The dissolution of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, the enlarging of the European Union, the ongoing “Ukraine Crisis” and the continuing war in Donbas are events that have been interpreted and legitimized using historical arguments. The notions of “Central Europe” and a “Russian world” were based on historical claims. Why did and does history play such an important role as a mobilizing and legitimizing force? Why and how have historical interpretations managed to replace or call into question international law or economic considerations? Why and how exactly is history being used outside the “conflict areas” to explain, interpret and contextualize the conflicts, and what is the role of academic historians?
History constantly appears at the center of public debates and power struggles – e.g. about the organizing ideas for new museums and school textbooks, about “memorial legislation”, “history codification”, state institutions of “historical memory” or about political proclamations of certain historical events as “genocides”. Our conference aims at analyzing these phenomena from a transregional perspective, using the Ukrainian case as a focus for study in a comparative and “entangled” frame of reference. The gathering will also deal with a fundamental question: the professional position for historians in a time of political instability, rising xenophobic and nationalistic tendencies, and a revival of “national narratives”.