113 Works

The Hungarian Debate on 1989

Arpad von Klimo
The debate on the significance of the events of 1989 has so far taken place only within the realm of politics. The governing Fidesz party is attempting to reinterpret the events, which up to now have been ascribed a mostly positive connotation, and to re-tell them and the subsequent period of transition as a period of crisis that ended only with Viktor Orbán's victory in the elections of 2010. The article scrutinizes why the new...

Hungary - The Ukrainian Crisis in the Hungarian Media

Péter Apor
The 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? During 2014 and 2015 the Cultures of History Forum asked historians and sociologists from more than 15 European countries, the US, Israel...

A Hungarian Version of the Historikerstreit? A Summary of the Romsics-Gerő Debate among Hungarian Historians

Máté Rigó
In 2012 a debate took place among Hungarian academics about how to write the country's 20th-century history in an ethically and professionally adequate way, with a particular focus on anti-Semitism and the legacy of the Holocaust. This article summarizes the main points of the original exchange between two historians and examines which threads of the subsequent discussion were the most fruitful in terms of initiating a debate about the controversial legacies of 20th-century Hungarian history.

Open Society v. Illiberal State: Europe, Hungary, and the ‘Lex CEU’

Victoria Harms
As part of the special issue on 'Lex CEU', the present article revisits the history of the Central European University, its founding mission, and achievements. It surveys the Orbán regime’s policies since 2010, focusing on its education reforms and the CEU affair. The article thus contextualizes the 'Lex CEU' within recent national and international developments. The CEU affair is the latest battle in a 'Kulturkampf' between two mutually exclusive visions of Europe’s past, present, and...

From the Beginning to the End 1918 – 1991. Exhibition in the Museum of Yugoslav History

Ivana Dobrivojević
A new exhibition was opened in Belgrade on 1 December 2012, the ninety-fifth anniversary of the unification of South Slavs in The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. This was a symbolic opening day. Journalists from all over the region flocked to the museum to cover the event. Curiously enough, in the politically divided societies of ex-Yugoslavia, it seemed that everyone could agree upon one thing: an exhibition about Yugoslav history and the very existence...

The \"Trianon\" - Debate in the Hungarian Left-Liberal Weekly Élet és Irodalom

Ferenc Laczó
The recent debate between Éva Kovács and Krisztián Ungváry, two Hungarian intellectuals, about the memory of Trianon took place in a political context that was defined by new government policies and laws regarding dual citizenship for Hungarians living outside state borders and by ongoing political and symbolic conflicts between Slovakia and Hungary. These conflicts are deeply intertwined with the divergent interpretations of the shared history. The article reviews the main arguments made in this debate...

Division and Denial and Nothing Else? Culture of History and Memory Politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Nicolas Moll
The article gives an overview of the fragmented historical culture in Bosnia and Herzegovina, twenty years after the end of the war, which left the country deeply divided along political and ethnic lines. Parallel ethnonational narratives about the past, both recent and distant, are dominating the public sphere. Yet, the memory landscape in the country should not be reduced to its ethnonational divisions: variations within the dominating narratives and a wide range of attitudes towards...

Solidarność Yesterday – Solidarity Today? The European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk endeavors to combine the past with the present

Florian Peters
The European Solidarity Center, which opened its doors in Gdańsk in August 2014, is one of several new museum projects in recent Poland. Maybe this is why the museum’s founders emphasize the distinguishing characteristics of their institution. The center has two ambitious aims: to present exhibits on the history of Poland’s Solidarity movement as well as on the present-day meaning of solidarity as a social value. Does it achieve its own aims?

Remaking Polish National History: Reenactment over Reflection

Florian Peters
After bringing the constitutional court to a standstill and cleansing public television to make it conform to party-political criteria, the Polish government that dominated by the PiS party has shifted its attention to the politics of memory. The article gives a critical review of recent steps taken by the government and parliament to stir the public representation of contemporary history in a national conservative, “patriotic” direction. This "historical policy" not only comes at the expensive...

