PoSoCoMeS WG | Memoryscapes (digital, locational, imagined) TFDC 1.17
Jul 06, 2023 13:30 - 15:00(Europe/London)
20230706T1330 20230706T1500 Europe/London 7.11. From local contexts to global conflicts: Memory in post-Soviet space and beyond

This panel examines commemorative practices across post-Soviet space and Eastern Europe, taking an interdisciplinary look at the medium- and long-term effects of the heritage of the Soviet Union both in the Russian core and the periphery states of Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. It asks how Soviet modernization and Russification continue to impact remembrance, and analyses the hybrid and decolonial narratives that have emerged in more recent times. Furthermore, the papers explore the patterns of mnemonics' reproduction of old hierarchies in the discourses supposedly aimed at overcoming imperial and colonial patterns of perception and self-perception. Presenters will explore case studies in memory politics, culture and social movements, across different post-Soviet states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan) and Poland.

Nelly Bekus

Challenges of Mnemonic Transnationalism: Political Mobilisation of the Concept of Genocide in Russia and Belarus.

In 2020, Russia's Investigative Committee launched a probe into the "genocide of the residents of the Novgorod and Pskov regions" committed by Nazis in 1942–43 during the occupation; in Belarus, the Law on Genocide of Belarusian people was adopted in 2021 to promote the commemoration of the Belarusian victims of World War II and to introduce criminal liability for denial of this genocide. The timing of these legal undertakings suggests their reactive character and their aim to align the memory politics with the dominant trends of victim-centred remembering.The paper will discuss the role played by memory in reshaping the international mnemonic order after 1989 and examine the inter-relationality of national and transnational memory frameworks. Memories of political repression in the former c ...

TFDC 1.17 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel examines commemorative practices across post-Soviet space and Eastern Europe, taking an interdisciplinary look at the medium- and long-term effects of the heritage of the Soviet Union both in the Russian core and the periphery states of Eastern Europe, the South Caucasus and Central Asia. It asks how Soviet modernization and Russification continue to impact remembrance, and analyses the hybrid and decolonial narratives that have emerged in more recent times. Furthermore, the papers explore the patterns of mnemonics' reproduction of old hierarchies in the discourses supposedly aimed at overcoming imperial and colonial patterns of perception and self-perception. Presenters will explore case studies in memory politics, culture and social movements, across different post-Soviet states (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan) and Poland.



Nelly Bekus

Challenges of Mnemonic Transnationalism: Political Mobilisation of the Concept of Genocide in Russia and Belarus.

In 2020, Russia's Investigative Committee launched a probe into the "genocide of the residents of the Novgorod and Pskov regions" committed by Nazis in 1942–43 during the occupation; in Belarus, the Law on Genocide of Belarusian people was adopted in 2021 to promote the commemoration of the Belarusian victims of World War II and to introduce criminal liability for denial of this genocide. The timing of these legal undertakings suggests their reactive character and their aim to align the memory politics with the dominant trends of victim-centred remembering.
The paper will discuss the role played by memory in reshaping the international mnemonic order after 1989 and examine the inter-relationality of national and transnational memory frameworks. Memories of political repression in the former communist states have morphed into stories of national suffering and become crucial for the construction of anti-communist national identities after 1989. In this way, the instrumentalization of the past by political actors has become normalized while downplaying the complexity of the experiences, moral implications, and emotional grievances of the past. This development produced an important effect for the field of memory studies by opening the way for revising the mnemonic hierarchies that had underpinned the international order since the end of World War II. Eastern European states undertook proactive steps to revise the concept of genocide, which was legally codified to reflect the singularity of the Holocaust to fit the crimes committed under the communist rule. Challenging the mnemonic regime of existing international order transformed the way in which the 'remembrance mandate' operates in the world. Victim-centred memory culture began to expand, thus becoming an emblematic reflection of cumulative "rights culture" with victimhood narratives replacing triumphalist stories of victors or resisters.
Recent steps undertaken in Russia and Belarus towards mobilization of the discourse of 'genocide' to redress the history of Nazi crimes in occupied territories against the Soviet people provide examples of ideological expansion of the paradigm of moral remembrance and its conflation with political agenda.


