Slash symbol.

The concepts and terms used in work with the past and collective memory. We create the glossary together with experts in memory studies, history, philosophy, art history, international law and other disciplines

What is it and what is it for?

Glossary is a basic vocabulary which can help people without a special academic or professional background to navigate through the dominant problems and research trends in memory research. This is important because the past is often used to justify political decisions, and, regrettably, also as an instrument of manipulation. Understanding the terms used in the public discourse makes us stronger as a society.

In order to effectively work together on the difficult problems of the past, representatives of different disciplines need to have a means to check whether they understand one or another term correctly. Research of memory – is a dynamic interdisciplinary field in which specialists from different disciplines may move in their own paths. If we lack a common basic vocabulary, we are doomed to endlessly clarify concepts or argue while talking about one and the same thing. 

Who can use it?

Specialists in different fields, who deal with collective memory in their own work.
Representatives of the state, who need to clearly formulate their messages on commemorative dates.
Any person that does not want to become a hostage of political manipulations. 

Who creates the glossary? 

We invite experts in memory studies, history, anthropology, law, art history, political science and other disciplines to draft individual entries. Author of each text appears at the end of the entry, and a full list of authors is displayed below. 

How to work with the glossary?

If a term consists of several works (i.e. collective memory, working through the past etc) and you cannot find it according to the first letter of one first work, try looking for the term based on the first letter of other words. We also provide a Ukrainian equivalent of each term, and depending on the need – the equivalents in the original languages of the term. 

We started the glossary in 2020. Ever since, we continuously work to update and expand it. 

In the English language version of the glossary we provide a small selection of translated entries that shed light on how Ukrainian scholars and practitioners understand and apply these terms. To explore the glossary in full – go to the Ukrainian version.


Polina Baitsym

Historian and curator specialising in the soviet art history, and socialist realism in Ukrainian visual arts, a PhD candidate in the Comparative history programme of the Central European University (Budapest-Vienna), co-curator of the book “Art for Architecture. Ukraine. Soviet Modernist Mosaics from 1960 to 1990”



PhD, professor at the philosophy department at the Odesa Mechnikov National University, member of the Memory Studies Association, Post-Socialist and Comparative Memory Studies Association (PoSoCoMeS), curator of the member of the author of scientific and educational publications curator of the memory culture platform Past / Future / Art



Art critic, editor of the Ist Publishing publishing house, curator and lecturer in humanities in the Kharkiv School of Architecture. Writes about contemporary art and comics. Editor and author of the book “Comics at the Contemporary Art Museum” (ukr. «Комікс у музеї сучасного мистецтва», co-curator of the 2nd bienal of young art (Kharkiv 2019, together with Daryna Skrynnyk_Myska and Anastasiia Evseeva)



Author. Writer, poet, researcher of speculative fiction. Member of the Ukrainian PEN centre, author of academic and educational publications



A cultural scientist, project and communications manager, director of the Memorial museum of totalitarian regimes “Territory of Terror”. Researchers the Public Relations, cultural and museum management in Ukraine, in particular its regions. Co-curator of the experimental exhibition about the ATO in the Regional Luhansk local history museum in Starobilsk



Historian, PhD in history, professor, head of the Modern History department at the Institute of History of Ukraine of NASU, alumni of the Fulbright-Kennan Institute Research Scholarship, author of books influential of the post-soviet thought, including “Theories of Nations and Nationalism” (ukr. «Теорії нації та націоналізму»), “Past continuous: the politics of history in Ukraine and neighbouring countries in 1980s – 2000s” (ukr. «Past continuous: історична політика 1980-х — 2000-х. Україна та сусіди») and others


Vice-president of the Ukrainian Association of International Law, leading researcher at the State scientific institution “Institute of Information, Security and Law of the National Academy of Legal Sciences of Ukraine”, PhD in Law, docent



Ambassador-at-large of the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, docent in the department of International Law at the Institute of International Affairs at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, PhD in History



PhD in history, Dean of the Graduate Department of Social Sciences and Humanities of Kyiv School of Economics



Historian, docent of the Human History department at the Odesa Mechnikov National University


Translator and editor of the English language version of the glossary. Anthropologist by education and an international development professional, works with topics of memory and history in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries



PhD in Philosophy, lecturer in history. Author of the book “The Philosophy of the Sacred” (Uk. «Філософія сакрального»)


Historian, lecturer of history of ideas in the Södertörns University, Sweden. Reseaches the history of Eastern Europe, politics of memory, intellectual history. Author of “Reordering of Meaningful Worlds: Memory of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army in Post-Soviet Ukraine” (Acta, 2014)

Alternate History, Ucronie, Uchronia

Ukr. Альтернативна історія 

A specific kind of an imaginary experiment. It presumes the creation of an alternative reality resulting from a hypothetical elimination or introduction of factors influencing the reality (a bifurcation point). In its broadest sense, alternative history rejects the assumption that “there is no subjunctive in history”. Works written in this genre try to respond to the question: “what would have happened if…?” Alternative history genre is used not only for essays, novels, novellas or poems, but also films, TV series and computer games. 

The Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) (59 BC to 17 AD) is considered to be the founder of alternate history. In his work “Ab urbe condita” (“From the Founding of the City”, book IX) noting that in spite of his reluctance to deviate from historical facts, he could not refrain himself from thinking about what would have happened if Alexander the Great had lived longer and went to war with Rome. Livy writes that most likely Rome would have won the war. 

Nevertheless, the tradition for alternate history as a separate branch of literature was laid only two thousand years later by the French writer Louis-Napoléon Geoffroy-Château who in 1836 published a book “Histoire de la monarchie universelle. Napoleon et la conquette du monde” (1812–1832) (“Napoleon and the Conquest of the World”). Here alternate history of the Napoleonic empire begins with a victorious campaign against Russia in 1812. After the defeat and capitulation of the Russian army – a global empire ruled by Napoleon was created. It is notable that the first heroes of alternate history works are grand military commanders: Alexander the Great and Napoleon Bonaparte, which indicates that alternate history puts an emphasis on the role of individuals in historical processes. 

The French philosopher Charles Renouvier proposed an even more radical version of alternate history in his book “Uchronie: L’Utopie Dans L’Histoire” (1876) (“Uchronia: Utopia in History”). It is an alternative history of Europe that starts in the times of the Roman emperor Nerva. In the book, due to the enlightened and humane politics of the Antonine dynasty Rome managed to resist the spread of Christianity which remained a marginal religion of the “barbarians”. The term “Uchronia” is used to this day in French and sometimes in English to refer to alternate history. 

In the 20th century alternate history was a popular field for imaginary experiments. In 1907 the American journalist J. Chamberlain published a book of essays “Ifs of History. How the World Might Have Changed If Things Had Gone Slightly Differently.” In 1926 the British historian Sir Charles Petrie published “If: A Jacobite Fantasy”, and in 1931 another British historian Sir J. C. Squire edited a collection of essays by leading British historians “If It Had Happened Otherwise”. Interestingly, one of the essays in the anthology was a text by Winston Churchill “If Lee Had not Won the Battle of Gettysburg”, which describes an alternate reality in which the South had won the American civil war. In the essay a historian living in this reality discusses the possibility of a Northern victory (a so-called recursive version of alternate history). 

In 1969 the British historian Arnold Toynbee wrote an essay “If Alexander the Great had Lived on” in which he returned to the thought experiment of Livy, painting a version of alternate history where Alexander the Great made all his ambitious plans come true by conquering the Qin Empire. The essay is written from the perspective of a narrator living in the times of Alexander the XXXVI. It is important that alternate history caught the interest of both fiction and non-fiction writers (who at times were the same people). As a result a subgenre of speculative fiction gradually emerged. To a large extent this subgenre focuses on the difficult periods of modern history.

For the Western world the Nazi ascent to power and spread of fascism as the dominant ideology in a range of European countries was such a difficult period. Already in 1937 the British feminist writer Katharine Burdekin published her novel “Swastika Night” where the action takes place 700 years after the Nazis came to power. Germany and Japan had won the “Twenty year war” and Japan gained control of North and South Americas, Australia and Asia; the Reich had extended into all of Europe and part of the former Soviet Union, Hitler is worshipped as a blond, blue-eyed god and women are pariahs designated exclusively for reproduction. This novel, strictly speaking, is not an example of alternate history as it was written before the war and did not include a bifurcation between the actual and imagined histories necessary for alternate history, rather it is a dystopia. However, since its publication the topic of victory of the Axis Powers against the Allies has become key in the English language literature. In the short novel “The Sound of His Horn” (1952), by the British diplomat John William Wall (published under the pseudonym Saraban) action takes place one hundred years after the Hitler’s victory. In the novel women dressed in bird feathers are depicted as victims in a sacral hunt by high ranking fascist officials. The most famous book of this kind is “The Man in the High Castle” – a novel by Philip K. Dick, where the bifurcation happens at the assassination of Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. This results in a radical change of the political map of the world. Germany and Japan occupy the West and East coasts of the US. A recursive version of alternate history is also used in this novel – one of the characters is writing a history where the Axis powers had lost the war. 

