Join us in Exeter for our collaborative conference with the Herder Institute exploring the rising contributions of socialist and non-aligned actors to the development of heritage at both domestic and international levels.
Conference dates: 21-22 November 2017
Conference location: The University of Exeter
Call for Papers deadline: 20 June 2017
CALL FOR PAPERS
Histories of heritage usually perceive their object of study as a product of western modernity, and exclude the socialist world. Yet, understood as a cultural practice and an instrument of cultural power, and as a “right and a resource”, heritage has played important roles in managing the past and present in many societies and systems. In the postwar period, preservation became a key element of culture in socialist and non-aligned states from China, the Soviet Union, and the Eastern Bloc to Asia, Latin America and Africa. Attention paid to the peoples’ traditions and heritage became a way to manifest the superiority and historical necessity of socialist development. However, the contribution of socialist states and experts to the development of the idea of heritage is still to be fully excavated.
The conference aims to understand the rising contributions of socialist and non-aligned actors to the development of heritage at both domestic and international levels. This phenomenon was in part the result of country-specific factors – such as a reaction to rapid industrial development; the destruction of both the Second World War or wars of national liberation; and the necessity to (re)-invent national traditions on socialist terms. But it was also due the growth of a broader international consensus on international heritage protection policies – in which socialist and non-aligned states and their experts played an important role. To this end, the conference will also address the relationship between socialist conceptions of heritage and those found in the capitalist world: to what extent can we discern the convergence of Eastern and Western dynamics of heritage discourses and practices over the second half of the twentieth century? To what degree did heritage professionals from socialist states play a role in the formation of the transnational and transcultural heritage expertise? To what extent did heritage still play a role in Cold War competition? Socialist states claimed that their respect for progressive traditions and material culture distinguished their superior methods of development from that of the capitalist world. Non-Aligned countries often attempted to blend aspects of socialist and capitalist logics of cultural heritage politics.
Conference themes to be addressed in papers include (but are not limited to):
- The rise of interest in, and conceptualisation of, heritage under socialist and non-aligned states;
- the transnational and transcultural circulation of ideas about heritage both within an expanding world of socialist states and across Cold War ideological divides;
- the role of socialist experts in international debates over heritage;
- the role of individual actors as cultural brokers within the cultural heritage field;
- the role of international organisations, such as UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM, UIA and others in providing a platform for professional communication and knowledge exchange involving the socialist world;
- the role of the Cold War in the development of heritage;
- the role of national traditions, experience and transnational cooperation across the Cold War divide in the creation of concepts and practices of socialist heritage;
- the legacies of the work of socialist states and experts in contemporary heritage practices.
Abstracts of 300-500 words, together with an accompanying short CV should be submitted to Natalie Taylor (N.H.Taylor@exeter.ac.uk) by June 20, 2017.
The selected participants will be notified by July 20, 2017.
Funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.
To download a copy of the Call for Papers and for further information about the conference go to our State Socialism, Heritage Experts and Internationalism conference page
This event is organized by the University of Exeter in collaboration with Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe in Marburg.
It is kindly supported by Exeter University’s Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective.
Prof. James Mark and Dr. Nelly Bekus, University of Exeter, Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective
Dr. Eszter Gantner, Herder Institute for Historical Research on East Central Europe, Marburg
Dr. Michael Falser, Cluster of Excellence Asia and Europe in a Global Context, Heidelberg University
The conference Human Rights after 1945 in the Socialist and Post-Socialist World took place on the 3 – 5 March 2016 at the German Historical Institute, Warsaw. It was a collaborative conference between 1989 after 1989; the German Historical Institute Warsaw; Georg-August University of Göttingen and the London School of Economics. The aim of the conference was to highlight the role and historical agency of the socialist world in the history of human rights.
The conference report is now available on our conference pages and on Geschichte Transnational. It summarises papers presented across 6 panels covering topics such as state socialism, human rights and globalisation; how human rights is defined internationally; state socialist conceptualisation of rights and human rights; socialist foreign policy; transnational movements and flows; and political dissent in relation to the global history of human rights.
