The Politics of Memory and the Symbolic Space of the City: The Case of Kharkiv and Lviv

The Politics of Memory and the Symbolic Space of the City: The Case of Kharkiv and Lviv

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Iryna Sklokina

Center for Urban History

March 4, 2014

Center for Urban History, Lviv

In the last decade an "explosion in the politics of memory" erupted in Central and Eastern Europe. Sharp debates about the past, new memorials, monuments, museums, historical films, and novels have dominated the public discourse. Memory and commemorative practices have become areas of competition in public discussions and actions. The role of the past and its representation has become one of the most needed, discussed, and researched themes among historians, political scientists, sociologists, and cultural studies experts.

At this seminar we was talking about how the politics of memory affects the changes in the urban landscape and identity of the city. Iryna Sklokina and Dr. VictoriSereda presented their research, which traces the changes in the politics of memory in Soviet and modern Kharkiv and Lviv, focusing on monuments and memorial plaques as the most important markers in the urban landscape.

Iryna Sklokina: Politics of Memory of Word War II in Creating the Image of Soviet and Modern Kharkiv

Politics of memory of World War II in Kharkiv was always problematic – both because of the crushing defeat of the Soviet army associated with the city and given the richness of the symbolic space of the city with signs from the imperial and "capital" period of its development. However, the official Soviet memory of World War II played an instrumental role in the creation of the image of Kharkiv as a city, which was completely loyal to the Soviet regime and significant across the Soviet Union and the socialist bloc. Research on the politics of wartime graves, changes in toponymy, and erecting of monuments shows the process of localization of war myths, memory differentiation of various groups, and the increase in the connection of the memory of the war with everyday life and practices of consumption. How have the official politics of memory of the city’s government transformed from the late 1980s to today? What actors play the leading role in transforming the symbolic space of Kharkiv today, as well as in broadcasting or deconstructing the Soviet version of the commemoration of World War II? What is the impact of becoming a consumer society on the practice of mentioning the war? These and other questions will be addressed in Iryna Sklokina’s report (based on two projects: part of Geschichtswerkstatt Europa (2011-2012) and "Region, Nation, and Beyond. An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine" (current).

Victoria SeredaPolitics of Memory and the Urban Landscape of Lviv

During the presentation, Victoria Sereda discussed the changes that have occurred in the politics of memory of Lviv, and what impacts they had on the changes in the city’s symbolic space after World War II. The processes of internal and ideological reconstruction of memory in Lviv’s urban environment are explored. The study analyzes two levels: the symbolic structure of urban politics of memory and its impact on the collective identities of the Lviv residents. For this a content analysis of monuments and memorial plaques was carried out to make ​​it possible to describe the main trends in the symbolic structure of the urban landscape. The analysis demonstrates that the creation of a new model or models of the urban past is through the destruction or re-articulation of old sites of memory and the appearance of new ones, which combine elements of the European national, regional, and local past. Next, the influence of processes of the (re)definition of urban space on the identity of modern inhabitants of Lviv is explored. The effectiveness of the politics of memory and the level of its internalization is analyzed, and the strategy of resistance is described. These and other questions will be addressed in Victoria Sereda’s report (based on three projects: "Lviv - Donetsk: Sociological Analysis of Group Identity and Hierarchy of Social Loyalties" (2004), "Lviv’s Identity" (2008), "Region, Nation, and Beyond. An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine" (2013).

Iryna Sklokina

is a researcher at the D. I. Bahalii Center for Ukrainian Studies at the Karazin National University of Kharkiv. She is working on a dissertation “Soviet Official Politics of Memory of the Nazi Occupation of Ukraine, 1943-1985 (based on material from the Kharkiv region).” She is a member of the Kharkiv Historical and Philological Society. Her research interests include the study of memory and of museology, with a special interest in Soviet society. Now Iryna Sklokina is also involved in the research projects “Region, Nation, and Beyond. An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine” .

Victoria Sereda

Sociologist, with a PhD in Sociology (2006), associate Professor (Docent) of the Department of History and Theory of Sociology of Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. Head of subproject “Region, Nation, and Beyond. An Interdisciplinary and Transcultural Reconceptualization of Ukraine”. She has led or participated in over 30 local and international Sociological research projects employing methodologies of sociological survey, focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, content and discourse analysis. Research interests: urban sociology, sociology of everyday life, memory studies, nationalism and identity studies.


Сover Image: Fallen monument to Marshal Zhukov, Kharkiv