This topic has stayed with various authors until the late 20th century. In 1992 the Englishman Robert Harris published a novel “Fatherland” which quickly became a bestseller. In the novel the Reich achieves the victory in the Eastern front, Britain capitulates and Hitler is preparing to celebrate his 75th birthday by signing a peace treaty with the US (Hitler’s ageing and a related softening of the totalitarian regime is a common theme in alternate history novels). In 1996 the English intellectual Stephen Fry published “Making History”, where histories split because Hitler is not born. As a result, a more effective Nazi leader comes to power and Germany wages war with much greater success leading to militarization and radicalization in the US. In 2004 an American intellectual Phillip Roth published “The Plot Against America” – where in 1940 a pro-Nazi pilot Charles Lindbergh wins the US presidential elections against F. Roosevelt. After the elections the US starts to rapidly develop into an antisemitic isolationist state. Many novels of this kind try to convey the message of how easily democratic societies can come to accept fascism. 

The novels discussed above were reviewed and debated, however a systematic study of alternate history as a separate genre in literature developed relatively late in the 2000s. One of the first to explore this topic was K. Hellekson in her book “The Alternate History: Refiguring Historical Time” (2001). She not only described the pre-history of the genre, but also analysed several famous novels of this type and reconstructed the logic upon which alternate history models were built. Hellekson showed that many novels focus on the causal relationships in social processes. 

Experiments attempting to replay the traumatic events of the 20th century also exist in other forms of art. The most prominent recent example is Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), where Hitler is killed in a terrorist attack by the French-Jewish resistance. In another film by Tarantino “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” (2019) – due to a fortunate flow of events the actress Sharon Tate – wife of Roman Polanski – survives an attack by the Charles Manson gang (she was killed in real life). The director himself explains his films in connection with the kabbalistic notion of “tikkun olam”, meaning “repairing the world”. 

In recent years, another topic has become prominent in the alternate history genre – the rehabilitation of previously repressed minorities. The examples include the Netflix TV-series “Bridgerton” (2020-2021) – where part of the British aristocrats of the early 19th century are played by dark-skinned actors. The TV series plays out in an alternative reality of a racially equal 19th century London, where people of colour are not only integrated into the society, but also hold aristocratic titles. 

Alternate history in USSR and Russia. Marxist-Leninist theory assumed that historical processes are predetermined, hence it is unsurprising that, firstly, there were few experiments with alternate history in the USSR and secondly, that the most famous example was first published in the West. It is the novel “The Island of Crimea” by Vasily Aksyonov published in 1981 by Ardis Publishing in the US. In the novel the author introduced a version of Russia divided into North and South in a model akin to North and South Korea. Crimea, which remained a stronghold of the whites after the Russian revolution – has become a flourishing western-like democracy. 

In post-soviet Russia alternate history literature is associated with the idea of a “successful Russian project”. The most prominent piece of literature is “Gravilyot Tsesarevitch” (1992) (ru. “Гравилёт “Цесаревич”) by Vyacheslav Rybakov and the project “Eurasian Symphony” (2003-2005) (ru. «Евразийская симфония») by Holm van Zaichik (a pseudonym of Vyacheslav Rybakov and Igor Alimov). One of the most recent examples of alternate history is the TV series “Fandorin. Azazel” (ru. “Фандорін. Азазель”) directed by Nurbek Egen where action takes place in the Russian empire of 2023. 

Alternate history in Ukraine. Alternate history is a relatively new genre that developed at the turn of the century. In the Ukrainian cultural discourse an alternative term is used to refer to alternate history. “Yakbytolohiia” (ukr. якбитологія) (can be roughly translated as “what-if-ology”) was introduced by Dmytro Shurkhalo – the author of the first popular academic book on the topic “Ukrainian Yakbytolohiia. Essays on Alternative History” (ukr. Українська Якбитологія. Нариси альтернативної історії) (first edition – 2004, reprinted in 2017). According to the author, the book “attempts to look at the history of Ukraine in light of years of coincidences.” Mykhailo Gaukhman in a way continued developing this theme in his work “Where do Kozaks come from? Yakbytolohiia of one Myth” (2016). It is noteworthy that almost all Ukrainian imagined alternative history models aim to strengthen national identity, or at least make the reader experience it more vividly. 

Ukrainian fiction in this genre only confirms this statement. “Parade in Moscow” (1997) (ukr. Дефіляда в Москві) by the Ukrainian “father” of alternate history Vasyl Kozhelianko characteristically is also based on an alternative version of the Second World War. In the novel “Rivne/Rovno (Wall)” (ukr.  “Рівне/Ровно (Стіна)”) by Oleksandr Irvanets – the home city of the author – Rivne is divided by a wall, similarly to East and West Berlin. His other novel “Kharkiv 1938” (2017) describes a reality where the Ukrainian People’s Republic survived and the lives of Ukrainian writers took a very different – a much more successful – course than it had in fact taken in the USSR. Another example of Ukrainian alternate history fiction is the steampunk novel “Don’t Listen. Don’t Speak. Don’t Look: novel” (2017) (Ukr. “Нечуй. Немов. Небач: кінороман”) by Petro Yatsenko where the main characters are important 19th century Ukrainian writers and cultural figures Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky and Panteleimon Kulish. (For more information, see text by Anatoliy and Kateryna Pityk “Everything could have been different: Alternative history of Ukraine in five books”). 

It is important to note a less ideologically loaded yet no less characteristic steampunk novel by Ihor Silivra “Zeppelin to Kyiv” (2013) (“Цепелін до Києва”). The novel, according to the abstract, depicts “a world where electricity is seen as charlatanism and pseudoscience, where Kyiv has a monorail instead of a metro, the sky is full of giant zeppelins, and calculations are performed by mechanical calculators”. Another similar example is “Lazarus” (2018) (ukr. “Лазарус”) by Svitlana Taratorina, set in an alternative Kyiv of 19th century where creatures from Ukrainian folklore live side by side with people. 

Examples of alternate history exist in other Ukrainian media. One should at least mention the ukrainian action-adventure feature film by Roman Perfilyev “Once upon a Time in Ukraine” (alternatively “Inglorious Serfs” ukr. «Безславні кріпаки») the film uses the slogan “Katana, Pistol and iron moustache”. The film’s title is a direct reference to Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds”. In the film the young Taras Shevchenko meets a fugitive half-ukrainian samurai Akaio and together they set off on an adventurous path in the spirit of spaghetti westerns. Another example is a steampunk media project “The Will” (ukr. Воля). It consists of comics and a board game that integrate elements of steampunk and dieselpunk. (In the alternative universe of “The Will” the First World War did not end in 1918 and battles still rage across the globe, in spite all of this Ukrainian state manages to develop – all thanks to technological progress, military victories and industrial development. The Bolsheviks are not sleeping, they have their own plans for Ukraine – and deserve a strong response. For more information see text by Mykyta Kazymyrovych.) (Mariia Halina)

Collective Memory

Ukr.  Колективна пам’ять
Fr. La mémoire Collective

Knowledge about the past, which is supported/ continuously reconstructed by a given community and influences the formation of identity of that community as well as identities of its individual members. 

The concept of collective memory was formulated by a French sociologist Maurice Halbwachs in the mid-1920s. Halbwachs articulated the idea that individual memories are launched from and shaped by their sociocultural contexts, that is by the social frameworks of memory (Les cadres sociaux). Collective memory results from communication and social interaction. 

Following Halbwachs, any kind of memory is both individual and collective at the same time – memory of any single person is located in the socially shared knowledge framework. We share with other people a certain knowledge about the time that we live in. Hence, collective memory is the knowledge about the past which we shared with others. 

The philosopher Avishai Margalit distinguishes between “common” memory and memory that is “shared” with others. Common memory – is the memory held by witnesses of the same event, while shared memory requires communication. 

Some researchers prefer to speak about the process of collective remembering, rather than collective memory: socially shared processes of remembering perform social functions and have social consequences. 

Barbara Szacka, Paul Connerton, Jeffrey Olick distinguish between collective and social memory. 

Sometimes researchers prefer to use the concepts of “social memory”, “historical memory” or others referring to same or similar phenomena. That is why the texts dealing with problems of collective memory sometimes become more complicated due to the preferences of a specific scholar. 