Simon Lewis

Provincializing Russia(n): Polyphonic Memory in Recent Belarusian Russophone Prose

In contemporary East-Central Europe, language and memory are lethal political instruments. In the rhetoric of the Putin regime, Russia's political and military aggression toward Ukraine has been justified in terms of "protection of Russian-speakers" and the "denazification" of Ukraine, and presented to the Russian population as a continuation of Soviet-era triumph. Russia's support of Belarus's dictatorship dovetails with the Lukashenka regime's ongoing suppression of independent, Belarusian-language culture, as well as its appeal to collective memory as a social glue that legitimizes the violent suppression of civil protest. 2022 was officially declared a "Year of Historical Memory" in Belarus, glorifying above all the myth of the Second World War whilst also suppressing independent thought through new laws on the denial of the "genocide of the Belarusian people". Meanwhile, more than 1300 political prisoners are behind bars (as of October 2022), including one of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Ales' Bialiatski.
This paper examines how recent Russophone Belarusian literature offers a counternarrative to the official mythmaking of Lukashenka and Putin, decoupling the Russian language from authoritarian memory. It shows, on the one hand, how authors such as Sasha Filipenko and Viktor Martinovich have created an alternative poetics of Russian that hybridizes and provincializes the language itself, articulating a decentralized, non-Russian Russian language in which to narrate the past. On the other hand, this prose resists the efforts of the dictatorships to forge an inalienable bond between the Russian language and genocidal memory ideology, by uncovering decolonial memories of the Belarusian periphery. As such, this paper argues that Russian-language literature in Belarus (as well as other post-Soviet states) is an integral part of the national cultural landscape – although most scholarly treatments as well as literary prizes tend to favour the Belarusian-language output of local authors. It shows that Belarusian memory, like society itself, is multilingual.


Kulshat Medeuova, Zhomart Medeuov

Memory and infrastructure violence in Kazakhstan

The paper will discuss the role played by the legacy of multiple Soviet modernisation projects and their extensive infrastructure in shaping the narratives of the past in Kazakhstan after 1991. The nuclear testing site Semipalatinsk and the cosmodrome Baikonur will be analysed in this context as "sites of memory" that convey a message about past infrastructural violence. The paper will demonstrate how conflicting interpretations of the past experiences of the Kazakhstani people reverberate in the contemporary cultural and political landscape of Kazakhstan. The main research question in the paper focuses on the differences in commemorative practices associated with the nuclear and the outer space programme. Approaching the question on memory through the lens of infrastructure allows to enhance our understanding of the complex relationship between society and materiality. It helps to answer how the "legacy of modernisation" is present in everyday social life, and how it has been defined in institutional memory, represented in public spaces, and what kind of new memory practices have been developed to challenge already established narratives.


Bartłomiej Krzysztan 

Political Geography of Imagined Space: The Caucasus in Polish Vision of the Post soviet Peripheral Region of Memory

The collapse of the USSR, understood as the decline of hegemonic political memory and politics of history, has resulted in the need to redefine perceptions within a post-imperial and post-colonial space. The deeply hierarchical political structure that was the Eastern Bloc, which was inscribed with an explicit ideology, relied on significantly different narratives in the discourse of memory, despite similar mechanisms. Consequently, in this context, the universalizing categories of post-Soviet and post-communist prove manifestly insufficient as cognitively useful. At the theoretical level, in analysis of the relations of the memory discourses of the different post-Soviet/Postcommunist regions, the use of world-systems theory and the tools of post-colonial theories, especially the critique of orientalism, seems to be an interesting approach. The paper will discuss the shape and form of Polish narratives on the Caucasus created and reproduced after 1991. Thus, the basis of the gaze proposed in the text, is the analysis of the way in which the imperial and colonial periphery (the Caucasus) is interpreted by the world's semi-periphery, or space of ambiguous structure within the post-colonial hierarchy (Poland). The paper will demonstrate that the post-1991 processing and reconstruction in memory narratives of earlier ways of describing the Caucasus, plays a significant role for the shape of Poland's current policy towards the Caucasus and the public perception of the space in question. The unconscious reproduction of imperial and colonial patterns of perception, in turn, attests to how significant the challenge for Polish discourse is to critically reject exclusionary and oppressive narratives.

Lecturer
,
University of Exeter
Associate Professor in the Cultural History of Eastern and East-Central Europe
,
University of Bremen
Professor of Philosophy
,
L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University
Head of the Public Policy Analysis Sector
,
Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Assistant Professor
,
Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences
Doctoral researcher
,
University of Helsinki
 Katarzyna Anzorge
Phd Candidate
,
University of Lodz
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