness of the value of peace. It is not unique in this respect, and is certainly not the only war museum that would like to be a museum for peace. More noteworthy here is the fact that by opting for this pacifist narrative the museum tends to bypass 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 of the broader Flemish Movement to construct a Flemish nation. Thus, the museum not only misses opportunities to provide a critical public history of Flemish/Belgian twentieth-century political history, it also tends to obscure the more sensitive and thorny aspects of that history. This is made all the more problematic by two decrees of the Flemish Parliament, in 1986 and again in 2011, recognizing the Yser Tower as a "Memorial of Flemish Emancipation and Peace".

The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia and the Politics of Avoidance
The Museum of Socialist Art in Sofia and the Politics of Avoidance

Nikolai Vukov · 05. Dec 2012


The article discusses the "Museum of Socialist Art" in Sofia as the first state-supported museum institution focused on the communist period in Bulgaria. Paying attention to debatable issues regarding its concept and structure, the text outlines the anxieties of the Bulgarian public about this museum, particularly about the "resurrection" of the former ideology and the "re-habilitation" of the artistic production during communist rule. The article gives an overview of the museum's main parts and outlines some of the aspects where they fail to meet the expectations of the public. These involve above all the lack of clear principles in the selection and arrangement of the exhibited items, and the restraint from taking a critical stance to the communist period - both of which provoked disapproving comments in public discussions in media and the internet.

1945 – Defeat. Liberation. New Beginning. Twelve European Countries after the Second World War
1945 – Defeat. Liberation. New Beginning. Twelve European Countries after the Second World War

Daniel Logemann · 25. Oct 2015


With twelve countries, 36 biographies and 500 objects, this exhibition seeks to give a tangible sense of Europe’s post-war history. But without posing questions to guide visitor’s engagement, or showing a willingness to draw comparisons, it fails to rise above mere eclecticism. The major themes of the war’s end are treated with political and historical correctness, yet tamely. The aim is to interweave people’s daily experience with the grand panorama. Overall, however, the German Historical Museum (Deutsches Historisches Museum; DHM) fails in its attempt to grasp European history as a zone of interconnections rather than parallel strands.

The Ruhr Museum at Zollverein
The Ruhr Museum at Zollverein

Ulrich Borsdorf · 05. Jun 2014


The identity of the Ruhr area was 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. Two hundred years of industry left significant traces on nature, the landscape, and the mentalities and memories of human beings. All this is examined at the Ruhr Museum Essen, including the preconditions for and the serious consequences of industrialisation in the realm of nature, as well as the long and largely unknown history of the Ruhr area before industrial times.

“The Light of History”: The First Permanent Exhibition on Upper Silesian History in Poland Avoids Sensitive Issues and Focuses on Ostensible Consensus
“The Light of History”: The First Permanent Exhibition on Upper Silesian History in Poland Avoids Sensitive Issues and Focuses on Ostensible Consensus

Juliane Tomann · 01. Mar 2016


For a long time there was no comprehensive exhibition on the history and culture of Upper Silesia in Katowice, the capital of the Silesian voivodeship. The city’s original museum building from the interwar period—considered very modern at the time—was completely destroyed by the Nazis in 1941 shortly after its completion. The Silesian Museum re-opened in a former hotel in the city centre in 1984, but included no permanent historical exhibition, concentrating instead on Polish painting. The opening of the Silesian Museum’s new building in June 2015 and the permanent exhibition “Światło historii: Górny Śląsk na przestrzeni dziejów” (The light of history: Upper Silesia through the ages) has removed this deficit, presenting for the first time in Poland an extensive exhibition on the history of Upper Silesia. What appears to be the happy ending to a long and difficult history actually turns out to be a demonstration of how difficult that history really is. The turbulent background regarding the development of the exhibition offers profound insight into the continuing processes of self-discovery in a post-industrial Upper Silesia in search of its place within contemporary Poland.

When History Speaks Through Objects… "45: The End of the War in 45 Artefacts"
When History Speaks Through Objects… "45: The End of the War in 45 Artefacts"

Anna Muller · 16. Nov 2015


While the Museum of the Second World War is still awaiting the opening of its final location, its staff have 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 the 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 Germans Did Not Come, or History as Material for Contemporary Art
The Germans Did Not Come, or History as Material for Contemporary Art

Jakub Zarzycki · 26. Oct 2015


The Germans Did Not Come exhibition, held at Wrocław Contemporary Museum from 19 December 2014 to 23 February 2015, was a collection of around thirty works centred on the formation of a Vratislavian identity following World War II. As the organisers stated in press releases, the exhibition’s title – The Germans Did Not Come – was an oblique reference to the widespread fear among the Wrocław population (which persisted until well after the war) that the city might fall back into German hands, with the attendant consequences: the loss of one’s property and living environment leading to yet another displacement.

Solidarność Yesterday – Solidarity Today? The European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk endeavors to combine the past with the present
Solidarność Yesterday – Solidarity Today? The European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk endeavors to combine the past with the present

Florian Peters · 12. May 2015


The European Solidarity Center (Europejskie Centrum Solidarności, ECS), which opened its doors in Gdańsk, Poland, in August 2014, is neither the first nor the last historical museum to be opened or soon to be opened in Poland. Maybe this is what led the museum’s founders, grouped around political scientist Basil Kerski, to emphasize the distinguishing characteristic of their institution, proclaiming it to be the “world’s first museum of solidarity with a capital and a lowercase S.” The center therefore has two ambitious aims: presenting museum exhibits on the history of Poland’s Solidarity movement as well as on the present-day meaning of solidarity as a social value. At the same time it tries to grasp these two as an “important aspect of Europe’s founding myth.” In short, the new museum-makers in Gdańsk seem to be aiming high.

Towards a Balanced Tribute to the Polish Righteous? The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa.
Towards a Balanced Tribute to the Polish Righteous? The Ulma Family Museum of Poles Saving Jews in Markowa.

Florian Peters · 08. Dec 2016


It is good news that this museum has opened its doors. There cannot be any reasonable doubt that the Ulma family, to whom it is dedicated in the first place, deserves to be commemorated with reverence. Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were ordinary peasants from the Polish village of Markowa who, beginning in 1942, hid eight members from two Jewish families in their humble cottage. On 24 March 1944, they were shot by German gendarmes – along with their six children and the Jews they had tried to rescue from annihilation. In 1995, they were posthumously honoured as Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem and are currently being considered for beatification by the Catholic Church.[1] The haunting story of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma certainly merits being told in an accessible, reflective, state-of-the-art museum. Their tragic fate gives ample reason to "promote positive attitudes", says the museum’s initiator and founding director Mateusz Szpytma. But how do the exceptional heroic deeds of individuals relate to the moral stance of the collective they are considered to belong to? What made such people live up to the commandment of helping the persecuted against all odds, while others did not? And what does it mean to commemorate their uncommon courage today, as historical records of hatred and intolerance seem to be anything but past experiences to European societies? Questions of this kind inevitably arise with any attempt at commemorative musealization, but they are raised with particular urgency by the twofold dedication of this museum, which is devoted both to the Ulma family and to "Poles Saving Jews in World War II". This explicit double outlook may open up a window to understand 'big history' in the framework of the small and exemplify what happened at the rural edges of the Holocaust through the lens of local relations between ordinary people. But it can also carry the risk of allowing comforting conclusions and politically tendentious simplifications to be drawn in the place of sound answers that require balanced contextualisation and the sustained clarification of ambiguities.