The concept of collective memory from the very start was criticised by those who preferred to see memory exclusively as a mental process, because groups do not have consciousness (a psyche). Halbwachs agreed with this, yet emphasised that language as a network of communicative forms always belongs to a group and is the means to articulate memory. 

Jan Assmann – a historian of religion and culture, one of the authors of the collective memory concept, specified that an individual raised completely on his or her own would have no memory at all. Memory arises in a person only through the process of socialisation. Even though only separate individuals “possess” memory, the memory itself is shaped by the group. Groups of people do not “possess” memory, but they condition the memories of their members. 

A rather complex nod of meanings is formed around Halbwachs’s comparison of memory and history. History focuses on critical thinking and analysis, while memory – at creation of emotional belonging. 

According to the French researcher Pierre Nora, memory is always carried by living social groups and in this sense it constantly evolves. Memory is open to the dialectics of remembering and amnesia. In this context Aleida Assmann makes an important statement that collective memory is a dynamic environment for working through individual experiences and for building social identities. Regarding the dynamism of collective memory, it’s important to note the reflection by Nora about the deformation of collective memory and its openness to manipulation – which are invisible to its carriers. 

Regarding the critique of collective memory by contrasting it to history, the German scholar Astrid Erll notes that the critics usually disregard an important aspect: while researching collective memory scholars focus not on what is being remembered, how on how it happens. In this way the memory about the First World War can be seen as memory of a mythical event (“War as an apocalypse”), as part of political history (war as the beginning of the catastrophes of the 20th century), as part of national history (“war that my grandad fought in”) or as something else. All of the above are different ways to refer back to the past. Hence Astrid Erll claims that the contrast between history and memory is artificial – because history is only one of many possible modes of referring to the past. 

According to the sociologist Barbara Szacka, the collection of facts that enter the collective memory space is significantly smaller than that analysed by professional historians. There are three main ways these facts are collected: popular historical research, state channels for distribution of knowledge about history (education, public holidays, etc) and personal social interaction, which create certain mechanisms to resist the narratives imposed by authorities. Following Szacka, the transformation of knowledge about the past into collective memory happens through Omission (silencing of unpleasant facts), Falsification, Exaggeration and Embellishment, Manipulating connections, Accusation of enemies, Shifting the blame to circumstances, and Construction of context. 

Jan Assmann differentiates between two kinds of collective memory – communicative and cultural. Aleida Assmann specifies this classification and differentiates individual, family, national and cultural memories. (Oksana Dovgopolova)


Ukr. Колонія

The original meaning of the word colonia – is the settlement of Roman citizens outside the city of Rome. Residents of these colonies retained the full set of their rights as Roman citizens and served as a direct bulwark of Roman power among the subjugated population of the province. 

Roman authors used the same word to describe settlements of various nations on foreign terrains: Hellenic apoikias (Greek for colonies) in the period of the Greek colonisation (Cicero, De re publica, book 2), Phynician settlements and others. These settlements were largely independent polises that only nominally maintained good ties with their metropoles.

At the same time, the original meaning of ‘colonia’ that corresponded to the spread of the colonate (tenant farmer class) continued to exist. In this sense, ‘colonia’ described the plot of land worked by a particular colonus (tenant farmer) and the taxes to be paid from this plot. This meaning of the word “colony” was used both in Roman legal documents as well as in mediaeval texts.

The first overseas dominions of the Portuguese, Spaniards, the French, the English or Dutch in Africa and India were subject to the power of the metropoles outside of the metropole’s territory. They predominantly functioned as trade outposts. However, in modernity with the expansion of these settlements – initially the Spanish ones in Mesoamerica and later of the Dutch in the Maluku Islands – the word “colony” acquired a new meaning tied with the imperialist policies of European states. 

“Colonised country or area” – was the meaning of the word ‘colony’ in the English language in 1610. The economist François Véron Duverger de Forbonnais – the author of the text about colony in Diderot and d’Alambert’s “Encyclopedie” – described this new phenomenon as the sixth and final type of colony, created as much for trade as for agriculture, which required conquering the territory, displacing the local population and settling a new one. Such type of colonies were created solely for the benefit of the metropole and were under its full control and protection. Since this period, the word “colony” started to refer to a territory that is under control and government of a foreign country, but remains separate from the administration of the metropole. 

A colony has an intermediary administrative status and is somewhere in between the territories that are fully incorporated into the core territories of the state and dependent territories, protectorates and others. This is firstly, marked by the fact that colonies are governed by separate colonial administrations and their indigenous populations do not have the same rights as the citizens or subjects of the metropole regardless of their social standing. Secondly, residents of the colony either completely lack self-governance, or self-governance exists only nominally for resolving internal matters. 

Depending on a specific historical situation, such colonies acquired the characteristics of either settler colonies (mostly settled by colonists from the metropole), exploitative (indigenous population was exploited without major resettlement from the metropole), or surrogate (were the colonists were settlers from other colonies, rather than the metropole).

Among the conventional features of a colony is its location in considerable distance from the metropole, its overseas character and national, cultural, and civilisational difference from the metropole (the last feature is lost in the case of settler colonialism). However, the feature of distance is present in this concept predominantly due to the tradition to use the word ‘colony’ to refer to overseas territories of Western European countries, acquired as a consequence of the Age of discovery. At the same time most features of a colony were applicable to non-Overseas territories that belonged to the Ottoman, Russian or Chinese empires, and which were settled by populations conquered by the titular group. Hence the literature of the 1920s referred to Khiva and Bukhara Khanates, Uryankhai Krai and Manchuria as colonies of the Russian empire. 

According to a nationalistic interpretation of colonialism, any kind of territory where national-cultural oppression has taken place is a colony, even in cases where the legal status of local residents was equal to that of the titular nation.  

Given this, one should not forget, that the original meaning of the word “colony” – settlement beyond the territory of the metropole – did not disappear, but acquired numerous variations, including demographic (internal colonisation), diplomatic (community of diplomats or emigres of one state on the territory of another), national-economic (German colonies on the Black Sea coast), penitentiary (penal colony, corrective labour colony), and even biological (bacterial colony, coral colonies). (Oleg Lugovyi)


Ukr. Комеморація

A set of social practices aimed at showing respect to the past events or at working through the past. A person understands his or her belonging in a society, among other things, through a shared understanding of past events – what to be proud of, what to forget or explain. For this reason, important ceremonies often take place at memorial sites: the laying of flowers, dedications to members of particular groups, parades, salvos, or funeral processions. 

Commemoration – involves more than placing informational signs in public places or inclusion of new dates into the official lists of public holidays. Commemoration refers to interpretations of events, strategies for building social ceremonies, instruments for heritage preservation or its transformation.

The state defines which past events should be honoured, and why they are important. Yet commemoration is not synonymous with politics of history – commemorative practices are formed not only by the state, but by society and separate groups of people. 

Commemorative practices, among other things, include military parades dedicated to specific dates, as well as local practices of historical reconstruction that support the official politics of memory, but commemorative practices can also be in opposition to such politics. A candle light on a windowsill on the Holodomor Remembrance Day in Ukraine – is a commemorative practice that people partake in voluntarily.

Commemoration can also become a source of conflict. In the USA there are calls to remove monuments to the former slave owners who were important political figures in their own time. Sometimes, states actively oppose some commemorative practices. For example, ceremonies commemorating the victims of the Chernobyl disaster are sanctioned in Belarus. 

Changes in commemorative models in society may be triggered by pieces of art, as happened in Germany, where the publication of Günter Grass’s novel “Crabwalk” made public discussions about the suffering of German civilians during World War II possible. 

Commemoration – is a very broad field of practices that anchors processes that allow society to look at itself through its own reflection in the past. (Oksana Dovgopolova) 


Ukr. Деколонізація 

Decolonisation as a theoretical paradigm took its shape towards the end of the Cold war, when intellectuals became increasingly aware of the limitations of the postcolonial theory, which formed in 1960-1970s. While postcolonial theory is closely tied to anticolonial movements for the independence of former colonies of Western empires, decolonial theory primarily aims at the critique of epistemological process of knowledge production as well as critique of modernity as such, after all modernity is seen as the main cause of colonial relations and inequalities, racism and violence related to colonialism. Decolonial theory indicates that perfect institutions, created by modernity (the ideas of progress, development, system of education and science, government and others) in themselves carry the inequalities produced by colonialism. 

