Conflicting Memories: Ukraine
– a political crisis from a cultural perspective.
26 February 2015, an event in cooperation with European Cultural Foundation
Openingsspeech Michael Defuster, director Castrum Peregrini:
“Good evening Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to Castrum Peregrini. My name is Michael Defuster, I am executive director of the foundation. Welcome to our special guests: Vasyl Cherepanin and Mykhailo Glybokyi from Kiev, Yevhen Ghlibovitsky and Yevhen Hulevich from Lviv and Ivan Krastev from Sofia, Bulgaria. A warm welcome to Katherine Watson and her team from the European Cultural Foundation, with whom Castrum Peregrini worked closely together to organize this evening. Special thanks to the ECF for supporting the second try to let this debate take place, after the first one, that was original planned for last December, for several reasons had to be postponed at the last minute. We really appreciated your flexibility and creativity by which some unexpected hurdles were taken.
Castrum Peregrini is happy to present you the lecture conversation of this evening as part of its year programme MEMORY MACHINE. WE ARE WHAT WE REMEMBER. that hosts activities that relate our cultural memory with our identity. CONFLICTING MEMORIES; UKRAINE, A POLITICAL CRISIS FORM CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE refers directly to the setup of our programming: we identify ourselves as individuals and as member of a group by our memories. This process of identification needs to be put into perspective, to be able to avoid its power to exclude. As the subject of this evening will show, identity policies are too often used to overpower others instead of including them.
During the three months between our first attempt in December and now, the situation in the Ukraine has turned to the worse. Although the country is suffering a complete war with the separatist rebels in its east region of Donbas, the main players in the conflict seem to be Putin led Russia as the aggressor and the Western World as the challenged one, represented by the NATO and European Union, for whom Angela Merkel’s Germany is taking the lead to stop the conflict with diplomacy. The ceasefire deal she was able to reach came into force only eleven days ago, on the 15th of this month. But it is already clear by now that the agreement will not stand. Is Putin really eager to occupy the whole of Ukraine? Or is Ukraine once again merely a pawn in the fight for dominance on the continent between the eastern and western powers, like it has been so many times in its history?
This time, the motives of the Russian aggressor are unclear and the reactions of the European Union remain vague and hesitant. Are the Western European countries willing to help the Ukraine to overcome its economic and safety collapse and to get independent from Russian influence? What does the Kremlin want to reach with its actions of disturbance? A huge part of the Ukrainian population is eager to join the European Union, with its promises of self-realization, security and freedom, like the protests on Maidan Square were testifying. In the east of the country, another part is backed by Russia to fight against its own government with the aim to get independence for the Donbas region. In effect, the country itself is culturally split into a western and eastern European identity. What are the differences between those two ways of thinking, feeling and remembering, and why are they so conflicting?
I hope that this evening will give us a glimpse onto the complex rational and irrational forces that are behind the theatre that official politics are presenting us on a daily basis in the media. They threaten not only the destinies of the Ukrainians but also the future of the West Europeans.
Before I give the word to Ivan Krastev I want to mention a special production you can admire in the small room, next to the bar. Yevhen Hulevitsch, director of the Center for Humanities in Lviv presents there the website MAPPING FUTURE HERITAGE: Tropos, Antropos, Topos. The website is using advanced software to visualise networks between places, people, and their ideas. This project was a result of the collaboration of Centre for Humanities of the University of Lviv and Castrum Peregrini. It took place in 2011/2012 as part of Tandem, the cultural manager exchange programme of the European Cultural Foundation. We are grateful that the ECF made it possible to build further on the co-operation we established then.
Ivan Krastev will start the lecture conversation tonight with a statement on the topic. He is the Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, and permanent fellow at the IWM Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna. He is a founding board member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, a member of the advisory board of the ERSTE Foundation. He is also associate editor of Europe’s World and a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Democracy and journal Transit – Europäische Revue. He was the Editor in Chief of the Bulgarian edition of Foreign Policy (2005-2011). He was ranked in the 2008 Top 100 Public Intellectuals Foreign Policy/Prospect List. Since 2004, he has been the executive director of the International Commission on the Balkans chaired by the former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato. He is a co-author with Steven Holmes of a forthcoming book on Russian politics. And Ivan is also participating together with Castrum Peregrini in the Vienna Conversations of the Bruno Kreisky Forum for International Dialogue in Vienna.
After Ivan Krastev’s speech, Katherine Watson, the director of the European Cultural Foundation, will take the role of moderator and introduce to you the other speakers of the panel. Ivan Krastev, please!”
‘VOLKSKRANT’ 26 February 2015:
‘DE CORRESPONDENT’, 4 March 2015 – interview with Ivan Krastev: Hoe Europa de politiek ontdeed van het politieke (en zichzelf zo in een crisis heeft gestort)
‘PLATFORM NEDERLAND OEKRAINE’, 28 Februari 2015: “50.000 Russen demonstreerden toen de Krim werd geannexeerd”
‘DE CORRESPONDENT’, 12 Dec 2014 – interview with Vasyl Cherepanyn (Kiev): Deze dappere denker wil met kunst zijn land bevrijden (maar zijn rector noemt het stront)
Below pictures are all by: photographer PIP ERKEN