State-Created Images of the Past As a Way to Form Collective Identities of East Europeans

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 14:30
Oral Presentation
Tomasz STRYJEK, Institute for Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
Joanna KONIECZNA-SALAMATIN, University of Warsaw, Poland
The place of a state in common beliefs of East-Europeans is special, because for long historical periods the state was first of all the instrument of external domination and as such - most often contested. Its role in constructing collective identity had been questioned as well. Nevertheless, the state constantly affected the identity and since the fall of communism its influence even increased. Nation’s collective identity is supported, maintained or in some aspects created by the state, in particular by using the historical policy. The main object of our study are images of the past as an element of collective identity construction – within the state or against it. We are comparing Poland and Ukraine as the countries where historical policy becomes more and more important and where one can observe increasing interest in the past by the citizens. We hypothesize that the reasons for these phenomena are different in those countries even if the observed outcomes are similar. Since 1991 Ukrainians experience their first long-term historic opportunity to be formed as a nation with its own identity. Since 2014 they are victims of external aggression. Identity-creating activity of Ukrainian state aims at building internal cohesion, among others by using symbols of the past, useful in current situation. Poland had it's long-term opportunity earlier: in interwar period. The current increasing interest in the past in Poland and the search for identity-constitutive elements seem to be the answer to quick (possibly too quick) modernization, westernization and the challenges of globalization and not the identity-creation as in Ukraine. Our research identifies and describes the mechanisms of states’ influence on collective identities of Poles and Ukrainians and shows how this activity can push the identity demand in undesired direction of nationalism and xenophobia. We analyse the data collected in September–December 2017.