Decolonial theory started in South America and among the South American diaspora in the USA (Ramon Grosfoguel, Walter Mignolo, Enrique Dussel, Arturo Escobar, Maria Lugones, Gloria Anzaldua). Theorists of the decolonial paradigm introduced the notion of decoloniality to emphasise a particular state of those societies, that even after acquiring independence as a result of anticolonial movements remain under the influence of power relationships that formed during the colonial period (On Decoloniality: Concepts Analytics Praxis. Walter D. Mignolo and Catherine E. Walsh. Duke University Press, 2018). Decolonial theory pays particular attention to activism, where the process of theory development is seen as a gesture calling for a change in the accepted and internalised knowledge.

Focusing on the critique of modernity, the decolonial approach rejects any kind of universalist ideas and focuses on explanations and perceptions of specific societies or groups. Because of this reasons theorists of the decolonial paradigm pay particular attention to local epistemologies (Walter D Mignolo (2011) Geopolitics of sensing and knowing: on (de)coloniality, border thinking and epistemic disobedience, Postcolonial Studies, 14:3, 273-283). In addition to epistemology, decolonial theorists pay special attention to aesthetics, and hence to analysis of art. Art created under the influence of decolonial theory, in turn often becomes an integral part of activism that undermines outdated epistemological frameworks. 

Decolonial theory came to be used in the analysis of societies that had been part of the Soviet Union relatively recently. Madina Tlostanova proposed this approach in her analysis of the USSR and Central Asian countries (Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas). Svitlana Biedarieva and Kateryna Botanova used decolonial theory to analyse Ukrainian art. In Ukraine discussions about the application of decolonial approach to understanding Ukrainian context became more active after the Russian invasion in February 2022. However, the application of the decolonial approach in Ukraine in spheres other than art criticism is only beginning. (Yulia Yurchuk)

Deposit of Memory

Ukr. Депозит пам’яті 

A historical narrative that is invisible for a period of time, but can be reactivated under political circumstances that require societal mobilisation to unite around a common goal. 

The French sociologist Georges Mink compared the concept of deposit of memory with Piere Nora’s memory sites (Lieux de memoire). Lieux de memoire create and consolidate the sense of human identity. In contrast, memory deposits need to be reactivated to produce differences. This reactivation happens either by opening old wounds to set out boundaries or by preventing the creation of boundaries through the use of a dynamic therapy of reconciliation and forgiving. 

Mink describes a peculiar kind of “deposits” of reusable resources. Various actors use these deposits to extract symbolic material that strengthen their political standing. 

Memory deposits are often used to justify aggression, repressions or “commercial exchanges” in past traumas. For example, in this way the narrative about the events in 1389 was used as a deposit of memory during the massacre in the Bosnian Srebrenica in 1995. The idea of revenge against muslims was heightened by exploiting the insult of the devastating Christian defeat in the Battle of Kosovo. In this case the deposit was used to divide societies, erasing the experience of centuries of neighbourly life.

Georges Mink analysed the anti-Ukrainian rhetoric of the President of the Russian Federation as an aggressive use of the “deposit” of victory against Nazism. The sociologist also recalled how with the expansion of the EU to the former communities states numerous “deposits” of memory were activated. The narrative about the Western betrayal in Yalta (when the Western states agreed to cede the sphere of influence over the future socialist bloc to Stalin) turned out to be the most useful. Remarks about the “Yalta betrayal” created space to discuss the Western debt to Central Europe. At that time the memorial politics in the EU was based on gradual unification of memories around the uniqueness of the Holocaust. The postcommunist EU member states sought to include their experience of totalitarianism as one of the discursive bases for EU’s legitimacy. 

Victory against Nazism remains a reliable deposit of memory that is used in various ideological paradigms as a justification for various claims by different states. (Oksana Dovgopolova)


Ukr. Імперія 

The term falls under the latin concept of imperium, which referred to the highest executive power in the Roman republic, as delegated by the Roman nation through particular laws to its highest magistrates – consuls and praetors. Imperium could also be delegated to extraordinary magistrates, especially during wartime. Usurpation of imperium together with the offices of consul, praetor, censor, tribune of the plebs, Pontifex maximus by one person for life with the right to pass it on as inheritance in fact transformed the republic into a monarchy – a Principate. From this point onward it is customary to refer to the Roman republic as the Roman Empire, even though the Romans themselves continued to consider it a republic. 

The statute of the Roman empire fixed the use of the term “empire” in European languages as a term designating the highest form of monarchic state power. However, the boundaries of the term are blurry. Whether a country can be called an empire depends either on the title of its ruler – an ideological construct that must demonstrate supremacy over all other monarchic rulers, at least in the bounds of a specific region: for example the Persian Shahanshah (“King of Kings”), the Indian Maharaja (great raja, greatest of all rajas), – or the exceptional nature of power held by the monarch in question in the cosmological order: the Chinese Tianzi (“Son of Heaven”) and Japanese tenno (“heavenly sovereign). 

Successor states to the Roman Empire (Byzantium and the Holy Roman Empire) among other things, naturally, inherited Roman titles of rulers. However, while in the Western Europe the latin title was preserved, the rulers of Byzantium were referred to in greek as Βασιλεύς (basileus) – the title which was used to refer to all the rulers of antiquity, rulers of Hellenistic states and before that states of the Ancient East. The Bulgarian rulers fought for the right to the title of Basileus of Constantinople, yet they translated it to the word similar to the title of the junior co-ruler of the basileus –  καίσαρας (caesares), цѣсарь in old slavonic, later shortened to «цар» (tsar). Because since 927 the Byzantine basileis recognised the Bulgarian rulers as basileis, the title “tsar” came to be seen as a translation of the word “basileus” both in the meaning of the “emperor” and in its meaning as any kind of monarchic ruler of Ancient East and Greece. Exactly in this range of meanings it moved from Church slavonic to mediaeval Ruthenian language. 

With the fall of Byzantium the metrics began to use the word “tsar” (meaning rulers of an imperial rank) to refer to khans of the Golden Horde, and from the 15th century onwards the grand dukes of Moscow began to claim this title, supporting their claim through gradual annexation of neighbouring principalities and khanates. Thus, the tsar Peter I did not so much as create an empire, as he westernised his title.  

Due to such a complicated history of the “emperor’s” title, it is not correct to define an empire as a country ruled by an emperor. That’s why the approach taken by the Encyclopedia Britannica seems more apt. An empire is a group of countries ruled by one ruler, one government or one country; a big political entity in which the metropole or a single person-sovereign exerts control over a large territory or a certain number of territories, or nations through formal annexation or various informal variations of domination. 

This way the key feature of an empire is union under a one rule – ideally, although not necessarily, embodied by a single person – diverse, multiethnic countries with clear domination by the metropole. Stark features of empires include presence of exploited colonies and imperialist policies, which are expressed through declaration and exertion of dominance over sovereign countries of a particular region, and claims to spheres of influence. (Oleg Lugovyi)


Ukr. Геноцид 

An international crime, constituted by the actions that have an aim to destroy in whole or in part any national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The norm that bans genocide internationally is among the imperative norms of international law. 

The term “genocide” has moved beyond the internal-legal discourse and is used rather widely in political-legal contexts and historical research. The concept of genocide is widely used in texts about the crimes of the past and in some cases serves as a basis for collective identities and forms state policies. It is important to understand its legal nature, to make sure the concept is appropriately used for work with historical data. 

The concept of “genocide” was first proposed by Rafael Lemkin in 1944, who since early 1930s has been working on conceptualising a crime against a group of people united by some shared characteristics. Lemkin’s concept took its final shape in the process of analysing Nazi crimes. 

The crime of genocide was fixed as a separate type of an international crime with the passing of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. Currently, 153 countries are parties to the convention.

According to the article II of the Convention “… genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:(a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

The Convention of 1948 sets the international legal responsibility of states for violations of corresponding international commitments, and an obligation for states to prosecute individuals for the crime of genocide and the possibility to prosecute individuals by an international criminal court. However, the Convention does not foresee specific legal mechanisms for prosecution on an international level. 

International criminal responsibility of individuals for genocide and corresponding mechanisms for prosecution were fixed in the article 4 (2) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, article 2 (2) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The article 6 of the Rome statute of the International Criminal Court is dedicated to genocide. 

In most countries, criminal law as a rule includes a prohibition of genocide (for example article 422 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The principle of universal jurisdiction applies to the crime of genocide, meaning that any state can apply its jurisdiction to prosecuting the crime of genocide regardless of where it was committed and regardless of the nationality of its victims. Some states expand their national criminal codes and judicial practice to expand the sphere of the crime of genocide to include social and political groups as protected.