After 1989: The Museum of Modern Art – Responses to the Art-Historical Past in East Central Europe
After 1989: The Museum of Modern Art – Responses to the Art-Historical Past in East Central Europe

Piotr Piotrowski · 01. Dec 2013


You no doubt know that there was no single model of communism in post-World War II Europe. On the contrary, the communist past was experienced differently in almost every country. There is no time in this workshop to explore this issue in detail, but just let me say that the history of art in former Eastern Bloc states was just as varied as the political history of those states. The knot between socialist realism, modernism and neo-avant-garde that existed everywhere in this region, was untied in different ways. While political and art history proceeded differently in different countries, the socialist past was traumatic to a greater or lesser degree. That means that when we look back, we are remembering trauma. We live, therefore, in post-traumatic times, at least in Eastern Europe. Paraphrasing Roger Luckhurst's concept of trauma culture,[1] we can call post-communist culture a post-trauma culture. And if Luckhurst views trauma culture as a symptom of traumaphilia, we can also see post-trauma culture as a symptom of traumaphobia. In short, in this paper art museums are seen in the context of traumaphilia and traumaphobia, where both are expressions of a negative heritage,[2] albeit - once again - to different degrees.

Yugoslavia: From the Beginning to the End 1918 – 1991.  Exhibition in the Museum of Yugoslav History (1.12.2012 - 17.3.2013)
Yugoslavia: From the Beginning to the End 1918 – 1991. Exhibition in the Museum of Yugoslav History (1.12.2012 - 17.3.2013)

Ivana Dobrivojević · 23. Oct 2013


The Exhibition Yugoslavia: From the Beginning to the End 1918-1991 was opened in the Museum of Yugoslav History on 1 December 2012. The ninety-fifth anniversary of the unification of South Slavs into one state, The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was chosen as a symbolic opening day. Journalists from all over the region flocked to the Museum in order to fully cover the event. The publicity given to the exhibition was enormous - numerous articles and interviews with curators and authors were published. Most of the published articles were informative; journalists wanted to know more about the concept behind the exhibition and the most interesting objects presented there.[1] 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.

Between History and Memory: The Jashari Family Memorial in Prekaz (Kosovo)
Between History and Memory: The Jashari Family Memorial in Prekaz (Kosovo)

Vjollca Krasniqi · 25. Jul 2016


This text offers a reading of the ways in which history and historical reasoning are integrated into memorialization practices in Kosovo, with a special focus on the Jashari family. It demonstrates that as a dominant part of collective memory in Kosovo, the Jashari Family 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 collective memory and of the ways in which the past is represented and how its meaning is maintained through commemoration. The memorial has assumed the centre stage in the projection of the history of the Kosovo War; it has been made a new epic, serving as a source of state legitimacy and as a discourse to solidify the nation. The memorial is a place imbued with history, memory and organic national relations. The memory of the Jashari family is not represented as one brutal incident in the history of war; rather, it is a vision of the nation’s imagined past and history that renders war impossible to forget.

Division and Denial and Nothing Else? Culture of History and Memory Politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nicolas Moll · 12. Apr 2015


The article gives an overview of the fragmented culture of history in Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty years after the end of the 1992-1995 war which left the country deeply divided along political and ethnic lines. Parallel ethnonational narratives about the past are dominating the public sphere, with especially controversial interpretations of the 1992 -1995 war and the Second World War. In the same time, it is important not to reduce the memory landscape in BiH to its ethnonational divisions: variations within the dominating narratives and a wide range of attitudes towards them, local specificities and dynamics, as well as various efforts to challenge denial and also to build bridges between different memory groups, are some additional layers which provide a far more nuanced picture of the current culture of history in BiH.

Cultures of Remembrance in Sarajevo, or the Protracted Search for Multiperspectivity and Integration
Cultures of Remembrance in Sarajevo, or the Protracted Search for Multiperspectivity and Integration

Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer · 15. Sep 2015


In history books, travel guides and the international public sphere, Sarajevo is basically linked with three historical events. On 28 June 1914, Gavrilo Princip, a member of the nationalist revolutionary movement Mlada Bosna (‘Young Bosnia’), assassinated the heir to the Austrian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Duchess Sophie Chotek, an event which is generally considered to have triggered the First World War. The ‘Sarajevo 1878–1918’ museum, located near the site of the assassination, is nowadays the most prominent site of remembrance of the killing, the Archduke and Duchess, and the Young Bosnian movement. The second, more pleasant event was the 14th Winter Olympics held in Sarajevo in 1984. The Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War of 1992 to 1995 is the third historical event generally associated with this city. The extent of devastation caused by war and violence is still evident today in the many bullet holes and ruins, including some of the Olympic facilities. 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 will be provided by way of an introduction. An overview of the development and implementation of initiatives for cultural remembrance will follow, with a closer look at the permanent exhibition on the Siege of Sarajevo at the Historical Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as the permanent exhibition at the ‘Srebrenica 11/07/95’ gallery. Finally, a number of blind spots and points of contention will be discussed with regard to official cultures of remembrance in Sarajevo.

The Debate on the Communist Past and the Memory of Lyudmila Zhivkova in Bulgaria
The Debate on the Communist Past and the Memory of Lyudmila Zhivkova in Bulgaria

Ana Luleva · 15. May 2014


This paper addresses the media response to a conference that took place in October 2012 at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the birth of Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov and chairperson of the Bulgarian Committee of Culture (1975-1981). This attempt to remember Lyudmila Zhivkova and promote a positive image in the public sphere provoked a fierce response from political parties and citizens and indicated that the memory of socialism in Bulgaria is a 'hot' arena of public debate.

The Acquittal of the Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač
The Acquittal of the Croatian Generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač

Ljiljana Radonić · 20. Aug 2013


In late 2012, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač were acquitted by the Appeals Chamber of the Hague tribunal (ICTY), overturning the lengthy jail sentences that had originally been imposed. In Croatia, 96 percent of the population welcomed the new verdict, and 100,000 fans gathered to greet the two generals on Zagreb's main square. The Croatian state leadership and media were largely in agreement that the acquittal meant a clean bill of health for the military operation to liberate Krajina, dubbed "Storm", and the "Homeland War" (1991-1995) as a whole, although the prime minister and president stressed that crimes committed by "individuals" would still need to be prosecuted. In Serbia, in contrast, the verdict was met with outrage. Serbian reporting was dominated by the accusation that ICTY had once again confirmed its character as a political tribunal - an assessment shared by the former Chief Prosecutor at The Hague, Carla Del Ponte. In these debates, the victims' voices were barely heard. Ante Gotovina took a surprisingly conciliatory tone; for many disappointed veterans, this made him something close to a traitor.

