The Difficulties of Addressing Memories of Communism

JHIBlog

By guest contributor Ilana Seelinger

Whenever you try to teach communist history, you run into the same issue: how do you address the conflicting memories of a contested past?

When you’re talking about communism in a country that experienced it, you can count on the fact that most students will approach it with some prior knowledge of the subject. Although they may not know the historical specifics very well, they will have grown up in a family that remembers the period in some specific way, negatively or positively. The students will also hear about the period from a teacher whose own biases will inevitably color the presentation. Memories of the communist period and their contestation thus continue to shape the post-communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe while their respective societies struggle to build an “official” public memory. It has proven tedious for these societal memories to take the myriad…

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