The Cultures of History Forum (abbreviated: CoH Forum) is an online journal that is organized as part of the research area 'History and the Public Sphere' by the Imre Kertész Kolleg at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. It is concerned with how the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe, which more than any other European region have been shaped by the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, address and negotiate their histories in public. Such negotiation is a continuous process that takes place in different spheres: the cultural, social and political. The CoH Forum takes this into account by structuring its contributions along three key areas of concern: museums and exhibitions; public debates and controversies; and official acts and government programmes. We encourage experts from/of the region to examine the ways in which history is presented through images and visual representations in museums and exhibitions. Likewise, we accept contributions that document and analyse local media-based debates that erupt over historical issues and reflect on diverging interpretations and stances. Finally, we welcome contributions that look into specific political acts, legislation or programmes carried out in order to strengthen specific historical interpretations or narratives and/or to weaken others.
The Cultures of History Forum’s main function is that of a translator and facilitator of dialogue: between academia and the general public, between theory and practice, and between actors and analysts of historical cultures from different national and regional contexts. The texts you can find on our website identify and discuss important exhibitions, debates and political acts in the countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe that would otherwise escape the attention of those unfamiliar with local languages. Our authors seek to combine academic knowledge with an accessible style of writing, and they take pains to provide balanced and fair accounts of ongoing controversies and practices. By examining cultures of history in a transnational context, the CoH Forum thus wants to counter the notion that a nation’s history belongs only to this nation itself. Ultimately, we aim to contribute to a better understanding of the similarities, differences, entanglements and continuities that shape present-day perceptions and attitudes.
On a more infrequent basis, the CoH Forum also features special focus projects take a more immediate comparative perspective on current events which reverberate throughout the ECE region, such as the Ukraine Crisis in 2014, or the so called 'Lex CEU' and other Hungarian government’s legislation against civil society in 2017. It is often in the reaction to crisis moments such as these that the underlying culture of history, historical perceptions and the values and attitudes they inform are revealed.
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 in the CoH Forum, please contact the editors, Juliane Tomann and Eva-Clarita Pettai
Our ideas about the past influence our perceptions of the present. By the same token, history can hardly be understood as something other than a construction in and from the present. A culture of history, more commonly refered to as historical culture, is the interface between these two dimensions of time. It comes about when the past is interpreted in the present and acquires meaning for people’s lives. But its horizon is not limited to the past and present; the future, too, plays a critical role. While we interpret the past in the present, we do so with a view to the future and look at how that future can be shaped.
Our understanding of culture of history (Geschichtskultur) is mainly informed by Jörn Rüsen, a theorist of history who coined the term in the 1980s and has been refining it ever since. In Rüsen’s understanding, 'culture of history' is juxtaposed to historical consciousness. Both terms are linked with each other in a way that a culture of history is the specific and particular way in which a society relates to its past while historical consciousness refers to personal attitudes and values that individuals ascribe to the past. Thus, culture of history is the more general term referring to a group’s, society’s or nation’s way of addressing the past whereas historical consciousness is something a person gains in the process of being socialized and learning. There is a strong relationship between the concepts of memory culture and historical culture. However, there are also differences between both concepts. While memory culture is more concerned with processes of how social groups remember certain events in the past, historical culture is a broader term that embraces all manifestations and materializations of historical consciousness in a society.
The complex interplay of temporalities that materializes in a culture of history is influenced by a variety of factors. Individual agents and institutions, policies and special interests, and aesthetic ideas and moral conventions all determine how history is represented. According to Rüsen, historical culture features different dimensions, amongst others, an aesthetic, a political and a cognitive one. Analysing and describing a culture of history means to embrace a broader field than that of historiography, since it is not limited to the analysis of academic historical literature. In the Cultures of History Forum we focus specifically on public negotiations of history in debates as well as on history exhibitions and the policy dimension.
Prof. Dr. Joachim von Puttkamer
Director, Imre Kertész Kolleg
Dr. Michal Kopeček
Director, Imre Kertész Kolleg
Dr. Rasa Baločkaitė
Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
Dr. Stevo Đurašković
University of Zagreb, Croatia
Dr. Jakub Jareš
Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, Prague, Czech Republic
Dr. Aliaksei Lastouski
Institute of Political Studies “Political Sphere”, Belarus
Charles University, Czech Republic
Dr. Jovana Mihajlović Trbovc
Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Slovenia
Dr. Eva Kovács
Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI), Austria
Dr. Lavinia Stan
St. Francis Xavier University, Canada
Dr. Nikolai Vukov
Bulgarian Academy of Science, Bulgaria