Welcome to the Imre Kertész Kolleg’s Cultures of History Forum, where you will find a range of perspectives on and from the cultures of history in East Central and Southeastern Europe. The Forum is concerned with how the countries between Germany and Russia and on the Balkan peninsula, which more than any other European region have been shaped by the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, are coming to terms with their past now, in the twenty-first. Our focus is less on scholarly discourse, than on public debates and the politics of interpreting and negotiating history as well as on the way history is exhibited in museums.
History museums and history exhibitions are spaces where meaning is produced collectively and are thus central to any culture of history. In history exhibitions our congealed imaginations of the past are brought into view or staged.
History and our imagination of the past are by no means static. How historical ‘facts’ are understood is a matter for negotiation and is sometimes subject to intense debate, not just amongst professional historians but amongst the general public. In this section we present public debates and discussions that deal with critical events of the twentieth century. These articles all demonstrate how the ‘long’ twentieth century is being talked about now, in the new millenium, in the countries of Eastern and Southeastern Europe. Readers will not only gain insight into controversial events, but find out who the players are in the debates they spark and who influences the course these quarrels take.
The ways in which history and the past are used in the present are manifold. History is not only debated publicly or displayed and showcased in museums and temporary exhibitions, but historical narratives and experiences are also an integral part of political decision-masking processes and of the political discourse as such. Referring to the past or invoking historical images in order to strengthen political arguments, discredit political opponents or push for certain policies is a common tool in any political discourse.
Apart from documenting and analyzing cultures of history in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe from various angles, the Cultures of History Forum also regularly initiates collaborative, special feature projects that zoom in on specific events or discussions concerning the entire region (and sometimes beyond). By asking experts from the region to write about one and the same issue and how it is being debated in their respective local or national contexts, we intend to open up additional comparative insights into discourses and developments in this part of Europe. Though history and its representations is not necessarily the primary subject of these ‘focus projects’, it nevertheless often informs the ways in which current affairs are being understood and thus form an important backdrop to understanding local discourses.