BA Politics and Modern History / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
War, Memory and Politics of Commemoration in Eastern Europe

Unit code HIST31842
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by History
Available as a free choice unit? No


The legacies of World War II and the Holocaust are particularly enduring in Eastern Europe. It is not surprising, therefore, that memories of the war have been shaping domestic and international relations in much of Eastern Europe since the demise of the Soviet Bloc. The war memories have been used to promote narratives of independent nationhood, to frame discourses about internal and external security and to justify new aspirations for the future. This course explores war memory and commemoration after the fall of communism to probe the connection between collective memory and national identity in the context of a rapid transformation of society. Students will consider how the memory of past events contributes to the formation of new identities in turbulent times.


HIST31841 is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; and History or Russian joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas (please check your programme structure for further details).

This module is only available to students on History-owned programmes; Euro Studies programmes; History joint honours programmes owned by other subject areas; and Russian Studies programmes. Available to students on an Erasmus programme subject to VSO approval.


  • To introduce the main theoretical approaches to the study of collective memory, politics of memory and invented traditions
  • To develop understanding of collective memory’s role in shaping key aspects of contemporary politics
  • To explore the centrality of memory in the construction of identities
  •  To consider the ethics of remembering and forgetting 
  • To give students a greater understanding of the relationship between memory and transitional justice

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be able to:


Indicative Course Structure:

Week One 

Myth and War Memory: The legacies of World War II and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe

Week Two 

Collective Memory- What is it? How is social memory generated?

Week Three

Sites of Memory: How is social memory maintained and reproduced?

Week Four

Memory and Identity: Why does collective memory matter?

Week Five

Memory and History: Commemorating the victims of Nazism and Stalinism in the former East Germany

Week Six

Memory and Post-Communist Transformation: Historical apologies and the challenges of EU accession for post-communist Poland

Week Seven

The Power of Memory and the Struggle for Power: The Case of former Yugoslavia

Week Eight

The Ethics of Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in Poland, Hungary and Romania

Week Nine

Cosmopolitan Memory and Divided Societies: Memory of the Red Army in the Baltic Sates

Week Ten

Politics of Memory and International Relations: Moscow’s and Kiev’s 9 May commemorations

Week Eleven


Teaching and learning methods

1x 3-hour session per week (1-hour lecture and 2-hour seminar)

1x 2.5-hour film screening

Course Unit Office Hours (2 hours per week)

Extensive resources will be available via Blackboard. These will include PowerPoint presentations; seminar discussion questions; copies of and/or links to required readings and audio-visual materials; and supplementary materials to aid students in preparing for assessment.

Knowledge and understanding

  • understand why and how nation-states commemorate the past;
  • show awareness of the diverse forms and functions of social remembering;
  • assess the legacies of World War II and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe;
  • understand the relationship between the present readings of World War Two and the construction of new post-communist identity in Eastern Europe;
  • analyze a range of forms of remembrance including public commemorations, cultural representations and personal testimonies of war survivors.

Intellectual skills

  • develop analytical skills to understand complex historical, cultural and social issues;
  • apply critical thinking and analysis to cultural representations;
  • formulate arguments backed by evidence;
  • identify and explain competing arguments.

Practical skills

  • evaluate historical documents;
  • make effective use of a wide variety of historical sources;
  • undertake rigours contextual analysis;
  • present written work in a coherent, well-structured and well-articulated form;
  • give an effective oral presentation.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • gather, organize and deploy evidence in marshalling an argument;
  • through oral presentations, develop effective communication of ideas and arguments;
  • draw upon a wide range of learning resources (including library materials and the Internet);
  • provide thoughtful and constructive feedback to others.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
analyse visual and written texts;
Group/team working
critically evaluate a team¿s performance
Oral communication
communicate both orally and in writing with structure, coherence, clarity and fluency;
gather, organize and deploy evidence in marshalling an argument;

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 45%
Oral assessment/presentation 15%

Feedback methods

Oral and written feedback on presentations - summative

Written feedback on essays - summative

Written feedback on exams when requested - summative

Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment) - formative


Recommended reading

Barbara A. Misztal, Theories of Social Remembering (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2003).

Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

Memory and Power in Post-War Europe, ed. by Jan-Werner Müller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Katherine Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Postsocialist Change (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).

Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe, ed. by John-Paul Himka and Joanna Michlic (Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2013).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 2.5
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 162.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
EWA OCHMAN Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Assessment Methods

Presentation, summative, 10 minutes, 15%

Essay, summative, 2800 words, 45%

Exam (1 essay, 60%, and 2 brief commentaries, 40%), summative, 2 hours, 40%

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