Cultures of History Forum

Welcome to the Imre Kertész Kolleg’s Cultures of History Forum! We are an online journal that is concerned with how the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe address and negotiate the meaning of the past in public. We aim to facilitate conversation between academia and a wider public on issues of history and memory of the 20th century in Europe and to foster dialogue and critical understanding. Contributions to the Forum are structured along three key areas: museums and exhibitions; public debates and controversies; and official acts and government programs. We encourage experts from and of the region to send us critical reviews of local exhibitions and memorial sites or contextualized reflections on current debates concerning contentious historical issues. Finally, we welcome contributions that look into specific legislation, judicial acts or government programs that aim to strengthen specific historical interpretations and/or to weaken others. If you want to be an author or you know of an interesting ongoing exhibition, public debate or political development that you would like to see discussed here, please contact the editors!

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Exhibiting 20th century history

History museums and history exhibitions are central to any culture of history.

History museums and history exhibitions are spaces where meaning is produced collectively and are thus central to any culture of history. In history exhibitions our congealed imaginations of the past are brought into view or staged.

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Debating 20th century history

Negotiating history and memory in the public sphere

How historical 'facts' are understood is a matter of negotiation and is sometimes subject to intense debate amongst not just professional historians but also the public at large. In this section, we present public debates and controversies that emerge at different points in time and in a variety of local, national and trans-national contexts. The debates usually arise where dominant narratives are being contested or contrasting historical interpretations clash in the public sphere - during commemorative events, in academic publications or due to policy shifts.

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Politics of History

Laws, policies and government programs shape historical narratives

The ways in which history and the past are used and abused in the present are manifold. History is not only debated publicly or displayed and showcased in museums and temporary exhibitions, but historical narratives and experiences are also an integral part of political decision-making processes and of policy.

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Focus

Apart from documenting and analyzing cultures of history in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe from various angles, the Cultures of History Forum also regularly initiates collaborative, special feature projects that zoom in on specific events or discussions concerning the entire region (and sometimes beyond). By asking experts from the region to write about one and the same issue and how it is being debated in their respective local or national contexts, we intend to open up additional comparative insights into discourses and developments in this part of Europe. Though history and its representations is not necessarily the primary subject of these ‘focus projects’, it nevertheless often informs the ways in which current affairs are being understood and thus form an important backdrop to understanding local discourses.

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Ukrainian Crisis

Ukrainian Crisis

The current situation in Ukraine is the subject of an intense discussion in the public sphere and the media across Europe. But what do we know about how our neighbouring countries are reflecting on the crisis, its historical background and its meaning for the relationship between our countries, Ukraine, Russia and the European Union? The Cultures of History Forum of the Imre Kertész Kolleg asked historians and sociologists from more than 15 European countries, the US, Israel and Turkey from April to June 2014 for contributions on the media coverage of and public debates on the Ukrainian crisis in their own countries. The authors summarize the main issues raised in reflections on the situation in the Ukraine, the Maidan and Crimea and point to shifts in these reflections over time. In particular, the contributions highlight the frequent recourse to historical issues and narratives in discussions of the Ukrainian crisis, the prevailing images of Ukraine, Russia and the European Union, and the historical concepts and stereotypes on which those images are based.

'Lex CEU'

'Lex CEU'

The recent attempts by the Hungarian government to shut down the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest triggered a wave of protest and of solidarity from academics and politicians worldwide. The law, known as 'LEX CEU', was widely perceived not just as an infringement on academic freedom, but also as yet another move by Viktor Orbán, a self-professed adherent of 'illiberalism', to retreat from the basic principles of liberal democracy and the rule of law. In this special focus of the Cultures of History Forum we seek to place the ‘Lex CEU’ in a broader context, both regionally and historically, and to ask what the state of academic freedom, civil society and liberal values is in the countries that came out of communist dictatorships more than 25 years ago. The contributors to this issue thus not only report on local reactions to the 'Lex CEU'; they critically assess also anti-Soros sentiments, openly illiberal and anti-liberal policies as well as the situation of the media and civil society in their countries. They draw an intriguing and multi-facetted picture of a region that is struggling to make sense of the legacies of 1989.