The importance of analyzing vernacular human rights, i.e. analyzing when and how people used human rights languages , was one of the leitmotifs of the conference. The issue of teleology and normativity in historical human rights research was another major topic. Consequently, many papers presented stories of failures that contradict positivist narratives and challenge policy-orientated narratives of democratic transition. Parallel to transnational and international human rights history, the role of the state in human rights history was another key issue of the conference. Bringing the state back in, human rights can also be seen as an element of legal history – a promising approach embedding the highly normative notion of human rights in a wider legal history context. This conference brought together scholars working on various regions and actors in a truly fruitful manner. It linked different approaches and perspectives on the history of human rights in a way that contributed to an urgently needed, more complex understanding of the socialist world’s role in human rights history.
Read the full conference report.[Top]
Humboldt University of Berlin
The University of Exeter, the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East-Central Europe (GWZO), and the Humboldt University of Berlin
24 – 26 November 2016
Call for Papers Deadline: 15 June 2016
State Socialism, Legal Experts and the Genesis of International Criminal and Humanitarian Law after 1945
In the history of international law, the socialist bloc has been generally relegated to the role of roadblock to the fulfillment of the ideals of Western liberalism. Scholars of international criminal law (ICL) and international humanitarian law (IHL) have often dismissed the contributions of socialist legal initiatives as little more than Cold War propaganda and thus irrelevant to understanding the historical evolution of judicial norms and the modern international system. The establishment of different international tribunals since the collapse of the Soviet Union has only reinforced the notion that the socialist world was little more than an impediment to progress. Nevertheless, the American-led global war on terror has done much to call into question Western commitment to the laws of war.
This conference seeks to explore the role of state-socialist intellectuals, experts and governments in shaping the evolution of ICL and IHL since the end of the Second World War. Actors from Eastern Europe, the USSR, and East Asian and African socialist states actively participated in international debates regarding international legal norms, the meaning of state sovereignty, and in the negotiation of all major ICL and IHL conventions after 1945. In various cases the socialist bloc was often more enthusiastic, and timely, in supporting and ratifying international legal agreements than Western governments, even if these initiatives were inseparable from political agendas. Although they systematically opposed the creation of international tribunals, experts from socialist countries led the way in many areas, such as the codification of crimes against peace and Apartheid or the elimination of statutory limitations for major ICL offences. The socialist world participated also in debates over the international legal status of drug conflicts and revolutionary groups funded by narcotics trafficking. Deliberations on the criminalization of terrorism and the regulation of armed conflicts were closely linked to the politics of “wars of liberation” by socialist forces in Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America. Socialist legal experts were active participants in transnational epistemic communities and engaged in broader global projects, initiatives, and mobilizations across the Cold War divide.
We encourage proposals on the following topics, and from scholars working on socialist regimes, experts and movements across the world. You are welcome to submit proposals on other themes related to this topic.
- The contributions of the socialist countries and experts to debates on the general principles of ICL and IHL (the relationship between municipal and international law; the sources of ICL; the relationship between state sovereignty, ICL and IHL etc.).
- Socialist challenges to western liberal humanitarian doctrines and conventions (i.e. Peace proposals as alternative to new Geneva conventions, rejection of equality of nations before the law in cases of aggressive war, etc.)
- The role of socialist elites, legal experts, and courts in the development of specific fields of international crimes such as war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and to acts of transnational criminality, such as terrorism, illicit drug trafficking, the arms trade, smuggling of nuclear materials, and trafficking in persons and slavery. The evolution of ICL and IHL discourse, ideas, and initiatives in state-socialist countries.
- The role of the Red Cross and other humanitarian NGOs in the socialist world (i.e. North Vietnamese rejection of ICRC protection for US POWs, the creation of local Red Cross organizations in the Eastern Bloc, etc.)
- Assessments of the continuing legacies and contributions of state socialist traditions of engagement with ICL and IHL on justice processes after 1989/91.
