Historical Cultures in Transition: Negotiating Memory, History and Identity in the Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe

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Project organized within the frame of OPUS, contest of the National Center of Science. Conducted in cooperation with the Institute of Political Studies Polish Academy of Science.


The research will focus on transformations that have the historical cultures culture of Poland and Ukraine have been undergoing since 2000. The approach to the historical context of transformation of cultures in Europe adopted in the project is based on the works by three theorists. Firstly, Nikolai Koposov, who pointed out that in the countries of Western Europe cultural memory takes precedence over political memory, while the inverse relation is found in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Secondly, Aleida Assmann, who demonstrated how Western countries made the Holocaust the founding myth of Europe in the process of integration, which contributed to the fact that their Central and Eastern European neighbours demanded that Stalinist crimes be included into the European memory. Thirdly, Jörn Rüsen, who distinguished three dimensions of historical culture: aesthetic, cognitive and political.


The primary objective of the project is to examine the following issues: first, the scope of participation of cultural memory in the historical culture of Poland and Ukraine, that is research on “our own” cultural heritage and its protection, as well as political memory, that is various activities aimed at political integration. Second: how these cultures respond to the challenge of a pan-European memory of the Holocaust and how they relate to Assmann’s project of forming dialogic memory of World War Two. Third and final issue: how participants in politics in these countries use images of the past for gaining public support and legitimising or delegitimising political order. The second main objective of the project is to explore the differences and similarities between historical cultures of Poland and Ukraine, taking into account the fact that their shared past was filled with as many acts of cooperation as conflicts and crimes. Comparison of the structures of these cultures is expected to yield several results, such as establishing the “deep” sources of discord in the contemporary Polish-Ukrainian historical dialogue.


The significance of the project consists in: 1. strengthening the empirical foundations of knowledge about the transformations of memory and identity in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe; 2. developing methodological reflection in the field of collective memory studies; 3. deepening the understanding of mutual perception by contemporary Poles and Ukrainians; 4. formulating comments on the effectiveness of the impact of institutions appointed by the state to shape collective images of the past (mainly institutes of national remembrance); and 5. shedding some light on the “roots” of factors that support or restrict the development of Polish-Ukrainian dialogue about the past.


Over the course of the project four presentations of results and debates will be organised – two in Poland and two in Ukraine. Effects of the project will include a monograph on the politics of memory in Ukraine since 2014, a collection of all reports and analyses from phase A, B and C published in Ukrainian and English, and articles in high-ranking journals presenting the results of individual research.


The head of the project: dr hab. Tomasz Stryjek, prof. ISP PAN.

The project will be conducted within 2017-2020.


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