The first time the concept of “genocide” was used in legal practice was in the final indictment of the Nuremberg trials, however in the final sentence the crimes were classified as crimes against humanity. The Nuremberg International Military Tribunal on the Holocaust influenced the concept of the crime of genocide in the international law. The process against Adolf Eichmann in 1961 was important in qualifying the crimes against the Jewish nation. The sentences for the crime of genocide were passed by the international criminal institutions against Jean-Paul Akayesu and Jean Kambanda in 1998 by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (genocide against Tutsis), Radislav Krstic (2001) and Radko Mladic (2017) by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (genocide in Srebrenica). At present the International Criminal Court is investigating several cases regarding the crime of genocide (Omar al-Bashir case on genocide in Darfur, situation in Myanmar). 

The International Court of Justice of the UN in 2007 was hearing the case “Bosnia and Herzegovina v Serbia and Montenegro” applying the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which concluded that “the acts committed at Srebrenica falling within Article II (a) and (b) of the Convention were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.”

In its decision of February 3, 2015 in the case “Croatia against Serbia” the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of the UN on the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide rejected mutual Serbia’s and Croatia’s accusations of genocide (the charges against Serbia in the period from 1991 to 1995 and charges against Croatia for the operation “Storm”), concluding that genocidal intent cannot be proven.

In the case “Gambia against Myanmar” on the application of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide the ICJ issued an order “indicatating” provisional measures regarding Myanmar’s obligation towards the members of the Rohingya group to guarantee the prevention of any kind of acts that fall under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. 

The definition of the crime of genocide foresees the protection of not only physical, but also social existence of a group. The crime of genocide foresees the presense of genocidal intent. Even though, the crime of genocide presumes attacks on individuals, these particular individuals are attacked due to their belonging to a protected group. Hence, the presence of intent to destroy the group is the fundamental component of the crime of genocide. 

Acts that comprise the crime of genocide can at the same time comprise war crimes or crimes against humanity. In this case all necessary legal norms need to be employed simultaneously, taking into account different contextual components of these crimes. 

The political-legal recognition of past events as genocide is done through decisions of international organizations and national parliaments. 

The Ukrainian law “On Holodomor of the years 1932-1933 in Ukraine”, recognizes Holodomor as genocide of the Ukrainian nation. (Timur Korotkyi)

Ghetto-parks, Socialist Heritage Parks

Ukr. Гетто-парки

A specific way to preserve and display socialist-period monuments in former socialist countries. Monuments taken out of the public urban spaces lose their ideological function and appear like residents of a ghetto. Hence the ironic title – ghetto-parks. 

After the political transformations of the late 1980s, societies of the former socialist states felt the need to clean their public spaces from numerous soviet or communist monuments. A firm approach was taken in Hungary. Right after 1989, the monuments from Budapest were dismantled and moved to the city’s outskirts, where in 1993 the “Memento” open air museum was opened. It is a state-managed park designed following the same concept as the “House of Terror” – a museum dedicated to the crimes of totalitarian regimes in Budapest. Various attractions of the sort of a telephone booth for calling soviet leaders are among the objects on display in “Memento”. 

Irony is consciously integrated into the concept of the “Grūtas” park in Lithuania, located near Druskininkai. The place is jokingly called “Leninland” or “Stalinworld” reflecting the popular attitude to these parks as “Disneylands of communism”. The park was created in 2001 by the businessman Viliumas Malinauskas, who gathered more than 100 soviet monuments in the park. Visiting the park is a form of entertainment: the territory of the park is fenced with barbed wire, watchtowers are located on the sides and soviet music plays inside. The entrance to the park is akin to a gate to a military base. The parks’ restaurant is full of allusions to the poor diet of the soviet period, including such menu items as borshch “Nostalgia” served from typical aluminium bowls, or meatballs “Goodbye my youth” with buckwheat, the “Russian” herring etc. The ironic menu alludes to the fact that such food can only be eaten as a joke, but not in real life. 

Using the language of irony “Memento” and “Grūtas” represent the socialist past as something foreign, alien – that existed on the territory of these countries for a while, but went away without a trace. 

In other countries that were part of the Soviet Union the creation of “ghetto parks” presents a stark contrast to the two cases discussed above, although similar examples exist in Ukraine to Kazakhstan. In spite of losing their ritual functions, in many countries soviet monuments still stayed in their original places after the fall of communism. In Ukraine the policy of decommunisation obliged local authorities to remove communist monuments, which led to a creation of the park of socialist statues in the village Frumushika-Nova. Another Soviet period park, dedicated to the partisan glory is on the territory of a nature reserve “Spadshchanskyi forest”. While in countries of the former communist bloc parks with socialist statues are spaces for entertainment, attraction, in post-soviet countries such places are true ‘ghetto-parks’ – places to which sculptures are exiled and forgotten without conceptualising their further existence. (Oksana Dovgopolova)

Historiographic Turn in Art

Ukr. Історіографічний поворот у мистецтві

A tendency characterised by artists’ focus on history, observed in contemporary art, curatorial practice and art criticism in the early 21st century. In contrast to the focus on the future that characterised artistic practices of the 20th century, the historiographic turn directs attention towards the past. The artistic expression is constructed from a position of rethinking and rewriting the official historical narratives through local and personal stories; revision of archival materials and reconstruction or replay of the events that in earlier periods were located in the periphery of grand Histories; revision of the artistic cannon and colonial heritage, as well as identification of ruptures that emerged between the contemporary artists and historical avant garde.  

The term was first introduced in 2009 by the curator Dieter Roelstraete in his essay “The Way of the Shovel: On the Archeological Imaginary in Art”. In 2013 theoretical explorations grew into the exhibition “The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology” in the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago that presented works by 34 male and female artists from Europe, USA, Canada and Mexico. In the text “After the Historiographic Turn: Current Findings” (written in the same 2009), Roelstraete connected the artistic interest in the past with September 11 events, and calls the historiographic artistic practices of the 2000s “the art of the Bush era”. Finally, looking back, Roelstraete saw not only the specific features of the historiographic turn, but also its essential limitations. The practice of rummaging through artefacts in archives and museums or through earth and ruins blurred out the present and led one to conclude that it was impossible to “excavate the future”. 

In the Ukrainian context the “historiographic turn” emerged as an umbrella term that Nikita Kadan (artist and curator) used to describe the general tendency among artists to engage with and delve into history. This umbrella term encompasses the Walter Benjamin’s nonlinear history, the temporal turn aimed at rethinking the legacy of modernity (Kristin Ross), the archival impulse (Hal Foster) and the critique of grand meta narratives and memory politics that fall along the lines of reflexive and postcolonial turns. In contrast to the limitations drawn by Roelstraete, the broad definition of the historiographic turn employed by Kadan, allows him to discuss how works of art can have a diagnostic function in the present and to reflect about the revolutionary potential of works of art that allow receiving “signals from the future”. In his text “In Place of History” (2018) Kadan elucidates this potential through the figure of an artist as a dilettante and “nobody’s soldier” in the field of history. The position of the dilettante makes the artist akin to any other lay citizen – an amateur, who carries his or her own personal archive of historical memory that contrasts the government policies. At the same time being a “nobody’s soldier” allows the artist to bypass political debates and rhetorical history battles, drawing strength for artistic expression “from these unsolvable questions and conflicts”. (Borys Filonenko)

Holocaust by Bullets

Ukr. Голокост від куль, «Голокост до Аушвіцу»

A  term introduced by the French priest Patrick Desbois to refer to Nazi mass killings of Jews, Roma, and the mentally ill in Eastern Europe right next to the places where they used to live. 

Desbois proposed the term “Holocaust by Bullets” because he was certain that most of the world understands Holocaust through the symbol of Auschwitz – a death camp, where people were brought to from all across Europe and where killing was transformed into the industry of death. Desbois was certain that the events of mass shooting of people right next to their homes have remained in the shadow of Auschwitz – that in a sense this was a forgotten Holocaust that was perpetrated even before the Wansee conference in January 1942. This first phase of Holocaust was perpetrated primarily through mass shootings, that’s why Desbois proposed the term “Holocaust by bullets”. 

The term was criticised as incomplete by other researchers more than once: mass killings were perpetrated by other means or weapons – not only by shooting at people. However, no better alternative has been proposed and the term continues to be used with these limitations in mind. 

Patrick Debois is less of a theorist and more of a practitioner searching for and identifying sites of mass killings, many of which still remain unmarked. Desbois’s book “The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews” was translated from French into Ukrainian as «Хранитель спогадів. Кривавими слідами Голокосту» and published by Dukh i Litera in 2011. (Oksana Dovgopolova) 

Liquid Evil

Ukr. Зло плинне

One form of evil, next to banal and transparent evil, used to describe the culture after the Holocaust. The concept was introduced in the book of the same title by Zygmunt Baumann and Leonidas Donskis (2016).