Facing a Difficult Past? The Yser Tower in Dixmude, Belgium

Maarten Van Alstein
"No more war" is the message the Yser Tower Museum in the small Belgian town of Dixmunde tries to convey. It seems as if this war museum which showcases the atrocities of the First World War at an authentic site would like to be a museum for peace. Yet by opting for a pacifist narrative the museum bypasses the complex history of the site itself. It avoids any in-depth discussion about the controversial history of...

1956 Reloaded: The Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations of the Hungarian Revolution

Nora Borodziej
The sixtieth anniversary celebrations of the 1956 Hungarian revolution took a new turn when Viktor Orbán used the opportunity to criticize the European Union and further the Fidesz nationalist agenda. This article discusses the commemorations in their historical context since 1989 and closely analyses the speeches and festivities in Budapest. It shows the continuous uses of this date for partisan purposes and asks what this means for Hungarian collective memory.

The Debate on the Communist Past and the Memory of Lyudmila Zhivkova in Bulgaria

Ana Luleva
In October 2012 a conference took place at Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski that was dedicated to Lyudmila Zhivkova, the daughter of Todor Zhivkov and chairperson of the Bulgarian Committee of Culture (1975-1981). This was an attempt to remember Lyudmila Zhivkova and promote a positive image in the public sphere, yet it provoked a fierce response in the media from political parties and citizens indicating that the memory of socialism is a 'hot' issue in...

Moldova - The Ukrainian Crisis in the Moldovan Media

Diana Joseph
The 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? During 2014 and 2015 the Cultures of History Forum asked historians and sociologists from more than 15 European countries, the US, Israel...

The Debate about Michal Pullmann’s Book The End of the Experiment

Jakub Vrba
Michal Pullmann's book “The End of the Experiment” distanced itself from earlier approaches to the last period of state socialism from a methodological and theoretical perspective and thus provoked a debate at various levels in the Czech Republic. This article focuses on these debates, which first and foremost touch the question of the characteristics of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia until 1989.

Stadtgeschichte des Baltikums oder baltische Stadtgeschichte?

Stadtgeschichte zum Baltikum ist immer noch ein Desiderat historischer Forschung, auch hat sich im Baltikum bislang noch keine eigene historische Teildisziplin herausgebildet. Der Band, der Beiträge der Ersten Tagung zur Baltischen Stadtgeschichte vom Oktober 2012 umfasst, ist daher eine bislang ausstehende Bestandsaufnahme aktueller Forschungen zur Stadtgeschichte im und zum Baltikum und umfasst außerdem Überblicke zur Geschichte der jeweiligen Stadtgeschichtsforschung. Die Beiträge verdeutlichen insgesamt das breite Spektrum an möglichen weiteren Fragestellungen. Damit soll der Band zeigen,...

When Local Memory Confronts State Historical Policy: Staging Edward Gierek’s Life in Sosnowiec

Valentin Behr
Since 2015 when the Law and Justice (PiS) party returned to power, ‘history policy’ has become an important part of the political agenda in Poland. Its main targets are museums and public education more broadly. The article reviews a recent temporary exhibition about former Polish Communist Party leader Edward Gierek in the small town of Sosnowiec and places it in the wider discourses on de-communization and on regional-vs-centralized historical narratives of the recent past.

History and Memory of 1968 in Poland: Debates Around the 'Estranged' Exhibition

Maria Kobielska
The latest temporary exhibition by the Museum Polin in Warsaw entitled 'Estranged. March ’68 and its Aftermath' has been controversially discussed in the Polish public. The article gives a brief review of the exhibition to then analyse the subsequent debates as they provide an insight into contemporary Polish culture of remembrance and into the particularly sensitive issue of Poland's postwar Jewish-Polish relations.

