Contemporary European History

Review Article

Remembering Communism During and After Communism (review article)


a1 Institute for East and South-East European Studies (IOS), Landshuter Str. 4, D-93047 Regensburg;

Irina Paperno, Stories of the Soviet Experience: Memoirs, Diaries, Dreams (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 285 pp., €21, ISBN 0–8014–4839–5.

Stephen V. Bittner, The Many Lives of Khrushchev's Thaw: Experience and Memory in Moscow's Arbat (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 2008). 235 pp., €35, ISBN 0–8014–4606–1.

Maria Todorova, ed., Remembering Communism: Genres of Representation (New York: Social Science Research Council, 2010), 450 pp., €21, ISBN 0–9790–7726–5.

In the past decade there has been a real explosion of studies on collective memory in eastern Europe. Two large themes have attracted the attention of scholars: the ongoing re-evaluations of the past after the end of communism and the memory of state socialism. These two topics were evidently related to each other in two ways: first, the communist period became an object of collective memory and many events linked to communist rule were re-evaluated once taboos and politically imposed interpretations fell by the wayside. Second, many political and public figures identified communist rule in eastern Europe as the reason why the nation's ‘genuine’ memory had been distorted. Now, they claimed, history could and had to be rewritten in order to bring previously suppressed memories to the foreground.

(Online publication June 13 2012)

Ulf Brunnbauer is managing director of the Institute for East and Southeast European Studies in Regensburg and Chair of East and Southeast European History at the University of Regensburg. His latest books include the edited volumes (with Claudia Kraft and Martin Schulze Wessel) Sociology and Ethnography in East-Central and South-East Europe: Scientific Self-Description in State Socialist Countries (Oldenbourg, 2011), and Transnational Societies, Transterritorial Politics: Migrations in the (Post-)Yugoslav Region, 19th–21st Century (Oldenbourg, 2009). He is currently working with Hannes Grandits on a book on ambiguous and recent nation building processes in south-eastern Europe. Another ongoing project concerns a history of labour emigration from the Balkans since the nineteenth century.