Abstracts of 300-500 words, together with an accompanying short CV should be submitted to Natalie Taylor (N.H.Taylor@exeter.ac.uk) by 15th June 2016.
The selected participants will be notified by 1st July 2016. They are then expected to submit their papers by 1st November 2016.
Funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.
The conference is organized by the University of Exeter, the Leipzig Centre for the History and Culture of East-Central Europe (GWZO), and the Humboldt University of Berlin.
This event is kindly supported by Exeter University’s Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective, and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).[Top]
Centre for Southeast European Studies, University of Graz and the University of Exeter
30 September – 1 October 2016
Call for Papers Deadline: 28 February 2016
(Re)Thinking Yugoslav Internationalism – Cold War Global Entanglements and their Legacies
For more than forty years, Yugoslavia was one of the most internationalist and outward looking of all socialist countries in Europe, playing leading roles in various trans-national initiatives – principally as central participant within the Non-Aligned Movement – that sought to remake existing geopolitical hierarchies and rethink international relations. Both moral and pragmatic motives often overlapped in its efforts to enhance cooperation between developing nations, propagate peaceful coexistence in a divided world and pioneer a specific non-orthodox form of socialism.
Although the disintegration of socialist Yugoslavia has received extensive treatment across a range of disciplines, the end of Yugoslavia’s global role and the impacts this had both at home and abroad, have received little attention. Coinciding with the 55th anniversary of the Belgrade summit and the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement, this conference seeks to open up a range of questions relating to the wealth of diplomatic, economic, intellectual and cultural encounters and exchange between 1945 – 1990, both within the Non-Aligned Movement, across the socialist world and with the developed countries. It would map the history of Yugoslavia’s global engagements not only as a subject associated with political/diplomatic history, but also as a broader societal and cultural project. Important witnesses involved in those exchanges and alliances will also be invited to share their experiences.
We welcome papers from different disciplines and from diverse perspectives, whether dealing with aspects of Cold War international cooperation, development, Yugoslavia’s global role, or the ‘global’ Cold War from the perspective of the developing world and the ‘global South’. We particularly encourage proposals which would reflect on:
- the roots of Yugoslav internationalism and how it was understood in cultural/economic/social as well as political/diplomatic terms;
- the contours of Yugoslav diplomacy and the ways Yugoslav elites conceptualised their global role;
- the role of Yugoslavia in the United Nations, its agencies and other international organisations as the fora for global encounters and in particular the attempts at tackling global inequality and alternative development;
- the relationship between Yugoslavia, the different liberation movements and the newly emerging independent nations in the ‘global South’ (including cultural diplomacy, labour migration, individual travel);
- the realities and challenges of foreign trade, investment construction and economic cooperation;
- the ways international engagements reshaped aspects of political, economic or cultural life back in Yugoslavia;
- the role and significance of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War and today;
- the international impact of the end of Yugoslavia and the collapse of her global role;
- the legacies and new understandings of Yugoslavia’s global role.
Abstracts of 300-500 words, together with an accompanying short biographical note should be submitted to Natalie Taylor (N.H.Taylor@exeter.ac.uk) by 28 February 2016.
Funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.
This event is kindly supported by the Centre for Southeast European Studies and the Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective at the University of Exeter.[Top]
German Historical Institute, Warsaw
March 3 – 5, 2016
Call for Papers Deadline: 27 November 2015
Human Rights after 1945 in the Socialist and Post-Socialist World
Histories of late twentieth century global change have focused on its perceived winners on a macro-scale: democratic capitalism, global markets and individual rights. In such formulations, the “socialist world” and its history appear irrelevant to understanding global processes and unable to inform liberal Western democratic societies.
The global rise of human rights might look like a particularly striking case in point. The formal guarantees of rights in socialist societies, after all, seemed to have no substantial effect on these societies’ political and legal practices, and the debate on civil society in “the West” which east European human rights activists had inspired during the 1980s, did not survive socialism’s fall in that region.