Only a Beginning: The Sered' Holocaust Museum in Slovakia

Monika Vrzgulová
The Sered' Holocaust Memorial Museum is the only one of its kind in Slovakia. Located on the original site of the former labour and concentration camp, it tells the story of persecution, exploitation and murder of Slovak Jews during the war. While recognizing the difficulties of presenting the history of the Holocaust in Slovakia, this review reveals many shortcomings in the current permanent exhibition, which misses the chance of truly informing its visitors and raising...

From Crumbling Walls to the Fortress of Europe: Changing Commemoration of the ‘Pan-European Picnic’

Emily Gioielli
Official narratives about the legacy of 1989 and of Hungary’s role in bringing down the Berlin wall have changed significantly over time. The article zooms in on the public commemorations of one particular event, the 'pan-European picnic' at the Austro-Hungarian border, to show how Hungary’s elite is increasingly turning the original story of this event, a Europe without borders, into a story of Hungary as the sole protector of Europe’s borders and values against unwanted...

The 70th Anniversary of the End of WWII in Slovenia

Marko Zajc
In May 1985, Yugoslav Slovenia celebrated Victory Day and the 40th anniversary of liberation. In May 2015, independent Slovenia celebrated the 70th anniversary of the war’s end as if it had been a kind of a natural process that ended, just like summer ends. What happened to the victory celebration? This article argues that the discursive differences between the two state celebrations reflect the deep crisis of official state/national ideology.

A Museum of Memories: The New ‘Vabamu’ in Tallinn

Heiko Pääbo & Eva-Clarita Pettai
A new generation of historians and curators have taken over the former Museum of Occupations in Tallinn, Estonia. They renamed the museum and opened a permanent exhibition built less on historical facts than on 'fragments of memory'. Technologically savvy, it challenges not only previous ways of representing Estonia's history of occupations, but also more traditional modes of presenting history in the museum. How this is done and whether it is convincing is discussed in this...

Debating Vabamu: Changing names and narratives at Estonia’s Museum of Occupations

Lorraine Weekes
The 2016 announcement that Tallinn's Museum of Occupations would soon be re-launched under the name "Museum of Freedom" brought swift and vitriolic critique from a diverse array of citizens, heritage groups, and politicians. The article analyses some of the key themes of the controversy showing how it emerged from competing ideas about what role the master narrative of Estonian victimhood should play; it also highlights the ways in which the debate was shaped by Estonia’s...

Hungary’s 'Lex CEU' and the State of the Open Society: Looking Beyond the Story of Democratic Revolutions

Ágnes Gagyi
As part of the special issue on 'Lex CEU', the article discusses the developments in Hungary and the issue of "illiberal backsliding" under Viktor Orbáns government against the backdrop of a broader crisis of liberal democracy around the world. Viewed in such a wider context, local specificities of post-socialist transitions do not seem to provide a full explanation for this phenomenon. Indeed, making sense of the present crisis may demand that we wholly revise the...

The House of European History: In Search of a Common History and its Future

Jakub Jareš
When the German historian and politician, Hans-Gert Pöttering, from the Christian Democratic Union/European People’s Party (EPP) became the President of the European Parliament in 2007, he immediately announced in his inaugural speech that he would like to see a museum of European history in Brussels. After ten years of preparation, the House of European History was finally opened at the beginning of May 2017. The purpose of the museum is to communicate to the public...

A Bastion of Democracy or Half Way Down the Slippery Slope? Liberal Values and Illiberal Tendencies in the Czech Republic

Marie Heřmanová & Štěpán Drahokoupil
As part of the special issue on 'Lex CEU', the present article discusses the public reactions in the Czech Republic (from politicians, the media and academics) to the recent events in Hungary. It shows that these reactions were often closely connected to much broader questions regarding attitudes towards liberal values and the meaning of civil society. Taking a historical perspective, the dominant discourses on civil society are traced back to the early period of Czech...

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