politics of memory

  • Twenty Years After Communism: The Methodological Review

    The paper is a methodological review essay of Michael Bernhard and Jan Kubik’s comparative study of politics of memory and commemoration in seventeen Central and Eastern European states twenty years after the fall of state socialism. The goal of the essay is to critically examine Bernhard and Kubik’s volume, with a particular focus on the comparative methods they applied to explain how some political and cultural factors at the time of the collapse of communism affected a memory regime in the post-communist democracies. This analysis critically examines four aspects of the study, being: the central theoretical assumptions and contribution in comparative and memory politics; case selection; methodology and data analysis; main findings. Each part includes a summary of the particular aspect of the book, the main strengths and weaknesses, and possible improvements. The review essay emphasis is particularly novel and innovative comparative methodology in studying politics of memory and its universality, suggesting, however, severe problems with a lack of clear and consistent discourse analysis methodology which could affect the quality of final results.

    Review Essay: Michael Bernhard & Jan Kubik (Eds.), Twenty Years after Communism: The Politics of Memory and Commemoration. New York: Oxford University Press 2014 (pp. 384). ISBN 9780199375134. Price: £79.00.

  • The Government’s Remembrance Policy: Five Theoretical Hypotheses

    Remembrance is a powerful instrument of social mobilisation, identity construction and political competition. Its impact on individual and shared beliefs or attitudes makes it an object of government’s interest, because remembrance can be used to legitimise ideologies or policies. Theoretical considerations of a government’s role as a narrator lead us to the general definition of the government’s remembrance policy, which we understand as a complex of narratives and interpretations presented to influence citizens’ attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and identities. The paper develops the definition with five theoretical hypotheses on the effectiveness of remembrance narratives. It argues that the government’s remembrance policy is myth-motoric, non-scientific, emotional, based on commitment and that it is a type of social influence. The study is an initial verification of theoretical approach, and I believe that my arguments will motivate other researchers to investigate different aspects of a government’s desire to narrate past events. 

  • Cultural War and Reinventing the Past in Poland and Hungary: The Politics of Historical Memory in East–Central Europe

    This paper has been based on three assumptions that have been widely discussed in the international political science: (1) there has been a decline of democracy in East–Central Europe (ECE) with the emergence of “velvet dictatorships”, (2) the velvet dictatorships rely on the soft power of media and communication rather on the hard power of state violence that has provoked “cultural wars“ and (3) the basic turning point is the transition from the former modernization narrative to the traditional narrative with “reinventing the past” and “reconceptualising modernity” through the reference to the historically given collective national identity by launching the “politics of historical memory”. The velvet dictatorships have been using and abusing the national history as an ideological drug to consolidate their power. The (social and national) populism and Euroscepticism are the basic twin terms to describe the soft power of the new (semi)authoritarian regimes. They are convertible, the two sides of the same coin, since they express the same divergence from the EU mainstream from inside and outside. Soft power means that the political contest in the new regimes has been transferred from the hard to the soft fields of politics as the fight between the confronting narratives. The victory of the traditionalist–nativist narrative carries also the message that the people are only passive “subjects” and not active citizens, so the field of politics has been extremely narrowed in the “new brave world” in ECE. 

  • Sites of Memory in the Public Space of Chile and Georgia: the Transition and Pre–Transition Period

    By undertaking discussion on the aspect of special forms of commemoration, we may obtain a lot of useful information about the remembrance policy of a given country. That is why the analysis of the issue of the sites of memory seems to be of key importance for understanding problems related to the state’s interpretation of the past from the perspective of an authoritarian regime, political transition and democracy. The aim of this paper is to address one of the elements of a broader issue, i.e. the study of the politics of memory. This element focuses on the presentation of the most significant sites of memory in two countries with the experience of authoritarianism – Chile and Georgia – emphasizing changes which took place in the sphere of commemoration from the beginning of democratic transformation to the moment of achieving full democracy. By describing these places we are showing the main directions and framework assumptions of the remembrance policies of Chile and Georgia, reflected in the form of spatial and visual objects of the “living history”. 

  • Decommunisation of the Public Space in Post–Euromaidan Ukraine

    The problem of thorough and ultimate decommunisation in Ukraine got suddenly valid during Euromaidan on the turn of 2013/2014 and after its termination. It became a component of post–revolutionary reforms in the field of policy of memory. A year after Euromaidan Ukraine’s parliament adopted four “decommunisation laws” on 9 April 2015. One of them concerns the condemnation of the Communist regime and prohibition the propaganda of his symbols. The author analysed contents of the law and focused on the results of decommunisation, which included the cleansing the public space from Soviet–era legacy. Full implementation of the law was planned for the year. During this time the goal was almost fully implemented regarding the renaming of many locations and districts. The communist names of thousands streets, squares, urban districts were changed, although this process was delayed. The process of renaming of many institutions, industrial plants and press titles was very slow. 

  • The Remembrance Policy and Political Identities during Post-Authoritarian Transformations

    Book Review: Joanna Marszałek-Kawa, Anna Ratke-Majewska & Patryk Wawrzyński, Polityka pamięci i kształtowanie tożsamości politycznej w czasie tranzycji postautorytarnej. Analiza porównawcza (Tom 2). Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Difin 2016 (pp. 167). ISBN 978-83-8085-209-9. Price: 50.00 PLN.

  • Modernizacja czy kolonizacja? Recepcja okresu radzieckiego w polityce historycznej Kazachstanu i Uzbekistanu

    The article describes the politics of memory of the Soviet Union in post-soviet Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (1991–2016). The analysis is based on the following documents: Presidents N. Nazarbaev and I. Karimov statements, their publications, the politics of commemoration and historical education in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan after 1991. Author tries to compare two national historical narrations over the Soviet regime and argues that Uzbeks and Kazakhs were used two different approach of criticism of soviet colonialism, related to their foreign policy towards Russia

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