Translating Memories Speaker Series: Prof Barbara Törnquist-Plewa

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa, Lund University
Auschwitz versus Gulag – An Ongoing Tension in the Memory Cultures of Central and Eastern Europe

6 April 2023, 14.15 in M134
Tallinn University, Uus-Sadam 5

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).

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