In this conference, we want to question those narratives. Actors from the socialist world – be they state officials, loyal intellectuals or dissident activists – actively participated in international conflicts over the meaning of democracy, economic freedom, religious liberty and national self-determination in the post-war period. Socialist officials took part in drafting the U.N. covenants of 1966, in turning South African apartheid or repression in Chile into global causes célèbres or in promoting women’s rights. African socialists shaped human rights discourses by blending them with the struggle for self-determination, while Latin American activists grafted human rights to their Marxist ideas. Chinese Communists joined traditional ideas of cultural difference with Leninist ideology to create a distinct human rights discourse. Dissident intellectuals, on the other hand, did not necessarily take the West’s side in the Cold War when they criticized socialist realities, but developed innovative human rights vernaculars deeply shaped by their unique contexts. In sum, the “socialist world” did not just react passively to Western human rights politics, but was a vital participant in the story of the production of global human rights.
This conference seeks to explore how the socialist world can be written into the broader global narratives of the rise of human rights in the 20th century, and even revise these narratives. Our understanding of the “socialist world” is deliberately inclusive. It entails the socialist systems of eastern Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Southern and East Asia as well as socialist and Communist parties and movements more broadly, and anti-colonial or anti-dictatorial movements in the Global South.
We welcome papers from different disciplines and from diverse perspectives, whether dealing with official discourses, state policies, right experts, or national or transnational political movements.
We particularly encourage proposals on the following topics:
- rights cultures within socialist societies, including reflections on the global context of their construction;
- the contribution of socialist elites, experts and social groups to the global rise of human rights;
- connections across the socialist world in the production of conceptions of rights, including reflections on the role of international organizations or transnational movements;
- the importance of rights discourses for socialist regimes and movements in establishing legitimacy at home and abroad;
- the use of rights discourses by opposition movements, and the relationship between official/ alternative rights movements within socialist societies;
- the legacy of rights discourses within socialist and post-socialist societies today;
- comparisons, and connections between, the production of rights ideas in the socialist and non-socialist worlds;
- rethinking the role of rights and the collapse of socialist states;
- broader reflections on writing the socialist world into the history of rights;
- broader reflections on how these stories contribute to the rethinking of the story of cultural and political globalization.
This conference is the first in a series of meetings exploring how processes and practices that emerged from the socialist world shaped the re-globalized world of our times. Throughout, the legacies of this socialist engagement with globalising processes in the socialist and post-socialist world will also be an important point of interest.
Please send a brief abstract of 300-500 words, as well as a brief CV, by November 27, 2015, to Natalie Taylor at the University of Exeter (N.H.Taylor@exeter.ac.uk ). All organizational questions can be sent to Natalie Taylor. Academic queries should be sent to Hella Dietz (Hella.Dietz@sowi.uni-goettingen.de ).
Download the Call for Papers: Call for Papers Human Rights after 1945
Substantial funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors also explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.
This event is kindly supported by the German Historical Institute in Warsaw and the Leverhulme Trust-funded project 1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective at the University of Exeter.[Top]
By Nelly Bekus
International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates and its Geopolitical Implications
The date 11th of April is marked by the Russian News Agency RIA as “International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates.” According to RIA, “The International Day of Liberation was established to commemorate the international uprising of the Buchenwald concentration camp prisoners.” The Calendar of Events project—Calendar.ru, the most comprehensive resource on “holidays and memorial days” on Russian-language Internet, refers to April 11 as International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates in two categories: in “Great Patriotic War” and as “International Days of Observance.” There is an article on this Day of Observance in Russian Wikipedia; it refers to RIA as a main source and even mistakenly claims that it was established by the UN. Information on International Day of Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates, however, is not to be found in other languages anywhere except the Russian international news agency Sputnik, working in foreign languages (previously known as The Voice of Russia).