A Storm of Memory in Post-War Croatia
A Storm of Memory in Post-War Croatia

Tamara Banjeglav · 12. Apr 2015


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 on the 1990s war has been deconstructed and contested by oppositional, sectarian narratives, which can be discerned in unofficial, counter-commemorations and celebrations of war events and which also struggle for their place in the public sphere. The aim of the article is to examine more nuanced forms of public memory of the 1990s war in Croatia.

Croatia's Ambivalence over the Past: Intertwining Memories of Communism and Fascism
Croatia's Ambivalence over the Past: Intertwining Memories of Communism and Fascism

Maciej Czerwiński · 07. Nov 2016


There is a band from Split named TBF, with a song called "The End of the World" (Smak svita) in which there is the following verse: "And in the Parliament this morning the same imbecility, whose father was Ustasha and who is partisan, and considering that today is a cataclysm, they sent out a note to let us into Europe without waiting in line." This is a grotesque song making use of a specific sense of humour connected to the urban culture of Split. The relaxed and distanced tones contrast the claustrophobic and rather non-satirical state of affairs existing in Croatian public debate, whereby the left elites call the right-wing political programmes 'fascist' and the rightists depict the left-wing political programmes as being 'communist' and/or 'Yugoslavist'. This is a symbolic struggle over collective memory which, at times, triggers various value systems and allows for certain re-interpretations. However, neither fascism nor communism in the strictest sense, are bearing upon the political programmes in question. Croatian society as a whole, including its elites, are deeply polarized over the competing narratives of the Second World War which makes it difficult to distinguish the polemics from the real political programmes. Moreover, the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s have been framed within the imagery of the Second World War and are therefore understood either as a continuation of that war, or as the same event conducted under new circumstances. In contemporary Croatia, past conflicts are blended into one another, thus intertwining the memories of communism, fascism and the recent Yugoslav wars.

Shifting Attitudes Toward the Second World War Commemorations in the Czech Republic
Shifting Attitudes Toward the Second World War Commemorations in the Czech Republic

Darina Volf · 01. Mar 2016


After the end of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, a process of pluralisation began to emerge: memories, commemorative forms, and local attitudes toward the commemoration of the end of the Second World War started taking new shape. Memories that were oppressed before 1989 became dominant, while the former “official memories” were pushed into the background. This article explores public opinions, debates and commemorations surrounding the 70th anniversary of the end of the war and further attempts to trace the changes that have occurred in the annual commemorations since 1989. 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, diverse narratives in the public space now have the possibility to coexist.

From the Politics of History to Memory as Political Language
From the Politics of History to Memory as Political Language

Michal Kopeček · 02. Dec 2013


Dealing with the communist past was one of the constitutive elements of the new or reborn democracies in 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.

The Debate about Michal Pullmann’s Book The End of the Experiment

Jakub Vrba · 30. Oct 2013


The publication of Michal Pullmann's book The End of the Experiment, which distanced itself from earlier approaches to the last period of state socialism from a methodological and theoretical perspective, provoked a debate at various levels. Several reviews of the book appeared. A discussion of Pullmann's text was launched on the pages of Lidové Noviny, one of the most popular daily newspapers in the Czech Republic. Readers of the newspaper were witness to a dispute between several journalists and the predominantly younger generation of historians. Several months later, there was an exchange of articles between Pullmann and the historian Karel Hrubý in a popular history journal in which they discussed the dispute about the totalitarian nature of state socialism in Czechoslovakia.

Integrating Victims, Externalizing Guilt? Commemorating the Holocaust in Hungary in 2014
Integrating Victims, Externalizing Guilt? Commemorating the Holocaust in Hungary in 2014

Ferenc Laczó · 21. Jan 2016


From the point of view of the Fidesz regime, the pragmatic challenge related to the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary in 2014 consisted of how to continue framing the recent past in a nationalistic key while improving its much damaged reputation by fulfilling at least some international expectations toward its politics of history. This essay shows that the aforementioned challenge yielded a dualistic agenda of commemoration: an attempt was made to commemorate victims without foregrounding historical responsibility. Covering the official initiatives, main controversies, and key scholarly activities related to the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary, the essay argues that this round anniversary only reinforced the bitter societal divisions it was meant to help overcome.

German Occupation or Hungarian Responsibility? A Hungarian Debate on 19 March 1944
German Occupation or Hungarian Responsibility? A Hungarian Debate on 19 March 1944

Ferenc Laczó · 15. Apr 2014


The ongoing 70th anniversary of the Holocaust in Hungary has re-launched the public debate on this most catastrophic event in the modern history of the country and focused much attention on the contested question of the relative responsibility of Germans and Hungarians. In March 2014, a sustained debate of these matters took place under the title March 19, 1944: German Occupation or Hungarian Responsibility? Held on the website www.vs.hu, the debate revolved around three main questions: did Hungary lose its sovereignty on the aforementioned date? Were those who marched into Hungary the country's allies? Did the changes mean a qualitative difference in Jewish policy? Whereas most contributors rejected the thesis of the loss of sovereignty and emphasized Hungarian responsibility for the Holocaust in Hungary, the debate has revealed a broad spectrum of opinion on the main causes and concrete implementation of the Holocaust.

The Hungarian Debate on 1989
The Hungarian Debate on 1989

Árpád von Klimó · 14. Jan 2014


The debate on the significance of the events of 1989, usually referred to in Hungary as "regime change" (rendszerváltás), has taken place up to now largely within the realm of politics. In particular the governing Fidesz party around Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is attempting to reinterpret the events-which up to now have been ascribed a mostly positively connotation-and view them and the subsequent period of transition as a period of crisis that did not come to an end until Orbán won a landslide victory in 2010 (Hungary's "revolution in the voting booth"). This national reinterpretation is popular, because many Hungarians hold a negative view of the developments since 1989, often characterized as the "return to Europe." However, hardly any debate on 1989 has yet emerged within the rather liberally minded academic world, although this situation will presumably change in the coming years.

The "Trianon" - Debate in the Hungarian Left-Liberal Weekly Élet és Irodalom
The "Trianon" - Debate in the Hungarian Left-Liberal Weekly Élet és Irodalom

Ferenc Laczó · 11. Nov 2013


The recent debate about the memory of Trianon between Éva Kovács and Krisztián Ungváry took place in the political context defined, on the one hand, by the launching of the new "national policy" of the Fidesz government, including the newly declared Day of National Unity and the passing of the law on dual citizenship and, on the other, by the ongoing political and symbolic conflicts between Slovakia and Hungary. These conflicts are deeply intertwined with the divergent interpretations of the shared history of the two peoples. Five contributions were made to the debate until the 26th of April 2011. Three of these were written by Éva Kovács. Her original piece titled "On the Traumatic Memory of Trianon" was published on the 1st of October 2010 in the left-liberal weekly Élet és Irodalom.

