Wer befreite Auschwitz wirklich?

Publiziert im Petersburger Dialog am 19. Juni 2021.

Teil der gegenwärtigen politischen Entfremdung zwischen Deutschland und Russland ist auch, dass sich der jeweilige Blick auf die Bruchstellen der konflikthaften Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts grundlegend unterscheidet. Wie ein Land auf seine eigene Geschichte blickt, ist wichtig, um sein Selbstverständnis zu verstehen – wie es sich zu der Geschichte anderer Länder verhält, verrät einiges über die Beziehungen zwischen ebendiesen Ländern.

Mit Blick auf die deutsche Debatte ist festzustellen, dass der gesellschaftliche Grundkonsens über den selbstkritischen Blick auf die Geschichte zu schwinden scheint. Geschichtspolitische Aussagen der rechtsextremen Partei Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), welche die NS-Verbrechen relativieren, scheinen lediglich die Spitze des Eisbergs der Tabubrüche darzustellen. Darüber hinaus ist insbesondere in den vergangenen zwei Jahren eine gesteigerte Anzahl an antisemitischen und teilweise antizionistischen Übergriffen zu beklagen, vom Anschlag auf eine Synagoge in Halle im Oktober 2019 hin zur Verbrennung israelischer Flaggen im Mai 2021.

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Understanding the Mental Maps of Europe through the Language of Memory

Published in Ideology Theory Practice, with ‪Rieke Trimçev, Gregor Feindt, and Friedemann Pestel, 10.05.2021.

During the upheaval against Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus after the contested presidential election in August 2020, the idea of ‘Europe’ has often been invoked. These invocations might be surprising, given that Belarusians themselves have shunned explicit references to the EU and that EU flags were absent on the country’s streets. Instead, a rhetorical call to Europe has served to amplify demands for the support of Belarusian society and direct Europe’s attention to a country long-neglected by the international community. Lithuania’s former foreign secretary stated on Twitter: “The 21st century. The heart of Europe – Belarus. A criminal gang a.k.a. ‘Police Department of Fighting Organized Crime’ terrorizing Belarusians who have been peacefully demanding freedom and democracy for already 80 consecutive days. Shame!”

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Russisch-deutsche Geschichtskonkurrenzen: Kriegsende oder Tag des Sieges?

Publiziert im Hauptstadtbrief am 9. Mai 2021.

Vor einem Jahr fielen die Feierlichkeiten zum russischen Tag des Sieges am 9. Mai der Pandemie zum Opfer. Die groß geplante Militärparade in Moskau musste in reduzierter Form auf den 24. Juni verschoben werden, wobei der Tag des Sieges im russischen Festtagskalender ein zentraler Referenzpunkt bleibt. Trotz anhaltend hoher Infektionszahlen hält der Kreml dieses Jahr an einer Militärparade fest, und parallel sind eine Reihe an Gedenkveranstaltungen online geplant.

Im heutigen Russland finden Gegenstimmen zu den offiziellen Geschichtsinterpretationen, insbesondere in Bezug auf den Zweiten Weltkrieg und die Zeit der Sowjetunion, nur schwer Gehör. Orte alternativer Geschichtserzählungen, die beispielsweise die 1980er- und 1990er-Jahre auch als Zeit demokratischer Freiheiten darstellen, wie das Jelzin-Zentrum in Jekaterinburg, werden von den staatsnahen Medien heftig kritisiert. Der Zusammenbruch der Sowjetunion, der in den „wilden 1990ern“ mündete, wird heute als warnendes Gegenstück zum heroischen Sieg im Krieg am 9. Mai 1945 gesehen.

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Victory Day at 75+1

Spotlight, 5 May 2021

A woman holding a portrait of her relative who fought in World War II during the Immortal Regiment in Sochi, Russia. IMAGO / ITAR-TASS

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic cut short Russia’s vast ambitions for celebrating the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II in 2020. The large-scale parade scheduled for 9 May, which some Western leaders were due to attend, was postponed to the date of the first victory parade in 1945, 24 June, but with no official Western presence. The pandemic also obliged the popular Immortal Regiment marches to move online.