The piece of information provided by RIA serves as a starting point for hundreds of publications across the Russian and post-Soviet media that report on various remembrance events dedicated to the memory of victims of Nazi’s concentration camps taking place on this day. In Moscow, a memorial rally at Poklonnaya Hill is held at The Tragedy of the Peoples monument, erected in 1996 in the memory of former Nazi concentration camps’ inmates and constitutes an integral part of the Victory Memorial Park on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow. Rallies are traditionally organized by the International Union of Former Juvenile Prisoners of Fascism. The Union was created in 1988 as the Union of Former Juvenile Prisoners in Soviet Union; in 1992 it was reinvented as the International Union, which provided platform for cooperation between analogous national Unions within the former Soviet space. In fact, the April 11 has been observed in those states, where national and local branches of this International Union function. Attended by former Nazi concentration camp inmates and their descendants these memorial meetings have profound public appeal due to the engagement of educational and cultural institutions and media coverage. Commemorations on the April 11 have been widely supported by local government; ceremonies are attended by top officials, with the exception of Baltic countries, where the remembrance events on the April 11 are supported by Orthodox Church instead.
Alongside the rallies, there are traditional ceremonies of flower-laying at the monuments and memorial sites dedicated to the former Nazi camps’ prisoners held across the regions, and also concerts in memory of victims, “lessons of heroism” at schools, various dedicatory exhibitions and meetings in public libraries and museums are organized across Russia and other post-Soviet states. Governmental educational resources provide variety of supporting materials such as proposed scenario for the “lessons on heroism,” suggested literature, etc. In a way, this informational support is analogous to what can be found on the United Nations webpage with educational materials and information products recommended for the observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on the January 27, established by UN in 2006. In fact, the status of April 11 in post-Soviet countries clearly creates the impression of maintaining a parallel memory on the former inmates of Nazi’s concentration camps.
Between Auschwitz and Buchenwald
The symbolism of the date—the day of liberation of Buchenwald camp on April 11, as opposed to January 27, the day of liberation of the Camp of Auschwitz chosen by UN—appears to have special meaning in commemoration of victims of Nazi regime. This symbolism goes back to the initial stage of memorial work in the early post-war years. The history of the Buchenwald’s liberation compiled by RIA agency and reproduced every year in numerous post-Soviet media on the April 11 tells the story of heroic uprising of the Buchenwald concentration camp inmates:
“65 years ago, on April 11, 1945, a red flag was hoisted over the Buchenwald camp administrative building. On that day the inmates disarmed and took prisoner more than 800 SS-men and camp guards […]
Two days later US troops reached Buchenwald.”
This concise story mentions only shortly “the red flag” raised by underground rebels and fails to mention that the resistance was organized mostly by Communists. Similarly politically neutral narration can be found on the webpage of Buchenwald Museum: “April 11. The SS flees, but before the fighting is over, inmates of the camp resistance occupy the tower and take charge of order and administration in the camp.”
Evidently, communists’ involvement in the underground resistance at Buchenwald lost its appeal in contemporary perspective. Nevertheless, immediately after the war this fact was not only recognized but also effectively used in promotion of corresponding memory narrative on the struggle of communist antifascists against Nazis. The camp was perceived as a symbol of political victims who were also heroic fighters and played essential role in memorialization of the Second World War among anti-fascist in many European countries. Buchenwald’s key role in the formation of international memory of former concentration camps’ inmates was officially confirmed in 1948, when the International Federation of Former Political Prisoners (FIAPP) declared the April 11 as “The International Day of Former Political Prisoners” and “The International Day of the Deportees.” Later it was renamed into the “Day of International Solidarity of Liberated Political Prisoners and Fighters” by the successor of FIAPP—International Federation of Resistance Fighters (FIR). In those days, April 11 was a day with profound international anti-fascist connotation, which could be proudly communicated across the East-West divide. With the beginning of Cold War and the rising tensions between the Western and Eastern blocs, the political prisoners’ organization, such as FIAPP/FIR, lost their influence in the West. Buchenwald memory and the symbolism of April 11 were gradually reduced to the communist milieu.