Liquid evil continues in the direction of blurring out of what is essential evident in the concept of transparent evil. If transparent evil claims that evil does not exist (and instead of it there is only “the other side”), then, accordingly, there is no alternative to the current state of affairs. Reality is stripped off of its utopian dimension. Reality is no longer thought about from the perspective of how things “should be” and reverts to naked facts. There is no space for even a glimpse of light left between the possibility and reality, instead the intention to “just do it” rules. According to Bauman, the political credo of liquid evil is exemplified in Margaret Thatcher’s phrase about capitalism: “There’s no alternative”. Timothy Snyder calls this the politics of inevitability. The fall of the USSR and the end of the Cold War shaped a quasihistorical consciousness that the success of the West was predetermined – that the world was at the end of history (Francis Fukuyama). 

The inevitability prescribes all the “dark sides” to the constructed image of the “Other”. According to this logic, excessive nationalism and ethnic cleansings were something typical to the Balkans, corruption and civilisational backwardness – were features of Eastern Europe and, in particular, Ukraine. The certainty in one’s moral high ground and impeccability makes the culture of inevitability tolerant of and hence vulnerable to liquid evil, which seeps into this culture and attempts to destroy it from within. The message about the inevitability conveyed by liquid evil together with the message about the non-existence of evil conveyed by transparent evil creates a catastrophic combination for a culture: the idea that there are no alternatives to perpetration of evil. (Oleksandr Voroniuk) 

Memorial Museum

Ukr. Меморіальний музей

A museum dedicated to commemorating the memory of a specific historical event, usually characterised by large-scale suffering, and created with an aim to promote respect for human rights and liberties, tolerance and responsibility for the future (Williams, Paul. “Memorial Museums: the Global Rush to Commemorate Atrocities. Oxford: Berg, 2007). 

The current Ukrainian law “On museums and museum work” (1995) separates museums into: natural, historic, art museums and others. It does not provide any official definitions of such museums and does not mention “memorial museums”. 

The ministerial decree about “Instructions on organising the records of museum objects” (2016) defines museum profiles based on the contents of their collections. Memorial museums and their subdivisions (including memorial rooms) are supposed to include “objects that once belonged to a prominent personality (works of art, archival documents, photos, videos etc), to his or her close circle and environment, reconstruct the environment in which the person lived and created, as well as objects dedicated to prominent historical events.” 

The memorial dimension of a museum institution is defined by the presence of objects that are supposed to tell a story about a person who is to be museified. Often memorial museums are created on sites where a prominent person lived or worked (an apartment-museum etc). This way the building itself (house or apartment), and objects it houses become museum exhibits – drawing the attention to the personal experience of the prominent personality.  

Museums that tell stories about the tragedies of the 20th century (wars, Holocaust, Holodomor, sites of mass killing or incarcerations) – are a new challenge. The main feature of these museums is their connection to a concrete location where these events took place. 

The collections of these museums are largely formed with the participation of witnesses and other participants of these tragic events. The museum exhibitions often clearly condemn the evil acts that had been perpetrated. This contrasts with historic museums where the narratives of museum exhibitions are often devoid of moral judgment. 

The International Memorial Museums Charter (2011 edition) adopted by the ICOM International Committee of Memorial Museums in Remembrance of the Victims of Public Crimes, outlines 10 core principles for such museums: a joint culture of remembrance, pluralism, institutional independence of museums, aim to evoke empathy, depiction of personal stores following scholarly principles, addressing the perspective of perpetrators, respect for the historically authentic sites, self-critical reflection of history. The document is oriented towards the UN declaration of Human Rights. (Olha Honchar)


Ukr. Мок’юментарі, псевдодокументалістика

A genre of cinema (and of other visual media speaking more broadly) that imitates documentary cinema. The term was most likely invented as late as the 1980s by Rob Reiner for his own film “This is final Spinal Tap”, however the first examples of mockumentaries appeared much earlier. 

In contrast to the fakes or mystifications, the viewer of a mockumentary is fully aware of the fact that the content is ingenuine. In other words, the viewer or listener is invited to take part in an intellectual game. If for some reason the viewer is not aware of the fictional nature of the information presented, mockumentary may be perceived as fake information or disinformation with all the typical implications. An example of such a situation was an early example of a mockumentary – a radio play of Herbert G. Wells’ novel “The War of the Worlds” directed in 1938 by Orson Welles.The play imitated a radio-report from an imagined landing site of a Martian fleet causing panic and even chaotic attempts to evacuate by some radio listeners. “Las Hurdes, tierra sin pan” (“Land without Bread”) – a pseudo-ethnographic 1933 travelogue film by Luis Bunuel is another early early example of a mockumentary. 

Mockumentaries often appear as part of feature films integrated into the plots of those films – as pseudo media reports or talking heads on TV. However, they also exist as an independent artistic genre at times addressing quite serious issues, such as the 1971 pseudo scientific documentary “The Hellstrom Chronicle” (directed by Walon Green and written by David Seltzer it inspired Frank Herbert’s novel “Hellstrom’s Hive”). Another example is a 1971 political pamphlet “Punishment Park” by a British director Peter Watkins. Yet another successful example of a mockumentary is “The Blair Witch Project” (1999) – a low-budget horror film by independent directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The film shows fictional documentary material “filmed” by three film-school students who had gone missing under mysterious circumstances. 

In its broadest sense mockumentary is a fictional imitation of any non-fiction media: letters, documentary reports, course transcripts, diaries, official documents etc. 

Mockumentary in Ukraine. Several artistic projects are associated with the monumentary style. The “Mickey Mouse’s Steppe” (2022) by Andriy Rachinskiy and Daniil Revkovskiy – a duo from Kharkiv, depicts materials from an imagined museum of human civilization created after the collapse of the current civilization. Andryi Dostliev from Luhansk created a pseudo-historical research project (2011) to show that Luhansk in fact does not exist. Another example is Alina Yakubenko’s pseudodocumentary video report “Svetlograd” (2017) “which tells a fantastic story about Svetlograd becoming a center of modern art due to unclear and fantastic circumstances connected to the closing of Azot factory.” (Mariia Halina) 

Monumental Propaganda

Ukr. Монументальна пропаганда

A term used by the communist party of the USSR and soviet art historians to refer to monuments, statues, bas-reliefs and agitational signs in the Soviet Union. Its use began with a document published by Vladimir Lenin on April 13, 1918 that legitimised the destruction of monuments of the “Tsarist regime” and encouraged creation of monuments dedicated to the October revolution. 

Lenin’s Plan of “Monumental Propaganda” assumed that monuments can be used for educational goals (hence, the use of the word “propaganda”). In his correspondence with Anatoly Lunacharsky – People’s Commissar for education of the RSFSR (Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic) – Lenin mentioned that he felt inspired by Tomasso Campanella’s “The City of the Sun” and his idea of frescoes that can provide visual lessons about nature, history and inspire civic sentiments among youth and thus contribute to education and upbringing of new generations. Nevertheless, Lenin recognised that frescoes are not feasible due to climate, leading the bolsheviks to focus on sculpture. 

The “plan” involved creation of monuments to 66 cultural figures, many of whom had no direct relation to socialism. The list reflected Lenin’s vision for the culture of the newly created state that was supposed to rely on certain past achievements as resources for building the future. The list of such past events and personalities included the leaders of the French Revolution that bolsheviks symbolically connected to the October Revolution (even though personally Lenin was critical of many French revolutionaries). 

The “plan” was a utopian project firstly because at that time the Soviet Union lacked both the sculptors as well as materials for building the planned monuments. With these limitations the plan was implemented by students and artists using perishable materials. Monuments also ended up stylistically diverse, some created in futurist or cubist styles. For example, the official “approval” of the “plan” inspired Vladimir Tatlin to design the Tower to the 3rd Communist International. The monuments to Taras Shevchenko (two in Kyiv, one in Moscow and one in Petrograd, none survived to this day) were also created to carry out this top down directive. 

“The plan” was the first attempt of real-life application of the communist idea of “synthesis of arts”: memorial plaques, inscriptions, ceremonial openings of monuments were accompanied by musical performances enabling the fusion of various artistic media. According to a comment left by Lunacharsky, over time Lenin got disappointed by how the “plan” was implemented in real life, concluding that the monuments failed to live up to their intended propagandistic potential. 

The phrase “monumental propaganda” drifted away from its original use to refer to the practical implementation of the “plan”, but continued to be actively used by Soviet art historians and officials in numerous party documents throughout the whole Soviet period usually to highlight the importance of creating monuments in the socialist realist style. (Polina Baitsym)

Politics of History

Ukr. Iсторична політика

An area of politics that is concerned with an intentional construction and practical political use of various forms of historical memory and other collectively shared ideas about the past and its representations. Politics of history interferes both with professional historiography as well as history education at schools.