Victory Day remains the most important element of twentieth-century history for Russians. But this year’s festivities coincide with increasing pressure on the Kremlin. Internationally, Russia is confronting a more outspoken and assertive US president Joe Biden. Domestically, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s approval ratings are again at a historic low of just over 60 per cent, while the resolute crackdown on mobilisation in support of the imprisoned opposition figure Alexei Navalny illustrates the regime’s anxiety over societal discontent.

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CfP: Does anyone listen? Historical Memory and What Citizens Make of It

2–3 September 2021

Félix Krawatzek & Sarah Gensburger

Centre for East European and International Studies | Mohrenstr. 60 | 10117 Berlin

Historical references have become part and parcel of modern political and public discourse. Debates about whether colonial statues in the UK or the US should be taken down; the controversial recognition of French torture in former African colonies; the belittling of the Holocaust by Germany’s AfD; the restrictions on freedom of expression when it comes to the violence that occurred in today’s Poland during World War II; and the use of a whitewashed and glorified history for nation-building in Russia are just some of the most staggering examples. In response to these discursive shifts, the study of the historical narratives produced by political and social elites has received ample attention over the last decades, leading to the emergence of a fruitful interdisciplinary research field. With a view to advancing this field of enquiry, our workshop will look more specifically at the reach of the various politics of history that can be encountered worldwide. Do citizens actually care about these memory controversies?

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How United Is Belarus Against the Regime?

Spotlight, 17 February 2021

Belarus has undergone a pivotal year. Under the world’s gaze, mass protests swept the country after the presidential election in August 2020. Worldwide empathy with Belarus became apparent in numerous events and statements to mark a Day of Solidarity with the country on 7 February 2021. In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit Belarus severely, and the country’s structural economic weaknesses are contributing to declining living standards. Trust in political institutions is low, and the population has no confidence that the regime can address its concerns.

To find out what Belarusians think after months of protests, the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) conducted an online survey in December 2020 among 2,000 Belarusians aged 16–64 living in towns and cities with more than 20,000 inhabitants. Quota sampling reflected the underlying population structure in terms of gender, age, and place of residence.

Consensus on electoral fraud

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Belarus Protests: Why People Have Been Taking to the Streets – New Data

The Conversation, 4 February 2021

Since the presidential elections in Belarus in August 2020, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the street to oppose Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. According to official figures, the longstanding president won the election with a vote share of 80%. But widespread reports of electoral fraud and large-scale mobilisation against the result speak to a different reality.

The state responded to these protests with extreme violence, but this seemed to bring more people out on to the streets. Six months later the protests continue – although in response to the repression, protesters have adjusted their strategies and now focus on organising smaller local marches and neighbourhood actions.

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Young Worlds? Political and Social Views of Young People in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus

Just published with the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung

Young people’s social outlook and political involvement in and beyond post-Soviet countries are diverse and sometimes contradictory. Some enjoy the opportunities of a globalised and borderless world, while others stay put, nostalgic for a past they have never experienced. Young faces are emblematic of the protest movements we witness in countries such as Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. At the same time young people are mobilised in official movements aimed at regime stabilisation. This report sets out to assess our knowledge of young people’s political and social attitudes by drawing on data obtained by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) from young people in Ukraine from July to August 2017 and in Russia from May to June 2019 as well as on several surveys undertaken by the Centre for East European and International Studies (ZOiS) and other institutions.

You can access the study here.

Young Belarusians Are Turning Away from Russia and Looking Towards Europe

The Conversation, 3 September 2020

Man's back painted with old Belarusian red and white flag with knight in centre.

Since Belarus’s disputed presidential elections on August 9, hundreds of thousands of Belarusians have taken to the streets. Their protests have been met with extreme police brutality.

According to the country’s electoral commission, Alexander Lukashenko won 80% of the vote share, and his principal opponent, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, received 10%.

While some older people, particularly women, have taken to the streets, young people have been at the forefront of the protests. In early September, teenagers were even filmed being removed from school by security services amid student protests.

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