PoSoCoMeS WG | Conflict, Violence and Memory NUBS 1.03
Jul 05, 2023 11:00 - 12:30(Europe/London)
20230705T1100 20230705T1230 Europe/London 3.7. Soviet War Memorials and Monuments in Post-socialist Countries and the War in Ukraine

The panel examines the position and role of the Soviet war memorials and monuments in post-socialist countries (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria) after the collapse of communist regimes and especially since the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main focus is on society's perception of war, expressed in public space through protests, reformulations, and reinterpretations of war-related objects. At the core of these symbolic wars are monuments glorifying the Soviet Union's merits in the Second World War, which generate today's rejectionist attitude due to aggressive Russian politics. This provokes various conflicts (for instance, between city councils and Russian representatives) and adds to the memory struggles regarding the monuments, which now acquire new meanings. Our panel gathers case studies from several post-socialist countries to seek regional similarities and local specificities of this phenomenon. It proposes various theoretical approaches and perspectives, such as investigating the role of graffiti and colour in political discourses, looking at monuments as memory palimpsests, investigating the mechanisms of iconoclasm concerning monuments, and exploring memory and identity politics surrounding them. The common aim is to look at Soviet war memorials as sites sensitive to memory waves despite their initial commemorative role.

Petra ŠvardováSoviet war memorials in colourful transformations in Slovakia and Czech RepublicBesides commemorating an important event or personality, memorials have a powerful communicative capacity. Russia's aggressive policy in international level and invasion of Ukrainian territories caused a massive upheaval of protest since 2014. The colours of the Ukrainian flag appeared o ...

NUBS 1.03 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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The panel examines the position and role of the Soviet war memorials and monuments in post-socialist countries (Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria) after the collapse of communist regimes and especially since the 2014 Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main focus is on society's perception of war, expressed in public space through protests, reformulations, and reinterpretations of war-related objects. At the core of these symbolic wars are monuments glorifying the Soviet Union's merits in the Second World War, which generate today's rejectionist attitude due to aggressive Russian politics. This provokes various conflicts (for instance, between city councils and Russian representatives) and adds to the memory struggles regarding the monuments, which now acquire new meanings. Our panel gathers case studies from several post-socialist countries to seek regional similarities and local specificities of this phenomenon. It proposes various theoretical approaches and perspectives, such as investigating the role of graffiti and colour in political discourses, looking at monuments as memory palimpsests, investigating the mechanisms of iconoclasm concerning monuments, and exploring memory and identity politics surrounding them. The common aim is to look at Soviet war memorials as sites sensitive to memory waves despite their initial commemorative role.



Petra Švardová

Soviet war memorials in colourful transformations in Slovakia and Czech Republic

Besides commemorating an important event or personality, memorials have a powerful communicative capacity. Russia's aggressive policy in international level and invasion of Ukrainian territories caused a massive upheaval of protest since 2014. The colours of the Ukrainian flag appeared on several Soviet war memorials in Europe as a gesture of disagreement with Russian intervention and sympathy with Ukraine. The characteristic of graffiti is primarily in provocation and not its durability. The difference between graffiti and memorials is obvious. While one is erected "permanently" by political power, the other, more ephemeral, emerges from the street. Russia repetitively condemns all interventions on memorials as acts of vandalism and desecrating of the memory of soldiers who perished in the war. From the perspective of protecting of historical and artistic monuments, colourful graffiti may significantly deteriorate them. On the other hand, graffiti represents a new tool of protest and free expression. This paper will seek to analyse the current function of the Soviet war memorial in reference to its role as a communicator, reflected in the form of graffiti during various geopolitical crisis and conflicts.


