Columbia University in the City of New York

Harriman Institute

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Memory Politics and Illiberal Turns in Central and Eastern Europe
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This event is online only.

Over the past few decades, Central and Eastern Europe has become a battleground for different and frequently conflicting interpretations of the past. Historical events of the 20th century, including WWII, the Holocaust, and the Nazi and Communist regimes, are remembered very differently across the region, sometimes resulting in memory wars within and between states. What is more, memory politics has been often used for justifying illiberal turns. The webinar will explore the link between the politics of memory and democratic backsliding in different Central and Eastern European countries. Professor Nikolay Koposov will focus on Putin’s Russia as a classic case of right-wing memory politics. Systematically pursued by the Kremlin for more than twenty years, this politics has significantly contributed to laying the groundwork for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its confrontation with the West. Professor Andrea Pető will discuss the change in memory politics that have been taking place in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. Dr. Anna Wójcik will explore the memory laws of the rule of law backsliding in Poland. Moderated by Carna Pistan. This event is part of the Collective Memory and Democratic Backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe series.


Nikolay Koposov is a Distinguished Professor of the Practice at Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, USA). Previously, he worked at Johns Hopkins University, Emory University, Helsinki University, and École des hautes études en sciences sociales. In 1998-2009, he was Founding Dean of Smolny College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a joint venture of Saint-Petersburg State University and Bard College (New York). His academic interests include modern European intellectual history, post-Soviet Russia, historiography, historical memory, and comparative politics of the past. He has authored six books including Memory Laws, Memory Wars: The Politics of the Past in Europe and Russia (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and De l’imagination historique (Éditions de l’ÉHÉSS, 2009). He has also edited several collective volumes and translations.

Andrea Pető is a historian and a Professor at the Department of Gender Studies at Central European University, Vienna, Austria, a Research Affiliate of the CEU Democracy Institute, Budapest, and a Doctor of Science of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Her works on gender, politics, Holocaust, and war have been translated into 23 languages. In 2018 she was awarded the 2018 All European Academies (ALLEA) Madame de Staël Prize for Cultural Values and the 2022 University of Oslo Human Rights Award. She is Doctor Honoris Causa of Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden. Recent publications include: The Women of the Arrow Cross Party. Invisible Hungarian Perpetrators in the Second World War. Palgrave, Macmillan, 2020. And Forgotten Massacre: Budapest 1944.DeGruyter, 2021. She writes op-ed pieces for many international and national media about academic freedom and illiberal higher education.

Anna Wójcik is an assistant professor at the Institute of Legal Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences and a postdoctoral researcher in the MEMOCRACY The Challenge of Populist Memory Politics for Europe: Towards Effective Responses to Militant Legislation on the Past project, funded by Volkswagen Stiftung. Her dissertation discussed restrictions to the rights and freedoms of individuals in the context of historical policy from the international human rights law perspective. Her PhD research was supported by the “Memory Laws in European and Comparative Perspective MELA” project, funded by the Humanities in the European Research Area. Recently, Anna was Re:Constitution fellow at the Democracy Institute of the Central European University and Hungarian Helsinki Committee (2022) and Rethink.CEE fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the United States. She works on the rule of law and memory laws.


Event Video