It will soon be a quarter of a century since the memorable events of the turn of 1989-1991. One after another, like a house of cards, the communist regimes collapsed and the so-called transition (or transformation) period began in the countries of the former communist bloc. Soon afterwards, the initial euphoria of masses of protesters was replaced by the arduous building of sustainable democratic institutions, rule of law and functioning market economy, as well as – implied by all these processes – hardships and social costs. Just as every communist country had its own specificity, the paths of their post-communist political transformations also differed, leading not always and not everywhere to the same effects. Yet, there are many common features, and one of them is certainly the practice of constantly referring to the communist past and looking from this perspective at present problems and future challenges.
Precisely this view underpins our work. Our goal is to thoroughly study the phenomenon of post-communist collective memory by using research methods of various disciplines and by focusing on the whole geopolitical area spanning from Russia to Albania. In practical terms, we intend to examine and systematize the existing body of knowledge on collective memory in post-communist Europe, to follow up with new empirical research on this field, and to disseminate the results of our work via publications and international cooperation. For this purpose, on the basis of the research grant no. 2011/03/D/HS2/06170 awarded by the Polish National Science Centre we have established at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, the Laboratory for the Study of Collective Memory in Post-communist Europe – in short POSTCOMER .
We are a group of researchers specializing in various disciplines of social sciences and broadly defined humanities. In the Laboratory we aim to conduct in-depth analysis of collective memory of communist past in formerly communist countries, by putting an emphasis on interdisciplinary and comparative aspects of our work. Many researchers have already examined the subject of collective memory of communism, focusing however either on selected social groups or topics – such as for example lustration, and analyzing only few countries at most. Our aim is to broaden the spectrum of analysis both in terms of space and topics under inquiry. Obviously, we will concentrate on analyzing the official discourses of memory, expressed through historical, educational and cultural policies of various state agents and institutions. However, we intend to closely study also other social practices and expressions of memory work, which often oppose the official discourses. In addition to that, we aim to look at collective memory from different points of view: of men and of women, of politicians and of the person in the street, of intellectuals or professional historians and of young students, of those who represent majority, and of those who constitute a minority.
Finally, we believe that the collected empirical material will allow us to initiate discussions on theoretical issues, by both systematizing the existing body of knowledge and by enriching it with new concepts and methodological approaches. As a first step we intend to systematize the existing terminological chaos within post-communism studies by preparing and publishing online a Lexicon that will explain basic terms and concepts related to post-communism and in particular to the post-communist collective memory. We expect our research not only to enhance understanding of the socio-political contexts, mechanisms and social implications of collective memory in post-communist Europe, but also to contribute to further development of theoretical debates within this field of study.