Our research fellow, Alexandr Voronovici, gave a lecture in the framework of the Jenő Szűcs Lecture Series on March 21, 2023, entitled: Secessionism and Historical Politics: Instrumentalizing the Past in the Unrecognized Republics of Donbas and Transnistria. The speaker compared these two para-states (also called “de facto” or separatist states) and their historical-cultural narratives. The (ab)uses of historical memory by separatist politicians and historians who support their agenda was analysed as a consequence of unrecognized status and as a tool of justifying separatism and legitimization of the regimes concerned. In lack of clear linguistic-ethnic borders and durable precedent of existence as a recognized state, both de facto states lean on arguments of “moral superiority” to justify why the great powers should recognize them. Therefore, they apply some of the keywords of Western liberal democracies such as tolerance and democracy and multiethnicity, while also lean on Soviet traditions of regionalism and internationalism. In the end, Voronovici drew attention to the surprisingly intense presence of Holocaust memory in both separatist territories -surprising in lack of large Jewish population – Holocust memory is also a tool to appeal to EU partners as civilized and moral entities. The historical participation of many Ukrainians in the genocide of the Jews is now exploited as a rhetorical tool to justify armed conflicts with the central government.
Summary by Bence Bari and Agnes Kelemen.