Politics of history is enacted by political, cultural ethnic or other social groups in the fight for, maintenance of or redistribution of power. It is used to ensure political, cultural or other forms of loyalty by large social groups as well as a way to maintain ideological and political control over these groups. 

The most prominent feature of politics of history is the political and ideological instrumentalisation of history (an assorted and ordered version of knowledge about the past), and memory. Utilitarian use of history and memory in internal policies, legal and legislative practices, social conflicts and foreign policy is characteristic of politics of history. Politics of history most often appeal to already existing cultural stereotypes or attempt to create new ones. It is specialised in the creation of simulacra, hyperreality that do not simply substitute reality, but are also capable of actively influencing it. 

Governmental regulation of content of history education, creation of specialised institutes for propaganda or spread of official versions of the past (such as the Institutes of National Remembrance in Poland, Ukraine, Czechia, and Slovakia, “truth commissions” in post-totalitarian societies), specialised museums and memorials (for example, the National Museum of the Holodomor-Genocide, the Museum of Warsaw Rising, House of Terror in Budapest, the Museum of Communism in Prague), passing of laws that regulate the sphere of historical remembrance, permit or forbid certain forms of public interpretation of the past, the control of such interpretations through legal practices (for example, the practice to criminalise “Holocaust denial” in some European countries), creation of international historical commissions and joint history textbooks – all of these are forms of politics of history. (Georgiy Kasianov)

Politics of Memory, Memory Politics

Ukr. Політика пам’яті

Related to “politics of history”, yet a narrower term, which covers practices related mostly to formation of collective/historical memory and does not presume an intervention to the sphere of professional history writing or history education. However, a trend to subjugate history as science to the purposes of constructing historical memory has been observed in recent years.  

In fact, professional historiography, if it functions as a science, is in conflict with memory politics. Memory politics are always selective and promote those forms of historical memory that are necessary for the state or political forces in power. Politics of memory hides or even bans politically undesirable forms of collective memory. In Europe throughout most of the twentieth century memory about colonial politics and its consequences for the indigenous populations was “undesirable” and “unpopular” and it has only become an object of a full-fledged reconstruction in the twenty first century (which itself was a result of political will, related to the growing share of migrants from the former colonies among the population of European countries).  

The most famous example of memory politics in Ukraine is the collective stereotypical imagination about the Holodomor, formed on the basis of memories, historical sources, demographic estimations and fixed in the school curricula, memorial complexes, works of art and literature, and dedicated laws (for example, Ukrainian Law “About the Holodomor of the years 1932-1933 in Ukraine” (2006)).  

Another notable example is the memory about the Second World War, which for a certain share of Ukrainian citizens is the memory about the “Great Patriotic War”. The term “Great Patriotic War” has been excluded from the official vocabulary of the Ukrainian state since 2015. The title of the 9 May celebration was changed by the law*. These are all results of memory politics. (Georgiy Kasianov)


*From 1991 to 2015 May 9 was commemorated as the “Victory Day”, from 2015 to 2023 it was commemorated as “Victory Day over Nazism in World War II”, while in this period May 8 was marked as “Day of Remembrance and Reconciliation”, in 2023 the public holiday was transferred to May 8, which became “Day of Remembrance and Victory against Nazism in the World War II in 1939-1945”, while May 9 was transformed to “Europe Day”.

Postcolonial Theory

Ukr. Постколоніальна теорія 

A critical approach to the study of culture, literature and history of former colonies and imperial metropoles. Postcolonial theory helps to study the impact and consequences of the socio-political power relationships on the formation of societies that have experienced colonialism. 

Postcolonial theory is closely connected with the anticolonial movement for the independence of the former colonies of the Western empires that began after World War II. The anticolonial texts by Frantz Fanon “Black Skin, White Masks” and “The Wretched of the Earth” were one of the firsts to lay the foundation for further development of the theory. 

Edward Said’s “Orientalism” was a real breakthrough in the formation of postcolonialism as a separate approach to the study of (primarily) literature. Said points out how knowledge is dependent on power structures and demonstrates this through the example of how the West created a system of knowledge about the East and how in its own right this knowledge helps the West maintain its dominant positions towards the East. “Orientalism” gave a push to research that aimed to “deconstruct” texts from the metropole and point out how these texts recreate the power relationships between colonies and their metropoles. This approach is closely connected with the development of post-structuralism. That’s why postcolonial theorists often rely on texts by Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault. 

One of the most influential theorists of postcolonial theory – Homi Bhabha – introduced terms that are most often used in the postcolonial approach: third space of enunciation and hybridity. These concepts help understand the particularity of coexistence of anticolonial as well as colonial features in the identities of societies that have experienced colonialism. 

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak developed postcolonial theory from a feminist perspective. In her work Can the Subaltern Speak?” (1988), Spivak showed how women’s history can be viewed from a position of postcolonial theory. Through this work she also began a new field of research called “subaltern studies” that are part of postcolonial studies and focus on the critical study of class and gender inequalities in postcolonial settings. 

For researching Ukraine, the postcolonial theory was first used in the study of literature. Marko Pavlyshyn and Myroslav Shkandrij were one of the first ones who proposed to look at Ukrainian literature from a postcolonial perspective. A book by Eva Thompson “Imperial knowledge. Russian Literature and Colonialism” (2000) translated into Ukrainian in 2006 as “Трубадури імперії: Російська література і колоніалізм”, in the tradition of “Orientalism” showed how Russian literature circulated imperial discourses, strengthening the Russian imperial regime. Tamara Hundorova and Vitaly Chernetsky used postcolonial theory to research wider layers of Ukrainian culture. Over the course of the last decade researchers have also started to use postcolonial theory to study history of Ukraine and culture of memory in the Ukrainian context. (Yulia Yurchuk)

Public History

Ukr. Публічна історія

 Transfer of academic knowledge about history into more understandable language aimed at consumption by broad audiences usually through mass media and digital formats.  

The 21st century has become the age of digitalisation and challenges faced by the humanities,  among other fields. New formats for working with the past emerged, as well as new methodological approaches to researching this past and new forms of capturing information. It has become difficult to differentiate between theoretical knowledge and its practical application, we observe transformations of history almost on a daily basis – from halls of academia to historical memes. 

Public history is a space for knowledge, entertainment, working through the past, and technological manipulation. The sharing of historical knowledge through non-academic means can be called “public history”. It differs from alternative and popular history, because public history is based on real facts, knowledge and verification methods.  

Recent technological developments pose the problem of new forms of knowledge creation, representation of this knowledge to the society and new ways to deliver it to audiences. This is why academics have started to study public history. The institutionalisation of public history globally began in the USA already in the 1970s. One of the key theorists of public history Jerome de Groot claimed that public history – is not a separate discipline, but an interdisciplinary field, because to understand, study and represent the past requires the knowledge of history, sociology, art history, communication and media studies and other disciplines. This is a serious challenge for both academics and practitioners of public history. That’s why the best representations of history in various public spaces are created by amateurs and “non-historians”, who are little concerned about issues of responsibility in recreation and construction of the past. This opens the space for politicization, manipulation and distortion of history. 

The development of public history in Ukraine began in Lviv, where the Centre for Urban History of Central and Eastern Europe, founded in 2004, leads academic and cultural activities uniting research and cultural practices. The institution’s website states that  “As an institute that not only researches the city of the past, but also lives and works in the city of the present, we want to go beyond academic activity and support cultural and other public initiatives” and “in cooperation between academic and other diverse social spaces, we dedicate special attention to issues of heritage, museum practices, digital history, creation of new archives, and ties between art and difficult issues of the past as well as the potential of urban and civic spaces.”

While researching various aspects of public history, and forms of representation of the past, civic initiatives, academics, and other “non-historians” work with a range of questions, some of which are: “How to understand what journalists mean?” “Where does history end and a myth about it begins?”, “What manipulative technologies are there?”, “Why should we talk about history in public spaces at all?”.  

The main tasks of public history are to provide the basic knowledge about representation of the past in public spaces, computer games, feature and documentary cinema,and to teach to use interdisciplinary approaches and methods of historical research for implementation of projects that combine critical rethinking of historical knowledge with understanding of public discussions and perception of the past in contemporary societies. Becoming such an ambassador of history requires development of skills in working with mass media, archives, libraries, museums, tourism and other cultural, education or commercial institutions that are involved in creation of contemporary culture of history. 