A Hungarian Version of the Historikerstreit? A Summary of the Romsics-Gerő Debate among Hungarian Historians (2012)

Máté Rigó · 15. Apr 2013


In 2012 a major 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. András Gerő (born in 1952), a professor at the Central European University (CEU) and ELTE, started the discussion by labeling renowned historian Ignác Romsics's (1951) writing anti-Semitic, citing passages from Romsics oeuvre to prove his point. In brief, Gerő argued that Romsics implicitly identifies with anti-Semitic narratives in Hungarian history, especially with regard to the Béla Kun regime (1919), the Horthy period and the era of "sovietization" (1945-48). Hundreds of academics reacted to Gerő's article, mostly by signing pro-Romsics petitions and arguing against Gerő's interpretation. This article summarizes the main points of Gerő's argument and the ensuing discussion and examines which threads of the discussion were the most fruitful in terms of initiating a debate about the controversial legacies of 20th-century Hungarian history.

Goodbye Historikerstreit, Hello Budapest City of Angels: The Debate about the Monument to the German Occupation
Goodbye Historikerstreit, Hello Budapest City of Angels: The Debate about the Monument to the German Occupation

Sándor Horváth · 12. Apr 2015


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, however, a monument was erected on Liberty Square in downtown Budapest to commemorate the Nazi occupation of Hungary, which began in March 1944. The message of the monument is easy to read: Hungary was a victim of Nazi Germany. The earlier alliance between Hungary and Nazi Germany and the joint responsibility of Hungary for the deportation of over 400 000 Hungarian Jews is elided. Instead, the monument is dedicated to “all the victims” of Nazi occupation.

Hungary: The Search for a Usable Past

Paul Hanebrink · 17. May 2015


In Hungary, the transition from Communism in 1989 took place far more gradually than it did in neighboring countries. The change of system (rendszerváltás) did have its iconic moments. In June 1989, Imre Nagy, prime minister of Hungary during the 1956 revolution, was reburied, his body taken from an unmarked parcel in a Budapest cemetery and laid to rest again, this time with the reverence and dignity befitting a head of state and national hero. That same month, Foreign Minister Gyula Horn gave the 1989 another of its signature images, when he joined his Austrian counterpart Alois Mock with shears to cut through the barbed wire that separated the two countries. And yet, there were no clashes in Hungary between an emboldened citizenry and a police-state desperate to keep its grip on power, as in Leipzig. There were no crowds of men and women who gathered in the cold nights of November to demand democratic change, as in Prague. And there certainly was no chaotic violence that ended with the bodies of dead leaders shown on television, as there had been in Romania. Instead, Round Table talks with the non-Communist parties agreed to political and constitutional changes. Then the Hungarian Communist Party simply legislated its way out of power.

The New Culture Wars in Lithuania: Trouble with Soviet Heritage
The New Culture Wars in Lithuania: Trouble with Soviet Heritage

Rasa Baločkaitė · 12. Apr 2015


How much Soviet heritage do we need? With opinions ranging from ‘Let’s ban everything produced during the Soviet period’ to ‘Let’s bring Lenin’s statues back into the towns,’ Lithuania has in recent years witnessed heated debates and an extreme polarization of opinions regarding its Soviet heritage. At the epicentre of the 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. The statues are neither explicitly political nor ideologically neutral, so they survived the fall of the Soviet regime and existed in relative peace until 2010. By then, the material condition of the statues had deteriorated to such a degree that society faced a challenge – to remove or renovate? With the physical collapse of the statues imminent and under pressure to make a quick decision, the case has sparked a culture war in Lithuania, i.e. a radical realignment of opinions into two definable entities, a conflict that has lasted for the past five years without reconciliation.

We, They and Ours: On the Holocaust Debate in Lithuania
We, They and Ours: On the Holocaust Debate in Lithuania

Ekaterina Makhotina · 27. Sep 2016


The topic of complicity in the Holocaust has once again become the subject of heated debate. While the Polish government's move to strip internationally renowned Holocaust researcher Jan Tomasz Gross of his Order of Merit has sparked outrage around the world, Lithuania is having its own Jedwabne-style debate. The book Our People: Journey with an Enemy by Ruta Vanagaite, which describes the complicity of Lithuanians in Holocaust crimes, is currently the subject of fierce and controversial debate. The effect the book is having is indeed quite similar to that of Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne by Jan Tomasz Gross, which came out in 2001. To put it bluntly, Vanagaite's book is about the unfettered violence of Lithuanians against the Jewish community, about how they murdered and plundered their Jewish neighbors, motivated either by everyday anti-Semitism or by the desire to enrich themselves on Jewish property. The novelist and journalist Vanagaite wants to shed light on the cooperation and complicity of her fellow citizens.

On ‘Polish History’: Disputes over the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk
On ‘Polish History’: Disputes over the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk

Daniel Logemann · 21. Mar 2017


On 23 January 2017, the new permanent exhibition of the Museum of the Second World War was presented in Gdańsk for the first time to a select audience. Although invited, the Minister of Culture Piotr Gliński and his Deputy Jarosław Sellin of the governing party Prawo i Sprawiedlość (Law and Justice Party, abbreviated to PiS) stayed away from the event. However, international experts, historians and the media accepted the museum organisers’ invitation. A few days later, around 3,500 additional visitors were able to view the exhibition during a day-long open house. This can be seen as an attempt by the museum to pre-empt the government’s attempt to prevent it from opening. The struggle over the museum serves as a paradigm for how the PiS government settles accounts with its political predecessors. On the one hand, the party elite around Jarosław Kaczyński is settling the score with their political foe Donald Tusk, who had spearheaded and sponsored the museum. On the other hand, PiS aims to orient the Polish ‘history politics’ along nationalist lines. What this comes down to is the fundamental question of whether history shall be taught and presented as open to interpretation or whether it should be delivered as a national master narrative.

The Past as a Source of Evil: The Controversy Over History and Historical Policy in Poland, 2016
The Past as a Source of Evil: The Controversy Over History and Historical Policy in Poland, 2016

Adam Leszczyński · 24. May 2016


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 Polish Debate on the Core Exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
The Polish Debate on the Core Exhibition of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews

Piotr Osęka · 09. Nov 2015


The Museum of the History of Polish Jews stirred up journalistic emotions long before its doors opened to visitors. This institution, located in a modern and, as some of them stressed, expensive 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 that ‘cost the Polish taxpayer hundreds of millions’ would serve as anti-Polish propaganda.

Polish Public Debates on Historical Controversies

Piotr Osęka · 13. Apr 2015


When the Institute of National Remembrance published the book "The Security Service and Lech Wałęsa: a Biographical Addendum" in June 2008, queues formed outside bookshops from the early morning. Its entire print run sold out in days and required a reprint. Even though the book dealt with a legendary figure – the leader of Solidarity after 1980 and Poland's first democratically elected president – such enormous interest might seem rather surprising. After all, it had been written in stiff, specialist language, and only covered one episode in the politician's life. Such situations were by no means uncommon, however.

