Reconstituting Publics through Remembering Transitions

Reconstituting Publics through Remembering Transitions: Facilitating Critical Engagement with the 1980-90s on Local and Transnational Scales 

Project description

Three decades after the radical transformations of the USSR and its satellites began in the 1980s––1990s, the topic of ‘transitioning’ from socialist states to liberal democracies remains highly contentious in Central and Eastern Europe. Over the last decade, the transitional past has been increasingly instrumentalized, by national-populist actors and in the counter-memories of their opponents. In the context of heated contestations of memory, with high political stakes, spaces for dialogue are rapidly shrinking and public spheres are becoming increasingly ‘disconnected.’

 The project addresses this societal issue by engaging with memory practices of the ‘transitional period’ beyond the polarized versions. Drawing on approaches of cultural analysis of discourse and affect, critical memory studies, public history, (digital) ethnography, and intersectional study of gender and generations, we aim to develop strategies for facilitating more cohesive and at the same time more critical practices of remembering that have the potential to lead to dialogue and form reflective communities. The comparative approach will allow for developing strategies and policies on a transnational (European) level based on trans-local resonances rather than top-down scripts.

The participation of the NGO Transition Dialogue, Berlin, and close collaboration with the European Solidarity Center in Gdańsk and the Humboldt Forum in Berlin will facilitate the execution of empirical research and its translation into concrete policy recommendations.

Team members

1. Ksenia Robbe (Principal Investigator), Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Groningen

2. Agnieszka Mrozik, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences

3. Andrei Zavadski, Postdoctoral researcher, Institute of Art and Material Culture, TU Dortmund

4. Alexander FormozovTransition Dialogue 

Project activities (last update: July 2023):

  • Events organized at the European Solidarity Centre in Gdańsk (in collaboration with the Centre):

Film screening and discussion: Crystal Swan (2018, dir. Daria Zhuk), 30 September 2022

Discussion about the experiences and memories of postsocialist transition, and their mediation, in Belarus and Poland with Kacper Dziekan, Sviatlana Rasliakova and Magda Szczesniak, moderated by Agnieszka Mrozik and Andrei Zavadski

Workshop with people living in Gdańsk "What does the turn of the 1980-90s mean to you?", 1 October 2022

  • Events organized at the Humboldt Forum in Berlin (in collaboration with the Forum)

Film screening and discussion: Crystal Swan (2018, dir. Daria Zhuk), 5 May 2023

Discussion about the experiences and memories of postsocialist transition, and their mediation, in Belarus and Germany, moderated by Nora Korte and Andrei Zavadski

Workshop with people living in Berlin "What does the Wende period of the 1980 and 1990s mean to you?", 6 May 2023

Project presentations and research stays

June 2021: project presentation at the Zukunftskolleg, Konstanz, June 2021 

December 2021: meeting and discussion with the Gemeinsinn group, University of Konstanz, (organized and chaired by Gruia Badescu)

February 2022: project presentation at IAS CEU 

November 2022: research stay at Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study

May 2023: project presentation at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study


Robbe, Ksenia (ed.). Remembering Transitions: Local Revisions and Global Crossings in Culture and Media. Berlin, De Gruyter. Forthcoming 2023. (with the contribution by Andrei Zavadski, “Remembering the 1990s in Russia as a form of political protest: Mnemonic counterpublics”).

Robbe, Ksenia and Andrei Zavadski. “‘C’mon, Turn Swan Lake on’: Memories of the 1990s at the Belarusian Protests of 2020.” Digital Icons (special issue on the Belarusian protests). Accepted, forthcoming 2023. 

Organized panels/ calls for papers

July 2022: two panels "Dialogic Memories of the 1970-90s Transitions Across the World: Current Practices and Possible Solidarities" organized by Ksenia Robbe, Andrei Zavadski and Agnieszka Mrozik at the Memory Studies Association 2022 virtual conference, 12 July 2022

September 2023: roundtable “Reconstituting Publics through Remembering Transitions: Notes from the ‘Fieldwork’ in Poland and Germany” at the PoSoCoMeS conference “Post-Socialist Memory Cultures in Transitions”, 20-23 September 2023, Tallinn University, Estonia (presenters: Ksenia Robbe, Agnieszka Mrozik, Andrei Zavadski; discussants: Joanna Wawrzyniak, Karen Worcman)

Journal Special Issue “Dialogic Remembering beyond Reconciliation: Politics, Practices, and Potentialities”. Guest editors: Ksenia Robbe, Andrei Zavadski, Agnieszka Mrozik (in progress).