Dr. Félix Krawatzek

The Proliferation of Memory Laws and the Return of the Nation

Dr. Félix Krawatzek

The Proliferation of Memory Laws and the Return of the Nation

One of the few undamaged statues of Lenin still standing in Ukraine in 2017: the decommunisation laws in Ukraine, signed four years earlier, were declared constitutional in 2019. IMAGO / Ukrinform

in cooperation with Dr. George Soroka (Harvard University)

This project receives funding from the Daimler and Benz Foundation Scholarship Programme. It is part of the research cluster Societies between Stability and Change.

Project description

In recent years, many Central and Eastern European countries have adopted legislation that seeks to regulate the work of historians and public discourse about history. Such legislation is indicative of attempts at nation-building by means of state-crafted historical narratives that try to establish norms about how to view the past. They also illustrate the difficult nation-building projects that have characterised many Eastern European countries since the demise of the Soviet Union.

In Russia, a whole range of laws has been introduced to punish statements about the country’s history that deviate from the official position. But what can be said in public about a country’s past is also curtailed by legal provisions in many other countries, for example in Poland, Ukraine, France, Spain, Germany, Chile and a number of states in the US.

Focussing on Russia and Ukraine, this project explores the political dynamics behind this juridification of history and its wider societal implications.


  • Carrying out a survey of perceptions of history using novel techniques like vignette and list experiments
  • Compiling a database of memory laws and their political dynamics

Key questions

  • What kinds of memory laws exist and what are their domestic and foreign policy implications?
  • What is the societal relevance of the memory narratives of political and cultural elites?
  • How do political views correlate with historical perceptions?

Project coordination