Translating Memories Online Speaker Series Spring 2023

14 February 2023, 16.00 (EET)
Kristo Nurmis, Tallinn University
First Draft of Memory: Reactions to Communism in Nazi-Occupied Baltic States, 1941–44

14 March 2023, 16.00 (EET)
Dina Iordanova, University of St Andrews
A Walk On the Waterfront: Hushed Memories and Impossible Conversations

6 April 2023, 14.15 (EET)
Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, Lund University
Auschwitz versus Gulag – An Ongoing Tension in the Memory Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe 

4 May 2023, 17.00 (EET)
Ilya Lensky, Museum “Jews in Latvia”, Riga, Latvia
Holocaust Remembrance in Latvia Since 1988: Actors, Stories, Perspectives

Kristo Nurmis
First Draft of Memory: Reactions to Communism in Nazi-Occupied Baltic States, 1941–1944
My paper challenges the traditional Nazi-centric view of studying Baltic discourses about communism during WWII by examining the agency and self-mobilization of the Baltic people under Nazi rule and how they made sense of the first Soviet year (1940–41). Focusing on the relationship between Nazi institutions and local actors, I argue that local initiatives and discourses, sometimes contradictory to official Nazi propaganda (and sometimes inspiring the latter), played a significant role in shaping Baltic memory culture about communism. Today’s Baltic memory culture about Soviet rule, I contend, was already forged to a significant extent during the war.
Kristo Nurmis is a historian and research fellow at Tallinn University School of Humanities. He holds a PhD in Russian and Eastern European history from Stanford University and a BA and MA from the University of Tartu. He has several publications on Soviet and Nazi rule in the Baltics and is currently working on a book project on the politics of legitimacy and mass influence in Soviet- and Nazi-occupied Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, 1939–53. 

Dina Iordanova
A Walk On the Waterfront: Hushed Memories and Impossible Conversations
A visit to the coastal city of Izmir early in 2023 brought up memories of the centennial related to the place. In Turkey, it was marked as a day of the city’s liberation, whilst, in Greece, it was commemorated mainly through references to ethnic cleansing and catastrophe. Even Wikipedia carries two differently slanted articles on the topic, both related to the same event but not interlinked online. Occasional cultural historians and filmmakers from either country have tried to complicate the narrative for a more comprehensive understanding. A meaningful dialogue is still to materialize, though. Elsewhere, the 1922 centennial remained largely unmentioned (as has been, generally, the case with the centennial of the end of the Ottoman Empire). Indeed, the silence over the unreconciled and awkward moments in history, like this one, is deafening. In this talk, l would like to present a case study of the hushed memories related to Smyrna/Izmir and connect it to more general matters of reconciling narratives, vicious circles, and historical memory.
Dina Iordanova is Professor Emeritus of Global Cinema at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. A native of Bulgaria, she has worked internationally for three decades now and has published mainly on Balkan and East European film history as well as on the cinema of the former Soviet Union, as well as East Asia. She is also a leading specialist on global film festivals and has served on many international festival juries, both for feature and documentary. For this talk, she builds on work related to Balkan memory studies published over the last two decades. 

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa
Auschwitz versus Gulag – An Ongoing Tension in the Memory Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe 
One of the particular and constitutive features of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) as a memory region is its double experience of two totalitarian regimes – Nazism and Communism, with Stalinism as the extreme expression of the latter. The history of these two dictatorships became entangled in the region in a unique way and resulted in a multiplicity of painful and often conflicting memories. In consequence, handling the crimes of Nazism and Communism, epitomized by the concepts of Auschwitz and Gulag, respectively, became, after the fall of Communism in 1989-1991, an immense challenge for memory cultures in Central and Eastern Europe. This lecture will shortly review how the societies in the region have wrestled with these issues. Additionally, it will aim to explain why the remembrance of the Holocaust and the Gulag is an object for political struggles and still constitutes a dividing line between memory cultures of the Western and Eastern members of the European Union. 
Barbara Törnquist-Plewa is a professor of Eastern and Central European Studies at Lund University in Sweden. In the years 2005-2017, she was the head of the Centre for European Studies in Lund, and, since 2018, she has been dean of research at the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology. Her main research interests are nationalism, identity and memory politics in Eastern and Central Europe. She has participated in many international research projects in the field of memory studies; for example, in the years 2012-2016, she was the leader of the large research network “In Search for Transcultural Memory in Europe” (financed by the EU’s COST-programme), and, in the years 2017-2020, she was co-leader of a Nordic research network on “Historical Trauma Studies”, Nordic Research Council. She is the editor and author of a number of books and articles in English, Swedish and Polish. Among them: The Twentieth Century in European Memory, Amsterdam 2017, and Disputed Memory. Emotions and Memory Politics in Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe, Berlin/Boston 2016 (both edited with Tea Sindbaek Andersen), and Whose Memory? Which Future? Remembering Ethnic Cleansing and Lost Cultural Diversity in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Europe (New York-London 2016).

Ilya Lensky
Holocaust Remembrance in Latvia Since 1988: Actors, Stories, Perspectives
Holocaust commemoration has started in Latvia immediately after the WWII, but under Soviets it has been largely inofficial, or strictly regulated by the state-imposed constraints. With the beginning of Latvia’s national movement for independance, and reestablishement of Jewish community life, Holocaust topic started more and more appearing in the public space. Jewish community members, as well as non-Jewish historians and memory activists would be organizing ceremonies, installing memorial signs, publishing articles and books.
This trend continued all through 1990s, with the major changes occuring after 1998, when Presidential Comission of Historians undertook the duty of comprehensive research of Holocaust in Latvia. This period saw also the construction of major Holocaust memorials and demarcation of Holocaust sites, often with foreign financial support. Situation has been developing in 2010s, with new/young generation developing new approaches to commemoration, sometimes developing under influence of practices, “spotted” abroad, and also basing their strive for memory more on popular culture and previous research, than on direct family or communal memory.
In our lecture we will explore different stories of commemoration, trying to outline major trends, and discussing the possible perspectives.

Ilya Lensky is the Director of the Museum “Jews in Latvia”, Riga, Latvia

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