Dealing With a Contested Past: "Monument Wars" in Ukraine and the U.S.A.

Nov. 24, 2020, 12:00pm

Join Columbia's Harriman Institute for a talk with Valentyna Kharkun (Nizhyn Mykola Gogol State University) on comparisons between the removal of statues in Ukraine and the U.S. 

When the dismantling of monuments became an integral part of the Black Lives Matter movement, it brought to light a similar phenomenon that Ukraine recently experienced—particularly that of Leninopad (the shedding of Lenin monuments)—as part of a process of de-communization. Surprisingly, two societies with different cultural backgrounds and with different developments of democratic values and abidance to human rights chose a very similar way to revise what they considered to be an unsettling history—by demolishing monuments. Through distinguishing similarities and differences when dealing with the contested past of each country, Professor Valentyna Kharkhun will consider the following issues: Why are monuments important when constructing cultural space and creating public imagination about a common past? What are the contemporary circumstances that caused the “monument wars,” and who are the mnemonic entrepreneurs who initiated the vanquishing of the contested monuments?  How does dismantling monuments as a mnemonic security action influence a society’s remembrance of a contested past, and how might it change identity politics as well as the biographical self-narrative of the state? Ultimately, Professor Kharkhun will discuss the political and cultural outcomes of “monument wars” and consider whether they can serve as “historical lessons” in understanding how we comprehend the past. 

Viewing information can be found on the event page.


Valentyna Kharkun, professor at the Ukrainian literature and journalism department, Nizhyn Mykola Gogol State University