Academic Event – Panel 2: Memory and Historical Analogies in World Politics
Historical Analogies and Making (Non)sense of the “Rise of the Rest”
In the last decade, much ink has been spent on the issue of ‘rising powers’ and how they will change the international system, but most of the academic literature on the subject is policy—and therefore future—oriented. Historical analogies used to make sense of the so-called ‘Rise of the Rest’ are especially problematic because they are often used without sensitivity to the changes in the international system. This paper, on the other hand, comes out of a larger project which aims to study how ‘rising powers’ have been perceived by current stake-holders throughout history—including ‘pre-modernity’—as a way of understanding how the ‘international system’ has been imagined by the actors in it and how that imagination has changed over time. The focus is on the historical contingency of terms such ‘rise’, ‘power’, ‘international’ and ‘system’ as well as the varied sociological roots of the institutions that have mitigated the transfer of power between polities across the ages. In sum, the paper will contrast the use of historical analogies in the contemporary (Western) policy literature about the “Rise of the Rest” with historical analysis of how various ‘rises’ were actually perceived by stakeholders of the time.
Memory of Fascism in Russian Social Media during the Crisis in Ukraine
World War II (Great Patriotic War in Russian) was probably the most important unifying event in the recent Russian history and is now actively used in nationbuilding efforts (Gudkov 2005). Hitler and Nazi Germany represent an almost universal symbol for existential threat in Russian collective memory and they are often used to show who is ‘on the wrong side of history’, thus representing the quintessential example of ‘usable past’.
The events in Ukraine have become a sort of a litmus test for the mainstream Russian media. In times of Ukrainian crisis Russian ‘memory entrepreneurs’ resorted to a powerful collective memory reference. Apart from calling the people on Maidan ‘fascists’ (evocation of collective memory existential threat), mainstream Russian media make a connection between both the US and EU as aggressors and fascists – a very common Soviet technique, especially popular in Soviet-era caricatures and rhetoric. Moreover, government-sponsored discourse on fascism is visibly present on social networks, which suggests that the majority of Russian netizens agree with the government’s point of view.
The paper explores discourses of fascism and its connection to international security during the crisis in Ukraine by analyzing debates on Cyrillic segments of social networks, such as Twitter, Livejournal.com and Vkontakte.com and paying special attention to the analysis of visuals.
Poland’s (re)entry into International Society and the Sway of Memories of the Long Polish Golden Age
The main objective of this paper is to address Iver Neumann’s call for investigating the relational nature of entry into international society process. I will argue that specific memories of Polish peripheral position within the Western suzerain states-system were used, both by adoption and rejection, in the process of the country’s re-entry into international society after 1918 and its rapprochement with the core of international society after 1989. What needs to be emphasized is that memories which the case is built on, stretch mostly in the period of transformation from suzerain to sovereign state-system in Europe and reflect the set of specific features of Poland rather than universal values of Western Christendom.
Polish peripheral geopolitical location along with internalized European cultural, political and primarily religious norms established its role of the bulwark of Europe, which has been reinforced nationally and internationally in the Polish Golden Age (late 16th and 17th century), as an effect of political and economic clout of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The special meaning has been ascribed to the state existence, its original political system (noble’s democracy based on the rules of golden liberty), and its economic position. In the wake of those premises the myth of Polish greatness built up, yielding convictions of the necessity of the Polish state existence and later of its Christlike role in region’s history or of Poland as a cradle of liberty. It has been widely believed that adopted rules and patterns of behaviour were behind Polish power and allowed the state to fulfil properly its duties of the bulwark of Europe.
By investigating the discourses of Polish national and international policy it is possible to hypothesize that the myths of Poland as the bulwark of Europe, or of the perfect political system were instrumentalized in the process of Poland’s re-entry into international society starting in 1918, after 123 years of state’s formal absence and in 1989 after 44 years of its adhesion to Eastern Bloc. The role of Poland as the bulwark of Europe has been emphasized especially in the time of the break of Polish statehood’s continuity. The myth served then to fortify Polish national spirit, as well as justification of the necessity of the Polish state “resurrection”. On the contrary, in the wake of independence some Polish statesmen distanced themselves from this particular vision of Polish fate, for example, after 1918 Marshal Piłsudski promoted the idea of cordon of buffer states east to Poland, and after 1989 the first Minister of Foreign Affairs of Polish Third Republic Krzysztof Skubiszewski claimed that Poland should be perceived as an integral part of Europe’s security, not as “the grey, buffer or neutral zone”. The similar use has been made of noble’s democracy traditions, whose negative or positive evaluation, influenced the process of creation of Polish political order.