Körber History Forum > 2019 > Körber History Reflection Group in Lviv

Reassessing European perceptions of Ukraine’s past and future

From 10 to 13 October 2019, the Körber History Reflection Group met in Lviv, Ukraine. Having convened in the Belarusian capital of Minsk in late 2018 and in Berlin in May 2019, the international group of experts came together in western Ukraine’s largest city in order to continue its interdisciplinary and transnational dialogue on the legacy of the World War era in the historically most affected parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

The complex and multi-ethnic past of Lviv, with its amalgam of Polish, Jewish, Ukrainian and Soviet history, served both as background and as point of departure to engage in critical and forward-looking discussions. Central focus points were the enduring presence of Habsburg, Tsarist or Soviet rule, ethnic conflict and reconciliation between Central Eastern Europe’s nations and minorities, the historical rupture of Nazi rule and the Shoah, as well as a currently observed politicisation of 20th century history, brought about by an intensification of conflicts along assumptions of nationality and geopolitical interest spheres.

Historians, diplomats, politicians, members of civil society and the media from throughout Europe grasped the opportunity to exchange insights and confront themselves with new perspectives. Ukraine’s current political developments and its positioning between East and West, Russia and the European Union, were revisited regularly during discussions, with invaluable input by Ukrainian participants such as the newly appointed vice-minister for culture, Iryna Podolyak, and contemporary historian Georgiy Kasianov. Direct exchange with Lviv’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, as well as local memory actors such as Vasyl Rasevich, allowed participants to gain a first-hand understanding of how the future trajectory of Ukraine’s democratic project depends on reaching a shared understanding of its past. Representatives voiced their hope and confidence in developing and promoting narratives of inclusion rather than exclusion, and that aim at reconciling the multitude of individual and societal, cultural and political experiences that make up today’s Ukraine.

The Lviv meeting of the Körber History Reflection group was carried through in cooperation with the Center for Urban History of Eastern and Central Europe. Following an inaugural keynote by Karl Schlögel, who underlined how intricately Ukraine’s history is interwoven into the region, two days of intense exchange in round table sessions and during excursions and meetings allowed participants to review and remap their assumptions and understanding of Ukraine’s past and present in or vis-à-vis Europe.

The Körber History Reflection Group sets a focus on debating how historians, politicians, diplomats, as well as members of civil society and the media can involve themselves in a process of deweaponising contested pasts and politicised perceptions of history, while balancing critical debate with empathy toward those affected by last century’s legacy of violence.

List of participants (PDF)

  • Nicolas Chibaeff, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Paris, and Iryna Podolyak, Ministry of Culture, Kyiv.    
  • Eric Gujer, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Dace Melbārde, European Parliament, Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, German Foreign Office Berlin and Karl Schlögel, Berlin.    
  • The Körber History Reflection Group convened in the historic Mirror Hall of the National Opera in Lviv.   Photo: Iryna Sereda  
  • Alexander Semyonov, Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg, Šarūnas Liekis, Vytautas Magnus University Kaunas    
  • Georgiy Kasianov, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine Kyiv, Sylvie Kauffmann, Le Monde Paris, Jan Hofmokl, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Warsaw, Jurij Aston, Permanent Representation of Germany to the European Union Brussels.    
  • Sofia Dyak, Center for Urban History of East Central Europe Lviv, Natalie Nougayrède, The Guardian London and Alexander Semyonov, Higher School of Economics St. Petersburg    
  • Karl Schlögel and participants of the Körber History Reflection Group following the debate.    
  • Vasyl Rasevych, zaxid.net Lviv, Marieluise Beck, Center for Liberal Modernity Berlin, and Paweł Machcewicz, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw    
  • Thomas Paulsen, Körber-Stiftung, speaks with participants of the Körber History Reflection Group    
  • Participants in dialogue with Andriy Sadovyi, the mayor of Lviv, and local memory actors.    
  • Excursions introduced participants to the multi-ethnic past of Lviv.    
  • The historic Lychakiv cemetery gave insight into Lviv’s past.    
  • Overlooking Lviv’s historic old town, the recently opened monument to the victims of the Euromaidan commemorates Ukraine’s most recent history.    
  • Photos: Iryna Sereda

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