After the Conflict is before the Conflict? On the Debate over the Three-Part Miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter Shown on ZDF German Television
After the Conflict is before the Conflict? On the Debate over the Three-Part Miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter Shown on ZDF German Television

Daniel Logemann · 02. Sep 2013


The three-part miniseries Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter (Generation War) gave rise to heated German-Polish debate that focused on the depiction of members of the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) as anti-Semitic. Such a stereotypical, distorted presentation of a collective Polish postwar mythos roused Polish commentators to sometimes harsh, but justified criticism. Ultimately, the debate showed that Germans' historical knowledge about their Polish neighbors is often based on ignorance and a lack of knowledge. The way Germans and Poles moderated the debate, by and large jointly and showing understanding, could mark the beginning of a more respectful and knowledgeable way of dealing with shared history.

Reflections on the Meaning of the Joint Message to the Polish and Russian Nations of 17 August 2012 from the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church
Reflections on the Meaning of the Joint Message to the Polish and Russian Nations of 17 August 2012 from the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church

Sławomir Dębski · 01. Oct 2013


The Joint Message of the Catholic Church in Poland and the Russian Orthodox Church, calling on both nations to look at each other in the spirit of Christian love and to overcome the barriers erected by the memory of suffering and wrongs, became a document of historical importance the moment it was signed on the 17 August 2012 at the Royal Castle in Warsaw. Usually, the role of such events in shaping the countries' relations with each other can only be evaluated with the passage of time. However, it is already evident that a new phase has begun in the long process of Polish-Russian reconciliation, because regardless of how that process will continue to unfold, in future it will be difficult to avoid references to this document.

The Noble and the Base: Poland and the Holocaust

John Connelly · 24. Nov 2012


In 2012, while conferring a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on the Polish hero Jan Karski, Barack Obama inadvertently touched off the greatest crisis in US-Polish relations in recent memory. The man he honored had served as a courier for the Polish resistance against Hitler, and in 1942 Karski traveled across occupied Europe to tell Western leaders about the Nazi war crimes being committed in Poland, including the Holocaust. Karski had been sent on this secret mission, Obama explained, after fellow underground fighters had told him that “Jews were being murdered on a massive scale and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.” It was late evening in Warsaw when Obama spoke, but within minutes Polish officials were demanding an apology for his use ofthe phrase “Polish death camp,” which they thought scandalous.

Controversial Debate about Józef Beck
Controversial Debate about Józef Beck

Izabela Mrzygłód · 06. Feb 2013


Seventy years after the outbreak of the World War II, Józef Beck, the Polish Foreign Minister between 1932-1939, briefly became the focus of public attention due to sensational reports by sections of the Russian media and research driven by the Russian Federation Intelligence (SWR) agency. It is worth having a closer look at the contexts and reasons behind depicting this pre-war Polish minister in a negative light. It is also necessary to ask what place he occupies in Polish collective memory and why accusations against him have provoked such passionate reactions. This reflection will shed some light on Polish and Russian political history and the cultural aspects of Polish politics of memory.

Comments on the Reception of Jan T. Gross' Latest Book in Poland
Comments on the Reception of Jan T. Gross' Latest Book in Poland

Błażej Brzostek · 07. Sep 2011


Jan Tomasz Gross, sociology professor at Princeton, wanted to shock opinion makers in Poland. Admittedly, this shock was not going to be the first one and the tectonic structures it revealed were already well known. The failure to shake this time around, however, in no way reduces the specific gravity of the subject.

Remaking Polish National History: Reenactment over Reflection
Remaking Polish National History: Reenactment over Reflection

Florian Peters · 03. Oct 2016


After bringing the constitutional court to a standstill and cleansing public television to make it conform to party-political criteria, the conservative nationalist Polish government of the "Law and Justice" party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) has shifted its attention to the politics of memory. In late April, the Polish parliament passed an amendment on the Institute of National Remembrance (Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, IPN), the authority responsible for lustration in Poland, with the intent of converting this institute into an instrument of "patriotic" politics of memory. The Minister of Culture is making efforts to downgrade the multi-perspective Museum of the Second World War, to be opened shortly in Gdańsk, into a regional history centre for military enthusiasts, and the minister of education, for her part, has publicly cast doubts on established historical findings regarding the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941. While the pro-government media are using newly surfaced secret police files to discredit Solidarity leader Lech Wałęsa, the "Law and Justice" government is doing all it can to promote the cult of the anti-communist resistance fighters of the late 1940s. In place of the compromise-seeking solidarity of the peaceful revolution of 1989, the ruthless "patriotism" of these so-called "cursed soldiers" (żołnierze wyklęci) is now apparently supposed to become the new paradigm of state politics of memory in Poland. Apparently, the party of Jarosław Kaczyński is questioning the historical legitimation of the democratic rebirth begun in 1989.

Romanian Writers and the Securitate. Excerpts from a Debate

Gundel Große · 02. Sep 2013


Especially among German-Romanian writers, the year 2010 saw much debate and emotional discomfiture over the nature and extent of certain writers' collaboration with Ceauşescu's secret police, the Securitate. Initially limited mainly to Germany, in 2011 these discussions were taken up by writers within Romania itself. Three Romanian authors found themselves confronted, in very different ways, with their onetime cooperation with the Securitate, leading to a debate pursued in various print publications. The present article traces the key positions and characteristics of that debate, offering insights into present-day Romania's processes of confrontation with its communist past. More broadly, this complex of issues is part of larger debates around Romania's own identity, a discussion marked, as Larisa Schippel has put it, "by attempts to come to terms with the past, the study of causes, and varying attributions of blame."[1] Schippel was writing in 2000, but more than a decade later it seems that the level of discussion would have advanced little if it had not received fresh impulses from the new generation of intellectuals - in this case, mainly in the shape of young literary critics. The resulting conflict allows conclusions to be drawn regarding the self-image of intellectual circles in post-communist Romania.

Remembrance in Transition: The Sajmište Concentration Camp in the Official Politics of Memory of Yugoslavia and Serbia
Remembrance in Transition: The Sajmište Concentration Camp in the Official Politics of Memory of Yugoslavia and Serbia

Rena Jeremić Rädle · 25. Oct 2015


There is barely a hint nowadays 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 with rundown modernist pavilions clustered around it. The pavilions are part of the former trade fair grounds (Sajmište). These days you can play soccer there, go out to eat at a restaurant, or even buy a car. The pavilion that once served as a camp hospital can now be rented out for various festivities. The squat barracks at one time provided a home for the city’s poor. Volunteer brigades moved into the abandoned buildings immediately after World War II, and later on, homeless people and artists moved in. Initiatives to establish a memorial site and exhibition like the kind set up in 1969 in Banjica, the other big camp in Belgrade, have all been fruitless. How can it be that all attempts to create an appropriate place of collective memory at this Holocaust site that was also the site of brutal repression against political prisoners and civilians from the whole of Yugoslavia have failed?