In GDR, Buchenwald was entitled the role of major pantheon to heroic resistance fighters and the “self-liberation” of the camp became the focus of a memorial complex (1958). Buchenwald, a site of official pilgrimage and ceremonies, stood for antifascism and to some extent was called to instil pride. Memory narrative developed on the Eastern side of the Iron Curtain, which preferred to commemorate Communist “fighters” rather than Jewish “victims.” On the other side of the Berlin Wall, the association between communist ideology and post-war antifascist discourse in communist countries resulting in the marginalization of Holocaust made it easier for Western Allies to listen to the voice of victims of racial persecution, above all Jews. For them, it was Auschwitz that became the symbol of Nazi crimes as well as collective shame and guilt.
In the context of Cold War, the politicization of memorial work on the other side of the Iron Curtain was combined with the corresponding political line. Communist states combined it with anti-Western political propaganda; the Alliance and other anti-communist organizations merged honoring of Nazism’s victims with the pursuit of their own political agenda: comparing Stalinism with Nazism did more than condemn Communism; it also downplayed the uniqueness of the Nazis’ regime.
It was at that time, in 1950, when also the term “victims of fascism” was discarded by Philipp Auerbach for its communist connotations and proposed to replace it with “victims of Nazism.” Since then, the previously common enemy was even to be named by former Allies differently.
After 1989: An Unsuccessful Memory Unification
The Fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 brought a hope that the memory of World War II could provide a solid ground for overcoming Cold War’s divisive legacy. In the 1990s it seemed fairly possible that integration of the “Western” and the “Eastern” perspectives into a common paradigm of remembering could become one of the building bricks in a new European home.
Some changes in the memory politics of the post-Soviet Russia and CIS countries have, indeed, occurred. The memory of Jewish genocide was given more consideration as a part of war story in the territory of former Soviet Union than previously. The real unification of European and post-Soviet memory spaces, however, has never been achieved. Instead, political transition in former socialist states and the reconfiguration of EU borders resulted in a formation of new symbolic mapping of memory.
In the European history of remembering the victims of the Second World War, the focus on Holocaust was transformed, as Aleida Assmann noted, “into a transgenerational and transnational memory.” Shared memories of Holocaust were capable of uniting European countries in commemorating its victims and teaching next generation of Europeans the history lesson, becoming a foundation myth for united Europe and a moral yardstick for new member states since 2005. Commemoration of the Holocaust victims came to be one of unifying rites called to manifest the common efforts in creation of Europe as a remembering community. In 2005, European Holocaust Memorial Day across the EU was established on January 27. The same year and for the same date the General Assembly of UN established annual International Day of Commemoration in Memory of Victims of the Holocaust. Even though in some calendars of several former socialist states one can still find “Day of International Solidarity of Liberated Political Prisoners and Fighters” mentioned with the reference to Buchenwald liberation, no commemorative activity has ever been reported on this day outside post-Soviet space.
Many post-Soviet countries also join UN commemorations of the Holocaust victims. None of them, however, has the Commemoration Day included into the official calendar of observance days. In Russia and other post-Soviet countries this day has been observed by Jewish national organizations, foreign diplomatic missions and has, as a rule, semi-official status. Several attempts have been made to include commemoration of Holocaust into the official calendar of Russian state which has considerable Jewish community: in 2001, by the foundation “Holocaust”; in 2008 by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia; in 2012 by the Russian Jewish Congress; in 2013 by a Russian opposition party “Just Russia.” None of these initiatives, however, has been successful.
