History as Elephant in the Room: Observations from Serbia’s Memory Lab

Where does a contemporary history of Serbia begin? How is the Yugoslav legacy reflected within it? And does all the talk about memory and forgetting in post-conflict societies really help to answer these questions? With such doubts I left for Serbia this October. For the past six years, I have participated in excursions about memory culture across the post-Yugoslav region. Most of the study trips were organized by “Memory Lab”.

logo310This is a network of individuals interested in the culture of dealing with the past in Western Europe and the Western Balkans. Since our first meeting in Sarajevo in 2010, forty memory activists and analysts have travelled together to explore how the societies in Western Europe and the western Balkans perform their history. We have visited Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, France, Germany and the German-Polish borderland, Kosovo and Macedonia, Belgium; and in 2016, our joint study trip has lead us to Serbia.

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Erinnerungen an den Krieg – Krieg der Erinnerungen: Erste umfassende Studie zur Erinnerung an den Zweiten Weltkrieg in Litauen erschienen

Covers des Buchs "Erinnerungen an den Krieg- Krieg der Erinnerungen", © Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016

Erinnerungen an den Krieg – Krieg der Erinnerungen. Litauen und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Cover: © Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016

Der 9. Mai ist in Litauen umstritten: Die russischsprachigen Litauer feiern das Ende des Zweiten Weltkriegs 1945 als Tag des Sieges. Die Mehrheit der Gesellschaft sieht die Litauer als Opfer zweier Besatzungsmächte, der deutschen und der sowjetischen. Allein dieses Beispiel zeigt, wie unterschiedlich die Erinnerungsdiskurse in der Baltenrepublik sind.Welche Erinnerungsstränge sich in Geschichte und Gegenwart entwickelt haben, und wie diese in Museen, Denkmälern und Gedenkpraktiken ihren Ausdruck finden, hat Ekaterina Makhotina in ihrer soeben erschienen Studie „Erinnerungen an den Krieg – Krieg der Erinnerungen. Litauen und der Zweite Weltkrieg“ erstmals umfassend untersucht. Sie nimmt sich darin einer bemerkenswerten Leerstelle im nationalen Gedächtnis Litauens an. In den letzten Jahren hat dort die Erinnerung an den Gulag die Erinnerung an den Krieg überlagert. Dadurch wird die eigene Verwicklung in den NS-Terror weitgehend ausgeblendet.

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Croatia: Living the Past, Not Confronting It

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Croatia - by Croatian Parliament - ZAKON O GRBU, ZASTAVI I HIMNI RH TE ZASTAVI I LENTI PREDSJEDNIKA RH which based its decision on the design by Miroslav Šutej F.C.A. proposals. MaGa (based on Decision of the Parliament) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Croatia – illustration: Croatian Parliament – ZAKON O GRBU, ZASTAVI I HIMNI RH TE ZASTAVI I LENTI PREDSJEDNIKA RH which based its decision on the design by Miroslav Šutej F.C.A. proposals. MaGa (based on Decision of the Parliament) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like every country and its society, Croatia has a complicated and somewhat disputed 20th century history. As a country achieving independence in 1990s, Croatia was present on the historical and geographical crossroads of various empires and states, like Austro-Hungarian and Turkish Empires. Through a long process of the complete formation of its national identities through culture, art, religion and political struggle, Croatia was a relatively dependent entity for a long time, either in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kingdom of Yugoslavia or socialist Yugoslavia.

When socialist Yugoslavia fell apart, or was torn apart (as some historians claim), falling into civil and international war, Croatia, as well as some other former Yugoslav countries, looked back into its past in order to find its foundations, on which it can historically, ideologically and, most importantly, symbolically lay on. Today, Croatian society faces considerable historical revisionism or even forgery – especially with regard to remembering the crimes at Jasenovac concentration camp.

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Dreaming an Unlimited Dream in a World of Division: A Veterans‘ Utopia?

http://www.wvf-fmac.org/logo_fmac.gif

Logo der World Veterans Federation (WVF)

The decades directly following the end of the Second World War were marked by ideological confrontation and division. But in many parts of the world they were also decades of unprecedented international networking and cooperation. This is reflected in the work of the United Nations (UN), an institution which, founded in 1945, for many interest groups became a screen onto which they could project their hopes for a more promising future for all mankind.

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