Empty Words on Paper: The Nonexistent Debate on Extending the Lustration Law in Serbia
Empty Words on Paper: The Nonexistent Debate on Extending the Lustration Law in Serbia

Daniela Mehler · 17. Apr 2013


A new lustration[1] law needs to be passed in Serbia in 2013 since the one enacted in 2003 on "accountability for human rights violations" is about to expire. This once again raises questions of access to state security records and of dealing with past and present office holders who have grossly violated human rights. A new government coalition took office in 2012, made up of the same political parties and in part the same individuals as during the semi-authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milošević. Thus it could be expected that the political opposition would take advantage of the opportunity to debate how the judiciary should deal with state security records and office holders from the socialist-Yugoslavian period. An analysis of present public discourse in Serbia shows, however, that this subject is still largely a void.

The Unlucky Seven. Too Many Controversies Around the Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising in August 2014
The Unlucky Seven. Too Many Controversies Around the Celebration of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising in August 2014

Adam Hudek · 12. Apr 2015


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.

Skopje 2014: Instrumentalizing Heritage for Unexpected Results
Skopje 2014: Instrumentalizing Heritage for Unexpected Results

Goran Janev · 12. Apr 2015


What does it take to change the identity of a city? It should be enough to erect a few hundred monuments of gargantuan dimensions, cast in bronze or carved in marble. If that does not suffice, a dozen grandiose new buildings should definitely do the trick. Of course, all of this should take place within a radius of 500 meters in the middle of the town and over the course of four or five years. To make sure that such a radical remaking will really be implemented so quickly, rigorous and time-consuming procedures of all manner are best avoided. If it takes some going around the legal regulations than that is not a problem. There really should be no problems at all; nothing should stand between the inventors / investors of the project and its realization. Moreover, this lavish expenditure of millions of public funds on the symbolic landscape certainly is not just for city beautification purposes. The city in question is the capital of a recently independent state, and the new construction addresses numerous problems that have arisen on the difficult path to independence. The following 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.

The 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII in Slovenia
The 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII in Slovenia

Marko Zajc · 25. Oct 2015


In May 1985, Slovenia – one of the six ‘socialist republics’ of Yugoslavia at the time – celebrated Victory Day and the 40th anniversary of liberation. In May 2015, independent Slovenia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, as if the war were a kind of a natural process that simply ended, as the summer ends. What happened to the victory celebration? Obviously, something has changed in the interim: apart from the fact that Yugoslavia ‘fell to pieces’, self-management socialism failed and Slovenia gained EU-membership. The discursive differences between the two official state celebrations are not just the result of the transition from communism to democracy, or the transition from socialism to capitalism, but they reflect the deep crisis of the official state/national ideology.

Debating Vabamu: Changing names and narratives at Estonia’s Museum of Occupations
Debating Vabamu: Changing names and narratives at Estonia’s Museum of Occupations

Lorraine Weekes · 25. Apr 2017


The early 2016 announcement that Tallinn's Museum of Occupations would be re-imagined and re-launched under a new name, "The Museum of Freedoms", brought swift and vitriolic critique from a diverse array of citizens, heritage groups, and politicians. After providing a brief contextualizing discussion of the Museum of Occupations’ founding and historical foci, this article analyses some of the key themes of the controversy surrounding the museum’s re-conceptualization and re-naming. It shows how the controversy emerged from competing ideas about the role that the narratives of Estonian victimhood should play at the museum and highlights the ways in which the debate was shaped by Estonia’s unique social and geopolitical context.

"1944" vs. 9 May – An Attempt at Reconciliation Instead of Vigorous Glorification: Estonia Commemorating WWII in 2015
"1944" vs. 9 May – An Attempt at Reconciliation Instead of Vigorous Glorification: Estonia Commemorating WWII in 2015

Heiko Pääbo · 25. Oct 2015


World War II was the most traumatic event of the 20th century that altered the path of development for many Estonians. It is a watershed in the Estonian master-narrative that is divided into the before and after, the good old days and present-day Estonia. Although it was such a traumatic event for the country, it is defined as an "alien war" in which the people of Estonia became pawns in the hands of two totalitarian regimes. Therefore, official war commemoration is dedicated to the suffering of victims and not the victory itself. However, there is a significant number of the population who celebrate Victory Day where the victims are only secondary and the main narrative focuses on glorifying the myth of the so-called victory. Accordingly, on 8 May, Estonian officials commemorate victims without a large amount of public attention or involvement. And the next day, 9 May, (mainly) the Russian speaking population celebrates Victory Day, which is a glorification of Russia’s power and legitimisation of the sacrifices made. These two events carry very opposite meanings: the former is a rather quiet, mourning commemorating the victims of WWII, whereas the latter is a people’s festival that every year represents more-and-more a celebration and demonstration of military might than a tribute to those who suffered. These two commemorations are not in dialogue but exist as parallel universes representing two very different memory regimes.

Strangers at Home: Memorialisation of the Armia Krajowa in Belarus
Strangers at Home: Memorialisation of the Armia Krajowa in Belarus

Iryna Kashtalian · 11. Mar 2015


This article examines modern efforts in Belarus to preserve the memory of the Armia Krajowa (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. The content of this article will be of interest to professional and amateur historians seeking to learn more about the practice of memorialisation in areas which were formerly part of the Second Polish Republic. Particular emphasis is placed on analysing how the stance taken by the current political regime has influenced the situation.

The Bolek Affair: Or, Kiszczak’s Cupboard and the Meaning of History
The Bolek Affair: Or, Kiszczak’s Cupboard and the Meaning of History

Piotr Osęka · 24. May 2016


This news dominated Polish newspaper headlines for several weeks: on 16 March 2016, the media reported that attorneys from the Institute of National Remembrance (INR) had entered the flat of the late Czesław Kiszczak who had been Minister of Internal Affairs from 1981 to 1990. Television, radio and online media provided constant breaking news coverage, as if the police were chasing a dangerous criminal. At the start, the attorneys had just left Kiszczak’s home when several minutes later, a number of former Security Service documents were seized during a search. The next newsflash suggested that the documents might contain evidence of Lech Wałęsa’s collaboration with the secret police, including handwritten letters denouncing colleagues from the Gdańsk Shipyard. The country was abuzz. Almost immediately, the INR provided journalists with photocopies of the seized materials. This procedure normally takes several weeks but was cut down to two days in this case; and instead of just one, ten sets of documents were compiled. A throng of journalists and TV crews gathered outside the Institute. A few hours after the reading room had opened its doors, the Internet was flooded with pictures of individual documents from Wałęsa’s file. "There you have it", gloated the pro-PiS (Law and Justice party) media: "This is definitely the end of the Third Polish Republic" and "the end of the Round-Table Republic."