Anna Topolska

The Monument to the Heroes in Poznań Citadel as a Memory Palimpsest and Focus of Symbolic Wars in the Context of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

This paper discusses the layers of memory and symbolic wars around the Monument to the Heroes constructed at the slope of Citadel in Poznań, Poland, in 1945 to commemorate Soviet soldiers who had lost their lives in the fight for "liberation" of Poland and Poznań in particular. The monument is accompanied by a cemetery of Red Army soldiers, and it borders with several other cemetery complexes and builds on the German partition chapter of Poznań history, at the same time opening a new chapter of Soviet dominance on this territory. Since then, its main element – the obelisk with a red star on the top – has been focusing and reflecting the memory struggles of the region, acquiring new meanings after the collapse of the Soviet system, with a disappearance of some of its elements. Recently the site has been again reinterpreted in the wave of protests and symbolic interventions aimed against the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and have been a topic of controversy on the international level. This paper aims to show how the Monument became a palimpsest of memory and how it now serves as a focal point for public political struggle drawing from its history to address the present.


Kristina Zmejauskaite

Soviet War Monuments and Communities: The New Wave of Iconoclasm in the post-Soviet Baltic States

It has been generally believed that the Soviet war monuments have been removed from public spaces in post-Soviet countries when a number of headlines appeared in the press concerning the reminders of the former regime after the 24th of February 2022. Russia's invasion to Ukraine triggered collective trauma across the region and provoked a new wave of iconoclasm. This paper aims to explore the memory wars in the Baltic States through a comparative lens of the removal of Soviet war monuments. The paper will examine the public debates and various initiatives to remove/demolish war monuments in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania carried out by the different mnemonic actors. Since the case studies from the capital cities are known and have been widely discussed, the paper will focus on the areas outside Tallinn, Riga, and Vilnius. In particular, the research will examine cities important for commemorative practices such as Narva in Estonia, Daugavpils in Latvia, and Klaipeda in Lithuania. Furthermore, to fully understand ongoing debates regarding contested monuments, the paper will examine the responses by different memory groups and communities to the removal of Soviet war monuments.


Claudia Florentina Dobre

`Aliosha, go home!` The destiny of the Soviet army monuments in Romania and Bulgaria before and after the invasion of Ukraine

'Crossroads images', as Régine Robin called them, monuments are often at stake in the processes of appropriation or disavowal of the past/present, while preserving their status as marks of identity for the individual, the group, the city, and the nation. They are concrete images of the relation to the past of the society that builds, commemorates, and sometimes destroys them.

In Romania, after the fall of communism, all Soviet monuments were removed from the city centres and relocated at the periphery. Some of them disappeared. None of these monuments is now considered a national monument; therefore, they are not protected by law, and their fate depends on the local authorities' ideological and/or personal preferences. They have never become a focal point for protests against Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In Bulgaria, the opposite happened. Soviet monuments became the central spot of protests against the war in Ukraine. After the fall of communism, the struggle for power between ex communists and anti communists also gripped the Soviet army monuments, which quickly become the focal point of symbolic fights, violent attacks, creation of human chains for their defence, cleaning campaigns, etc. The debates around the Soviet soldier's monuments even involved the Supreme Court of Bulgaria, which ruled against their demolition in 1998. However, the controversies around them kept on as the Soviet army monuments represent more than merely statues. They encapsulate the desire to control how past and national relations are represented as part of the state spectacle of power.

My presentation deals with the fate of the Soviet Army monuments in Bulgaria and Romania from the fall of communism until present day. It aims at describing and interpreting the struggles around these monuments in a larger context represented by the relations of both countries with the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, and will underline the most important stages of the wars on monuments in both countries to emphasize the role of the past in understanding the present. 

researcher
,
Institute of History, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Slovakia & Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Academy of Sciences
Dr
,
Independent Scholar
PhD Candidate
,
Dublin City University
Researcher
,
N. Iorga Institute of History, Bucharest
 Mischa Gabowitsch
Lise Meitner Fellow
,
RECET, University of Vienna
 Mischa Gabowitsch
Lise Meitner Fellow
,
RECET, University of Vienna
Postdoctoral Researcher
,
University College London; Tallinn University
 Sarah Grandke
PhD candidate
,
University of Regensburg
Lecturer
,
University of Exeter
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