The Politics of Memory as a Weapon: Perspectives on Russia’s War against Ukraine

The Politics of Memory as a Weapon: Perspectives on Russia’s War against Ukraine

Organisers: European Network Remembrance and Solidarity (Warsaw), Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe (Oldenburg), in cooperation with the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation (Berlin)
Dokumentationszentrum Flucht, Vertreibung, Versöhnung
Gefördert durch
Ministries of Culture of Germany, Poland, Slowakia, Romania and Hungary; Funding by the European Union
Berlin, Stresemannstraße 90
Vom - Bis
08.02.2023 - 10.02.2023
Burkhard Olschowsky

The instrumentalization of history and culture in order to achieve political aims has a long history. For many years now, Vladimir Putin and the Russian authorities have been advancing falsified historical narratives and highly fictional historical and cultural arguments as geopolitical weapons.

The Politics of Memory as a Weapon: Perspectives on Russia’s War against Ukraine

While Russia’s war against Ukraine continues, it is crucial to recapitulate this caesura in the European order and to ask how the view of Ukraine and the relationship with Russia in individual European states has changed since 24 February 2022 and what further effects this war has had.
The conference aims to examine the stereotypes, patterns, mechanisms and methods used in the political and social implementation of historical disinformation and the portrayal of the enemy, and discuss ways in which these can be prevented or mitigated. This will entail a (self-)critical analysis of political and scholarly dealings with history in various European countries. We shall also reflect on what happens when warnings from political and academic voices are not taken seriously enough and on the consequences of the way in which attention has shifted from Russia to Ukraine.


Registration for onsite and online event (free of charge):

The conference will be streamed on the YouTube channel:

Day One, 8 February 2023
Opening and introduction

Opening lecture: Andrii Portnov (European University Viadrina, Frankfurt /Oder), Rethinking memory studies at the time of war

Discussion panel: What should we have known about Russia and Ukraine before the war? The limitations of the European intellectual and political discourse
Moderator: Volker Weichsel (Journal “Osteuropa”)
Guido Hausmann (University of Regensburg), Martin Šimečka (Magazine “Respekt”, Bratislava), Marek Cichocki (College of Europe Natolin, Warsaw), Chantal Delsol (University Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée)

15:00–15:30 Break

Discussion panel: Political approaches to Central and Eastern Europe
Moderator: Gemma Pörzgen (Berlin)
Andrej Kolesnikov (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Moscow) (online), Anna Kwiatkowska (Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw), Hans-Christian Petersen (BKGE, Oldenburg)

17:00–18:15 Break and optional guided tour of the exhibition of the Documentation Centre for Displacement, Expulsion, Reconciliation

Discussion panel: Russlands Krieg in der Ukraine – Zwischen Imperialismus und (Selbst-)Zerstörung? / Russia's War in Ukraine: Between Imperialism and (Self-)Destruction? (interpretation provided)
Moderator: Christoph von Marschall (Tagesspiegel)
Irina Scherbakova (Memorial, Weimar), Marieluise Beck (Zentrum Liberale Moderne, Berlin), Andrzej Nowak (Jagiellonian University, Cracow), Antoine Arjakovsky (Collège des Bernardins, Paris)

Day Two, 9 February
Discussion panel: European perceptual patterns and stereotypes of Russia and Ukraine (I)
Moderator: Jan Puhl (Der Spiegel)
Wilfried Jilge (Centre for International Peace Operations, Berlin), Maria Domańska (Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw), Elmira Muratova (Aarhus University), Alessandro Vitale (University of Milan)

11:00–11:30 Break

Panel: European perceptual patterns and stereotypes of Russia and Ukraine (II)
Moderator: Bartosz Dziewanowski-Stefańczyk (ENRS)
Burkhard Olschowsky (BKGE, Oldenburg), German Ostpolitik – traditional patterns and new approaches
Oldřich Tůma (Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague), On the crossroads of memory and politics: the Czech Republic and the Russian aggression against Ukraine?
Attila Pók (Institute of Advanced Study, Kőszeg), Hungarian perspectives on Ukraine and Russia
Juraj Marušiak (Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava), Slovak perspectives on Ukraine and Russia

13:00–14:00 Lunch break
Panel: Culture and art in the face of the war
Moderator: Beate Störtkuhl (BKGE, Oldenburg)
Konstantin Akinsha (International Association of Art Critics, UK) (online), “You can’t go back to Constantinople”: fetishism of history as an excuse for looting of cultural property
Varvara Keidan Shavrova (Royal College of Art, London), The art of self-determination – how the creative communities in Ukraine and the Baltic States can resist the Russia's invasion’
Alina Mozolevska (Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University, Mykolaiv), Weaponisation of history in the visual discourse of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Olga Radchenko (National University of Cherkassy), Ukrainian and Russian film productions about the Second World War: potential and dangers

15:30–16:00 Break

Panel: Human rights and the war as judicial issues
Moderator: Arkadiusz Radwan (Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas)
Vera Dubina (Forschungsstelle Osteuropa, Bremen), From memory law to memory war: abuses of history in contemporary Russia
Aarif Abraham (Garden Court North Chambers, Manchester), The Special tribunal for the crime of aggression committed in Ukraine
Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (University of Oslo), Transitional justice after empire? The politics of memory holes, doublethink and a shared future-time
Paula Rhein-Fischer (University of Cologne), Russia and the European court of human rights: A farewell in stages
Tetyana Sheptytska/ Mykola Bryvko (National Historical and Cultural Reserve “Bykovnyanskie Graves”, Kyiv) (online), The politics of memory of burial places as a tool of opposition to the Russian Federation

Day Three, 10 February

Panel: Russian and Ukrainian identity and history – weaponisation of history
Moderator: Annemarie Franke (ENRS)
Hans-Christian Trepte (Leipzig University), Kyivan Rus. Between myth and claim to power
Dieter Pohl (Klagenfurt University), The Origins of Russian official history discourse on Ukrainian nationalism (“Nazism”)
Jörg Morré (Museum Berlin-Karlshorst), The militarization of Russian historical research and education
Alexandr Osipian (Free University of Berlin), Weaponisation of the history of the Second World War in Russia-Ukraine conflict, 2014–2022

11:00–11:30 Break

Panel: Strategies and possible measures to combat disinformation
Moderator: Raphael Krüger (Berlin)
José Manuel López Torán (University of Castilla-La Mancha, Ciudad Real), Combating new era wars on digital battlefields: disinformation, propaganda, and social media in Russia's invasion of Ukraine
Malkhaz Toria (Ilia State University, Tbilisi), Russian disinformation, illiberal populism and struggles over solidarity with Ukraine in Georgia
Florin Abraham (National University of Political Science and Public Administration, Bucharest), Analysis of Romanian narratives about Russia's aggression against Ukraine: themes, actors and media tools
Łukasz Kamiński (Wrocław University), Combating disinformation: the role of historians

13:00 Closing remarks
Jan Rydel (Pedagogical University of Cracow), Matthias Weber (BKGE, Oldenburg)


Dr. Burkhard Olschowsky (BKGE), Dr. Bartosz-Dziewanowski-Stefańczyk (ENRS)