“An Itinerary of the Creative Imagination”: Bunk’Art and the Politics of Art and Tourism in Remembering Albania’s Socialist Past
“An Itinerary of the Creative Imagination”: Bunk’Art and the Politics of Art and Tourism in Remembering Albania’s Socialist Past

Raino Isto · 16. May 2017


On 22 November 2014 a multi-level underground bunker on the outskirts of Tirana, the Albanian capital city, was opened to the public for the first time. The bunker had originally been constructed in the 1970s, during the country’s socialist period, as part of the widespread transformation of public space and landscape that took place during the 1960s and 70s, and was intended to house the heads of state in the event of a nuclear attack on the nation. The bunker’s aggressively publicized reopening as Bunk’Art – a combination museum and art installation space – 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, according to the museum’s website. The space, paradoxically devoted both to the period of fascist occupation in Albania and to the subsequent period of isolationist socialist dictatorship, intertwines a plethora of documents, photographs, and museum installations of questionable historical veracity. Bunk’Art represents a unique confluence of aesthetic discourses, strategies of memory-production, and policies related to architectural heritage and tourism, and the museum offers a particularly poignant example of post-socialist political manoeuvring vis-à-vis the socialist past.

1956 Reloaded: The Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations of the Hungarian Revolution
1956 Reloaded: The Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations of the Hungarian Revolution

Nora Borodziej · 16. Feb 2017


The Hungarian revolution of 1956 was one of the key events in recent Hungarian history. The celebrations surrounding its sixtieth anniversary took a new, yet expected turn when Viktor Orbán used it as an opportunity to criticise the European Union and further the Fidesz nationalist agenda. This article analyses the 2016 celebrations by tracing this commemorative event from 1989 onwards and by more closely analysing the speeches and festivities of 2016. It shows that this date has been frequently used by governing parties for partisan purposes (not just by the Right) and asks whether this has had consequences for the way in which the events of 1956 are being remembered, and what role they still play in the Hungarian collective memory.

Introduction. The Ukrainian Crises in European Media and the Public Sphere.
Introduction. The Ukrainian Crises in European Media and the Public Sphere.

Dorothea Warneck · 10. Apr 2015


Media throughout Europe began covering the events in Ukraine when the massive demonstrations on the Maidan in Kiev began in November 2013, after then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly refused to sign a planned association treaty with the EU in Vilnius and turned instead to Russia and negotiations over a multimillion-dollar line of credit. After the first demonstrators were tortured and shot to death by Ukrainian security forces in January 2014, the Ukrainian protest movement became a lead story. Further developments in the crisis have since been subject to heated debate in television news, daily newspapers, talk shows, roundtables, and special reports. From the escalation of violence on the Euromaidan in February 2014 to Yanukovych's flight to Russia to the installation of a new government in Kiev, the crisis in Crimea, and the armed conflict and escalating disturbances in eastern Ukraine, coverage of these events has been fraught with emotions, historically grounded fears, and partisanship.

Belarus - In the Tight Embrace of the 'Russian World': Belarusian Reactions to Events in Ukraine

Aliaksei Lastouski · 07. May 2014


Events in Ukraine are currently drawing the attention of the whole world, but some aspects of the crisis have gone unnoticed: the Ukrainian crisis is far more than a domestic struggle of Ukrainians with their oligarchic rulers or tensions in Russian-Ukrainian relations. The entire balance of power and the rules of the game in the region are changing, and these changes are highly significant for all neighbouring countries. This article focuses on Belarus. Firstly, I will analyse the reaction of the Belarusian regime to the events in Ukraine and then explore the possible consequences of the unfolding of Ukrainian crisis.

Bulgaria - The Importance of Being Outright: Bulgarian Reactions to the Ukrainian Crisis

Nikolai Vukov · 09. Sep 2014


The political developments in the Ukraine after the decision by its former President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw from signing the EU accession agreement in November 2013 were followed with keen attention by the Bulgarian public and widely reflected by the Bulgarian media, in print publications and on the internet. Soon after the proclamation of this decision and the beginning of the protests, the events in Ukraine took the spotlight in all Bulgarian TV programs, radio broadcasts, newspapers, journals and electronic news websites. On the television screen, the evolvement of the Ukrainian crisis was followed regularly in news reports and discussed at roundtables with the participation of politicians, political scientists and public figures; the crisis occupied the front pages of the press for several months and was seen as the most important public event for the wider audience.

Czech Republic - 'Putler' or Banderists? Czech Reactions to the Events in Ukraine

Stanislav Holubec · 14. May 2014


In order to understand the attitudes of the Czech public to the crisis in Ukraine and the public debates on this topic, we need to take Czech-Ukrainian relations in the last century into consideration. Both ethnic groups - Czechs and Ukrainians - were characterized by strong, culturally-oriented nationalist movements in the nineteenth century, and they were often sympathetic towards each other.

Estonia - The Ukrainian Crisis as Reflected in the Estonian Media

Maria Mälksoo · 30. Apr 2014


Tuning into and reading the Estonian media´s coverage of the Euromaidan and the later crisis in the Crimea, one inevitably experiences a déjà vu-effect. We've heard it all before during the war in Georgia in 2008: the utter disbelief at Russia´s behaviour towards its neighbours mixed with an attitude of "see, the (rest of the) West - we told you so - this is what Putin´s Russia is really all about"; relief that Estonia is part of NATO but anxiety about the alliance's actual efficacy in a possible crisis of a similar kind in the Baltic space; an outpouring of solidarity and sympathy with nations that stood on the same starting line as Estonia in 1991, combined with a quiet satisfaction that we got some key things right in our foreign and security policies; disgust at the immensity and crudeness of Russia´s information warfare vis-à-vis its victim; and last but not least, disappointment at the slowness and modesty of the EU´s diplomatic resolve in a major political and security crisis affecting the balance of power in Europe as a whole.

Germany - "Trivializers of Fascism" and "Russia Sympathizers" – the Ukrainian Crisis in the German Debate

Kai Struve · 14. May 2014


The discussion about the protests and the popular uprising in Ukraine triggered by the refusal of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to sign the association agreement with the EU in November 2013, the debate about the subsequent occupation of the Crimea, and Russia's destabilization of Eastern Ukraine all reveal significant fault lines in Germany linked to German history and the history of German-Russian relations. From the very beginning the events in Ukraine attracted considerable public attention in Germany, increasingly so with the occupation of the Crimea. The debate in Germany was probably also more controversial than it was in other countries. More recent discussions about Germany's position vis-à-vis Russia have something of a soul-searching quality about them, posing the fundamental question about whether the values of a free and democratic culture are truly anchored in German society.

Hungary - The Ukrainian Crisis in the Hungarian Media

Péter Apor · 30. Apr 2014


In Hungary, the crisis in Ukraine, the protest movement on the Maidan in Kiev, the violent clashes between demonstrators and the police, and the collapse of President Yanukovich's government made the headlines as they did almost everywhere else in Europe and North America. Besides the regular reports in daily newspapers and on television, public media often produced more sophisticated analyses of the events by consulting experts. In this kind of analysis, in the form of either television debates or published essays, two types of commentator typically spoke.

Lithuania - Repercussions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania? The public perception of the Ukrainian War in Lithuania

Felix Ackermann · 30. Apr 2014


A former fountain at the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas was redesigned in July 2013. The fountain became a pyramid with a map on each side projecting the historical borders of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania onto today's political borders.[1] The underlying map of the Grand Duchy is a growing black spot. Its historical lands swell to overlap modern Belarus and Ukraine before finally stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. This was easily read as the Lithuanian government's political statement, trying to point to an imagined historical continuity between the former multi-ethnic Grand Duchy and today's nation state of the Republic of Lithuania. Some critical comments about the involved notion of gigantomania were published back in July 2013, but the map was not changed.