The day of 27th of January has been widely commemorated by national and religious Jewish organizations of Russia, often with the participation of Russian top officials. The president of Russia often takes part in these observances, but the mode and the context of such commemoration clearly marks the space of the Holocaust memory as a matter of one of Russia’s religious and national minorities. In 2010, Dmitry Medvedev, the then President of Russia, sent his greetings to participants in the ceremonies commemorating the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. In his address, Medvedev urged not forget that along with six million people that “were killed simply because of their ethnicity, simply for being Jewish,” there were other victims, too, because “according to the Nazis’ plan, at least a third of the population in the occupied territories was to follow their fate.” This attention to “other victims” of Nazi’s genocide in Medvedev’s address, as well as keeping the status of International Holocaust Remembrance Day as a matter of one of Russian Federation’s national minorities reveal an unarticulated intention to keep the weight of the “Jewish aspect” in the post-Soviet memory of the Second World War under controlled balance. It displays the post-Soviet determination to prevent total re-writing of the Soviet-originated narrative of the history of Second World War and the re-casting the memory on its victims in accordance with “Western” mode. And while Jewish communities in Russia join worldwide commemoration of January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day, in the calendar of Russian state, January 27 is also marked as a date commemorating the end of Leningrad siege (established in 1995).
Reshaping a Divided Victimhood
Surely, in contemporary conditions the division lines in the memory sphere work differently. Disregarding Holocaust in post-Soviet countries proves to be both impossible and unreasonable and Jewish communities across the former Soviet space observe the Memory of Holocaust on January 27. Emphasis on Holocaust, however, conveys implicit meaning of being “Western interpretation” of Nazi’s victimhood. And revitalization of public commemorations on April 11 in post-Soviet states clearly demonstrates that the once envisaged “unification” of divided victimhood is not going to be achieved by one-sided acceptance of the “Western” memory perspective by the former “East”. Along with the “Europeanization of the memory boom” denoted by rising significance of Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the official memory politics in post-Soviet countries sought to establish alternative commemoration which would meet the needs and wishes of the majority of former Soviet people. April 11 was assigned this role of the post-Soviet parallel to the European Commemoration of Holocaust which allows to maintain “other” perspective on the “victimhood of fascism” alongside the memory of Holocaust. Buchenwald as a symbolic alternative came almost naturally to fit this new memory practice demand. Buchenwald camp was widely known to the Soviet people. Due to a popular patriotic song “Buchenwald alarm bells,” it was part of the official canon of the Soviet cultural war memory.
April 11 reiterates in many respects the idea of commemoration of Holocaust victims—but it avoids stressing the ethnic genocide of Jews or any other particular ethnic group. Every publication on commemoration of the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camp Inmates speaks, instead, about 5 million of Soviet people among 19 million of Nazi camps’ prisoners; in some cases, 6 million of Jewish victims are mentioned, too.
On the one hand, recalling the memory of the Soviet victims among prisoners of Nazi’s concentration camps in public commemorations and rituals held on the April 11 can be read as the efforts to maintain post-Soviet space as a “remembering community.” On the other hand, persistent emphasis on the international status of this day is also telling. Nations that once belonged to USSR today represent international community aspiring to be an actor on the geopolitical memory arena. At the same time, talking about any long-established history of April 11 as an International Day of observance refers to the “internationalism” characteristic for post-war political anti-fascism and resistance fighters. And while communist ideology that once constituted the core of that movement became irrelevant and marginal, its internationalist appeal remains meaningful. Bridging these two aspects in the commemorative practices on April 11 makes possible the prevention of the post-Soviet space of commemoration of victims from segregation and isolation, at least symbolically.
This relatively new memorial date can be interpreted as a signifier in the geopolitics of memory coming to replace political ideologies, which constituted inseparable feature of the memorial work in the Cold War realm. It shows how geopolitical entities have been re-constituted and united anew, while the process of re-shaping memories attendant upon the end of Cold War remains embedded in the divisions of the past.
Original is published by Aspen Review[Top]
Alternative Global Geographies, Imagining and Re-Imagining the World Late 19th Century – Present Day
Call for Papers for the Conference of the Research Network Socialism Goes Global
12 – 14 November 2015
Call for Papers Deadline: 27 July 2015
In contrast to public claims of the early 1990s, space and geographies have not lost their central role in defining an ever more globalized world. We still live in territorialized spaces: not only in the narrow sense of states and societies that reside within their borders, but also geographies and spatial formats on regional and world scales. Research in the aftermath of the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences is increasingly drawing our attention to the importance of understanding large-scale spatial dynamics for global history.
