Welcome to the Imre Kertész Kolleg’s Cultures of History Forum, where you will find a range of perspectives on and from the cultures of history in East Central and Southeastern Europe. The Forum is concerned with how the countries between Germany and Russia and on the Balkan peninsula, which more than any other European region have been shaped by the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, are coming to terms with their past now, in the twenty-first. Our focus is less on scholarly discourse, than on public debates and processes of interpreting history and on the way history is exhibited in museums.
The cultures of history in these countries are largely bound to their national cultures. As a result, public debates, which are generally conducted locally in their respective languages, rarely cross borders or cross paths with conversations in other countries of the region. The Cultures of History Forum aims to document the specificity of these discussions of history in East Central and Southeastern Europe. And in the articles you find here the most significant contributions to these debates are summarized and contextualized in English.
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.
History and our imagination of the past are by no means static. How historical ‘facts’ are understood is a matter for negotiation and is sometimes subject to intense debate, not just amongst professional historians but amongst the general public. In this section we present public debates and discussions that deal with critical events of the twentieth century. These articles all demonstrate how the ‘long’ twentieth century is being talked about now, in the new millenium, in the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Readers will not only gain insight into controversial events, but find out who the players are in the debates they spark and who influences the course these quarrels take.
The ways in which history and the past are used in the present are indeed manifold. History is not only debated publicly or displayed and showcased in museums and temporary exhibitions, but historical narratives are also an integral part of political discussions and the political discourse as such. Politicians seek to strengthen their arguments with references to the past, and history is often used to legitimize plans for the future or political agendas. In some cases, politicians or political institutions even step into the role of historians and assess past developments, for instance, after violent conflicts or during transitions from dictatorships to more democratically organized systems.