Another aspect of public history is practical. On the one hand, these are various one-off projects – such as research dealing with cultural heritage, soviet history, or local history, such as the book “Labour, Exhaustion, and Success: company towns of the Donbas” (Lviv, 2018), “How to speak with kids about history” («Як говорити з дітьми про історію»), “Donbas Studies”, “Live History Workshops”, Past/Future/Art, “Mnemonics”. On the other hand, it’s history as entertainment where various technologies, means and forms of representation and presentation of history are used, in particular documentaries, computer or board games, interactive urban maps marking historical sites, comics, animation and exhibitions. 

Yet another aspect is related to media. It’s the presence of popular resources about history in the media, such as (“Історична правда”),, various online forums, communities or groups on social media, such as “Ukrainian History in schemes and memes” (“Історія України в схемах і мемах”), Kultrenaissance (“Культвідродження”), “Symbolon. Centre for medieval and early modern studies” («Symbolon. Центр середньовічних та ранньомодерних студій»), («Страдающее Средневековье»), various youtube channels and other initiatives. 

Hence, on the one hand, public history emerges in response to contemporary demands and is a way to disseminate knowledge about the past that the non-professional audience needs. It’s a history that becomes interesting to lay men and women. On the other hand, it is history that may be transformed into a weapon, taking on various forms that can be used to manipulate the mass consciousness, with media platforms as its core battlefield. (Anton Liagusha)

Reactive Memory

Ukr. Реактивна пам’ять

A type of collective memory that is used for political gains by employing narratives about the past to address current political issues.

In some cases the mythologized past can mobilise more effectively than economic or political issues. Launching reactive memory requires a layer of “dormant” collective memory that could potentially be awakened (reactivated). For example, Germany’s defeat in the First World War contained a potential to feed the development of revanchist moods. Active promotion of a narrative about “the true path of history” made it easier for the Nazis to garner support for a war of aggression. 

Over the course of several years the president of the Russian Federation used reactive memory to mobilise Russians for the war against Ukraine. The narrative pattern of eternal victory against fascism was exploited in a way that allowed to designate anyone who Russia was fighting as “fascist”. 

According to the French sociologist Georges Mink, reactive memory serves as a reusable resource in contemporary political battles. Mink suggests that the concept of deposit of memory that can be reactivated, by reviving problematic or divisive narratives about the past, regardless of the fact that the problems that had triggered past conflicts may have been resolved a long time ago. A classic example of reactive memory is the Victory against Nazism, that still remains an important trump card in geopolitical competition for legitimacy. According to Mink, reactive memory is also invoked to mobilise certain identity reflexes, the “great Russian” as well as anti-Russian, depending on the country where it is used. (Oksana Dovgopolova)

Transitional Justice

Ukr. Перехідне правосуддя, Правосуддя перехідного періоду, Транзитивна юстиція

A set of principles, processes, measures and practices aimed at restoration of justice for the victims of gross or systematic human rights violations, creation of conditions and possibilities for peacebuilding in the period following conflicts or political transformations from authoritarianism. 

Transitional justice is applied in societies or states that are in a post-conflict setting transitioning from a military conflict (including consequences of an occupation) to a state of peace (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine and other countries) or are transitioning from an authoritarian regime to a democratic political system (Argentina, South Africa, Chile, and others). The goal of transitional justice is restoration of justice for the victims of authoritarian political regimes or military conflict, creation of necessary conditions for reconciliation in society and conditions for non-recurrence of conflicts in the future. Transitional justice encompasses legal mechanisms and practices in the period of transition, when law is used as both a means for transition and an area of transition, and non-legal mechanisms and practices that include work with collective memory for recognition and acceptance of past experience. 

Transitional justice is built on four pillars: truth-seeking about the course of military conflict; institutional reform as a guarantee of non-recurrence of the military conflict; reparations to the victims of the military conflict; and prosecution of persons guilty of committing the gravest crimes (in particular, the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes). 

The key tenets of the transitional justice concept were formulated by the French diplomat Louis Joinet by the initiative of the UN Human Rights Commission and presented to the Commision for consideration in 1997. In 2005 the Commission formulated a finalised the vision for the concept of transitional justice by formulating 38 guiding principles, that foresee: the right to know (establishment of commissions of enquiry and preservation of and access to archives); right to justice, including legal measures to combat impunity and institutional forms for administering justice; the right to reparation, including guarantee of non-recurrence (reform of state institutions, reform of laws and institutions contributing to impunity and others). International standards of transitional justice are included into a number of acts and declarations of a recommendational character issued by international organisations, including: Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (UN General Assembly resolution 40/34, 1985), Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law (UN General Assembly Resolution 60/147, 2005), Report of the independent expert to update the Set of principles to combat impunity, Diane Orentlicher (E/CN.4/2005/102/Add.1), Human rights and transitional justice (Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council 12/11, 2009), Right to the truth (Resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, 12/12, 2009), Right to the truth (Resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly, 68/165, 2013), the EU’s Policy Framework on support to transitional justice (November 16, 2015), UN Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence (A/73/336, 2018). 

The main criminal prosecution forms for transitional justice are international (international courts and tribunals), hybrid (international/ hybrid courts and tribunals), and national. 

Institutional examples of non-judicial mechanisms for restoration of truth include institutions created in different periods under different names, such as commissions on the disappearance of persons as in Argentina, Uganda and Sri Lanka, truth or truth and reconciliation commissions as in Haiti, Ecuador, Kenya, Mauritius, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, Togo, Chile. Institutions with different titles were created in Germany, El Salvador, Chad, East Timor, South Korea, Morocco and other countries. The most famous examples of such institutions are the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, Equity and Reconciliation Commission in Morocco, Commission for Investigation of the Events in and around Srebrenica between 10 and 19 July 1995 (The Srebrenica Commission), Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina).  

The transitional justice concept was applied in Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, East Timor, Congo DRC, Columbia, Liberia, Serbia, Chile and other countries. 

In Ukraine separate elements of transitional justice are being applied. The Working group on the question of reintegration of temporary occupied territories of the Commission on the questions of the legal reform has developed a project for the Concept of transitional justice for Ukraine (officially “Concept of State policy for protection and restoration of human rights and fundamental freedoms under the conditions of a military conflict on the territory of Ukraine and overcoming of its consequences”). (Timur Korotkyi, Anton Korynevych)   

Trench Art

Ukr. Окопне мистецтво

Genre of museum exhibitions that aims to demonstrate the everyday life of a person at war. Literally, “trench art” is used to describe decorative objects created by soldiers, prisoners of war or civilians who were drawn into a military conflict. 

The objects, when displayed as exhibits, allow the visitors to learn about the feelings of the person “in trenches”, the everyday life in the army, emotions that an individual feels at war. Such objects have been documented since the Napoleonic wars, however the term was coined during the First World War. In the practices of new museology trench art is used in exhibitions to inform the contemporary visitors about war not only through heroic narratives, but also by encounter with the military everyday life creating an emotional connection with people who preserve the desire to create even in the most horrible of circumstances. (Oksana Dovgopolova) 

Working Through the Past

Ger. Vergangenheitsbewältigung
Ukr. Пропрацювання минулого

The rational analysis of nature and of tragic events, memory of which continues to have an influence today. Working through the past presumes a creation of a critical view of past events, that should prevent any attempts to whitewash or silence the memory about past crimes.

The idea of Working through the past was proposed by Theodor Adorno in his article “What does Working through the Past Mean?” published in 1963. In the text Adorno criticised attempts to justify, silence or obfuscate the crimes of Nazism. The philosopher claimed that there were attempts to get rid of the past by diminishing the crimes, using euphemisms or silencing. Traumatic events were being rid of their traumatism by settling the mutual balance of guilt (Germany is guilty for the death of a certain number of people, but the allied bombings also killed a certain number of people – hence we’re even), by fighting the “feeling of guilt” (borrowing of a psychoanalytical term in this context meant an attempt to show that in fact there was no guilt), and other means.

Adorno criticised the claims that Germans were not ready for democracy, as infantilising: to him such claims were similar to attempts of teenagers to justify the violence they commit by their sheer belonging to a group of teenagers. Totalitarianism is based on an overblown nationalist arrogance, when an individual finds a surrogate pleasure in his or her identification with the whole. Collective narcissism pushes people towards crimes without permitting them to see their guilt.

The question of working through the past arises in a state of democracy. It’s a demand for utmost clarity about what has happened, a demand to oppose forgetting, an appeal to every single individual and his or her critical thinking. The idea of working through the past has become one of the cornerstones of memory studies and its application has been much wider than the analysis of German society and its relationship with the Nazi past. The conclusions drawn by Adorno are relevant for all societies that are trying to build its relationship with the past through the human rights framework. (Oksana Dovgopolova)

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