Remembering Yalta: The Politics of International History

Plokhy, Serhii

In the opinion of the Polish historian Jerzy Jedlicki, the twentieth-century history of Eastern Europe is “a perfect laboratory to observe how the genuine or apparent remembrances of the past may aggravate current conflicts and how they themselves are modified in the process.” According to Jedlicki, the most intriguing question that the study of Eastern Europe can help answer is: “What factors activate historical reminiscences, and what circumstances would rather allow them to remain dormant and apparently forgotten. In other words, collective ‘memories' may become ‘hot' or ‘cooled,'and the course of events may often depend on their emotional temperature.” I propose to examine patterns of collective remembrance and forgetting of historical events of international importance by analyzing public debates on the legacy of the Yalta Conference in Russia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine, and the United States. I consider the interrelations between politics and historical representations in each of these countries, and the impact of the changing international situation on the ways in which intellectual and political elites interpret the importance of the Yalta agreements. In conclusion, I analyze the narrative strategies employed by the “winners” and “losers” of Yalta in representing their vision of the past.


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The Harriman Institute, Columbia University
The Harriman Review
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January 7, 2021