Many influential paradigms, often emerging from metropolitan cores or centres of the Cold War, have emerged to make sense of an increasingly interconnected world. These have included Euro- and other ‘centric’ centre-periphery models, the idea of the Anglophone or Francophone worlds, the tricontinental model, World Systems Theory, or the division of the globe into the First, Second, and Third Worlds, or the ‘Global North and South’. Such ideas came not only from the academy (in e.g. geography, area studies, history, economics, anthropology) but also from the work of political, economic and cultural actors. This conference will explore such attempts to make sense of the world on a regional or global scale, and explore how such ideas have been used to make sense of, and organize, power relations, cultural encounters and economic connections.
We wish in particular to encourage papers focussing on the ‘view from the periphery’. Despite the recent turn to studying global history from non-western perspectives, there is still little research done on visions of world order from other actors outside metropolitan cores or the West- from e.g. Latin America, South and Eastern Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. We invite contributions dealing with ways of conceptualising the world from areas that thought of themselves as peripheral (or semi-peripheral) on a global scale, or, indeed, challenged their definition as such. We wish to emphasise that we do not set an a priori definition of ‘periphery’ – the definition of where the periphery is located, how it is defined and who belongs to it shall be rather an element of the analysis. We also encourage contributions on those who conceptualised alternative visions of world orders, from a variety of political, religious, cultural or economic movements – regardless of their geographical location (i.e. also from critical or peripheral standpoints within the metropole/ core).
The event aims to bring together scholars from multiple disciplines (e.g. history, sociology, geography, anthropology and others), working on various topics (colonialism, post-colonialism, socialism and radicalism), on different world regions or on a world scale. The time frame may range from the late 19th century – as an era in which global imaginations and political projects of a politico- and cultural-spatial organization of the world powerfully emerged in relation to late colonial regimes – through the transformations of the interwar, the Cold War and decolonisation, and up until the present day.
Papers might address:
– conceptualizations and spatializations of the world: how have actors accepted or critiqued dominant visions of global spatial visions; what ‘alternative visions’ have been proposed e.g. ‘socialist world’, ‘anti-imperialist world’, ‘Afro-Asian world’, ‘global South’, ‘majority world’; how have actors worked to make such reconceptualisations authentic, or new interconnections a reality?
– the relation between political projects and practices to these conceptualizations – either as producers of these or through instrumentalizing them.
– the clashes between such conceptualizations and practices, paying attention to the web of power relations inherent in these conflicts.
– the roles of expert cultures (e.g. area studies institutes, agricultural specialists, economists, sociologists, fiction writers) and non-academic actors (e.g. activists); institutionalisations based on spatial imaginaries; the intellectual production of spatialized knowledge; the role of trans-regional exchange in the production of spatial models.
– the production of authenticity in new geographical imaginaries (how have these new imaginaries been made real? How have imagined distances between world regions been collapsed, or new borders and frontiers between world regions produced? How and why have alternative visions failed in the face of dominant models?).
– the conceptualisation of the periphery and semi-periphery (how did actors relate themselves to the concept? How did internal peripheries within regions or countries shape how actors conceptualised peripheries on a global scale?).
– relations between ideological camps and geographical spaces (e.g. imperialism, anti-imperialism and spatialized visions; shifting and rival definitions of the globe as a set of large geocultural units by the Cold War powers; contested visions of world mapping).
– the role of world mapping in domestic cultures in different ideological systems and regional settings (e.g. political uses; global spatial mappings as ‘disciplining tools’ for home populations; representations of world orders in e.g. maps, culture, political discourse; the political and cultural interpreters of spatialized visions for popular audiences).
Please send a brief abstract of 300-500 words, as well as a brief CV, by 27 July 2015, to Catherine Devenish at the University of Exeter (C.Devenish@exeter.ac.uk ). The conference will take place in Leipzig from 12 to 14 November 2015. Some funding opportunities for travel and accommodation are available, but we ask that potential contributors explore funding opportunities at their home institutions.[Top]