Moldova - The Ukrainian Crisis in the Moldovan Media

Diana Joseph · 11. Jun 2014


In Moldova, the latest developments in Ukraine have been a major news story. The Moldovan media and civil society groups are concerned about the implications that Russian military action in Ukraine will have for their country's national security and political autonomy.

Moldova - The Republic of Moldova in the Context of the Ukrainian Crisis

Diana Joseph · 21. May 2014


The Ukrainian crisis and the challenges faced by the new government of that country have begun to make other CIS member states nervous. And nowhere is this more apparent than in Moldova. The country is particularly affected by the current situation in Ukraine, because of the Transnistrian and Gagauzian regions in Moldova. These two regions are centers of ethnopolitical conflicts, which pertain to rights of representation, territory, and identity and they are both considered to be under Russian influence.

The Netherlands - From the Fringes of Europe and Back Again: Responses in the Netherlands to the Crisis in Ukraine

Ilse Josepha Lazaroms · 21. Sep 2014


In 2007, Dutch company Gasunie signed a multi-million Euro deal with Gazprom, which effectively meant that the country surrendered most of its energy supplies to the ups and downs of Russian state politics. Even more so, frankly, it meant that the Netherlands were now subject to the unpredictable workings of the mind of Russian president Vladimir Putin. At the time, activists and politicians expressed concern about the ongoing violation of human rights taking place in Russia, as well as the need to distance our country, a European nation famed for its long history of religious and social tolerance, from a nation in which such ideas and realities were repeatedly disrespected.

Poland - The Ukrainian Crisis in the Polish Media

Łukasz Sommer and Joanna Wawrzyniak · 02. Jun 2014


The Ukrainian crisis has received massive media coverage in Poland. Politicians and journalists eagerly abandoned cultural wars to report on the threat of a real one. For a while, disputes over gender mainstreaming, which had hit the headlines last year, were suspended and many seemed relieved to finally have a grand topic to comment on.

Romania - The Scramble for the Present: Making Sense in Romania of the Crisis in Ukraine

Bogdan C. Iacob · 07. May 2014


In Romania, politicians, public intellectuals, and journalists are scrambling to comprehend the crisis faced by their neighbor. They are struggling to figure out the implications of the turmoil east of the border on the country's internal dynamics and international position. They aim to anticipate future developments in the context of rapidly changing strategic realities and a new East-West divide in Europe. The present article attempts to summarize the main topics discussed in Romania over the past month, focusing on newspapers, journals, and online platforms (i.e. more complex blogs, where experts, intellectuals, journalists, etc. write op-eds).

Russia - The Discourse on the Ukrainian Conflict in Russian Media, November 2013 – April 2014

Alexander Graef · 24. Jul 2015


The present brief report describes the main fault lines of Russian media discourse on the political crisis in Ukraine between late November 2013 and April 2014. It focuses on the characterisation of the Maidan movement, the Crimean Crisis and the development of separatist movements in the Donbass region as three distinct episodes of the conflict. The report is based on articles and transcripts from the archives of online versions of a number of newspapers and one TV channel, whose reporting ranges across the political spectrum. This is intended to provide a broad overview of perceptions and an evaluation of both the dominant state discourse and marginalised liberal discourse.

Serbia - The Ukraine crisis in the Serbian media, November 2013 - March 2014

Ivana Dobrivojević · 30. Apr 2014


This paper is based on information and articles published in the four most prominent Serbian dailies: Politika, Danas, Vecernje novosti, Blic, and the weekly Vreme. Although serious research journalism is on the verge of dying out in the Serbian media, Politika, Danas and especially Vreme are usually recognized as quality papers that tend to publish not only informative, but also more or less analytical texts. By contrast, Vecernje novosti and Blic are popular dailies that publish short, informative and sometimes tabloid-oriented texts.

Turkey - The Portrayal of the Ukraine Crisis in the Turkish Media

Berk Esen · 09. Sep 2014


It was in late November 2013, when the Kiev protests began, that the Turkish media first showed an interest in the Ukraine crisis. During this initial phase, newspapers frequently featured stories from Kiev in an attempt to update their followers on the political course of events. More specifically, the media's interest reached its peak during three critical events: the onset of protests in late November, Yanukovich's resignation, and the referendum in Crimea. In between these incidents, newspapers mainly provided their readers with basic information on the political context but discussed the Kiev protests as a distant crisis with little direct impact on Turkey. Moreover, they made few attempts to discern the different governments' positions within the EU and the larger significance of the crisis for EU-Russian relations, not to mention the power struggle between the US and Russia in the region. Only during the negotiations to end the political standoff, which were brokered by Russia and the EU, did the international dimension occupy center stage, albeit briefly.

Ukraine - Ukrainian Media on the Euromaidan protests

Natalya Ryabinska · 10. Apr 2015


Ukrainians generally get their political news from television. An opinion poll conducted between 17 and 22 May, 2013, by the Democratic Initiatives Foundation showed that 90% of Ukrainians named television as their primary source of political information, by contrast with local print media, radio and the internet, which were mentioned by 37%, 29% and 21% respectively.[1] However, when protests against the government's decision to end its pursuit of an association agreement with the EU broke out in Ukraine on 21 November, it was the Internet and various social media networks that provided the most up-to-date, detailed and comprehensive information on current domestic and international events concerning the Euromaidan rallies. This paper is a short outline of the coverage of the Euromaidan protests by Ukrainian television and the Internet. It focuses on the period from 21 November, 2013, to 22 February, 2014 - that is, from the date of the first Euromaidan demonstration to that of the Ukrainian parliament's vote to oust President Viktor Yanukovych and set new elections for 25 May, 2014.

USA - A Cold-War Discourse Tinted with Holocaust Rhetoric: The Ukrainian Crisis in the United States Elite Press

Brian Horowitz · 09. May 2014


The reportage in the United States about the Ukraine crisis in the major elite news outlets - New York Times, New Yorker, and the New York Review of Books - has been surprisingly reminiscent of the Cold War. It seems as though attitudes toward Russia had returned to a preconceived pattern that had been prepared precisely for this contingency. From the first days of the crisis, as the pro-Western Ukrainians in Maidan were shouting for revolution, the editorials in the US attempted to convince the American public that the cause is right because it is anti-Russian.

The Politics of National History: Russia and the Centenary of Revolutions
The Politics of National History: Russia and the Centenary of Revolutions

James Ryan · 20. Jan 2017


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? How does the representation of their country’s past reflect the concerns and policies of the state today? We will see that, though it is possible to identify a particular state approach to the centenary, this is not without logical tensions and even contradictions. We will also see that the state has thus far avoided attempts to silence more pluralistic voices, and indeed that it appears committed to respect the independence of the historical profession.