Michael Shafir: "Competitive martirology in post-communist states. The Holocaust-Gulag competition"

Open to the Public
Nador u. 9, Monument Building
Gellner Room
Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 6:00pm
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Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 6:00pm to 8:00pm

"Competitive martirology in post-communist states. The

Holocaust-Gulag competition"

a public lecture by

MICHAEL SHAFIR Babes-Bolyai University (Cluj-Napoca)

The Holocaust-Gulag competitive martirology in post-communist East Central Europe is an areawide phenomenon, but is particularly pronounced in those states that have been allies of Nazi-Germany in World-War II. Analysts have emphasized that the phenomenon constitutes by and large an attempt to justify collaboration and/or bystanding of local populations on grounds of alleged previous Jewish involvement in the bolshevization or attempts to bolshevize their countries or parts thereof when under Soviet occupation. While this explanation is doubtlessly accurate and may be viewed as part and parcel of the phenomenon of "externalizing guilt", it does not cover the entire spectrum of explaining factors. A neglected aspect is the function of "myth", which is double: on one hand, myth is a "legend" that cannot be deconstructed into its component parts, but at the same time myth plays a mobilizing factor for cohesion for groups or nations. The latter aspect is applicable to both Holocaust and Gulag. While the former aspect (legend) calls for a "symmetric" approach to both totalitarian regimes and, as a consequence, to "de-Comunization" as a penchant of "de-Nazification" and for "putting Communism on trial", the latter (myth as a mobilizing factor) makes the demonstration that de-Nazification has been largely a legend irrelevant, because one does not deal here with a clash of competitive histories but rather with one among competitive memories. By promoting the legend of "de-Nazification" during the Cold War, the West has in fact contributed to the entrenchment of the "legendary myth". The clash between the competitive martirologies is, however, primarily one between memory and counter-memory. Unlike history, memory can only be eradicated by another memory, that is to say by another mobilizing myth. This is precisely what post-communist societies have been lacking and the "democratizing myth" as a mobilizational one is partly undermined by the "legendary" aspect of the same myth, the more so as post EU and NATO accessions have hardly delivered the "goods".

Professor Michael Shafir teaches at the Faculty of European Studies, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania where he is Chair of International Relations since September 2007. Shafir was born in Romania and received his Ph.D. in Political Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1981. He taught Political Science at the University of Tel Aviv and was director of foreign news at Kol Israel, deputy director of Radio Free Europe’s Audience and Public Opinion Research, as well as chief of the Romanian Research Unit at Radio Free Europe Research Institute in Munich, Germany. Between 1995 and 2005, Shafir lived in Prague, his last position being that of European Affairs Coordinator at Radio Free-Europe/Radio Liberty and editor of East European Perspectives, a journal published by RFE/RL and distributed on Internet. Michael Shafir is the author of Romania: Politics, Economics and Society. Political Stagnation and Simulated Change, published by Frances Pinter, London, 1985; Between Negation and Comparative Trivialization: Holocaust Denial in Post-Communist East-Central Europe, published by Polirom, Iasi, Romania in 2002 and X-Rays and other Phobia, Iasi, Instiutul European. He has published over 300 articles on communist and post-communist affairs in American, Austrian, British, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Israeli, Romanian and Slovak journals, and has contributed chapters to books published in Austria, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Romania, Slovakia and the USA. Professor Shafir is the head of the Romanian delegation to the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research (ITF).

Thursday, 19 May, 18:00 - GELLNER Room