Between Apathy and Nostalgia

17‒18 NOVEMBER 2017, TIRANA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture (IDMC) in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) organized on 18–19 November 2017 an international conference entitled "Between Apathy and Nostalgia: Public and Private Recollections of Communism in Contemporary Albania".

Nostalgia and the different ways the past is remembered were presented and discussed on a scientific level during the 2nd and 3rd days of the Memory Days event. According to the executive director of IDMC, Dr. Jonila Godole, "nostalgia, although perceived lightly in everyday life in Albania, makes it indispensable to face the truth about the past". She cited examples of young people who, in her work as a university professor and the director of IDMC, often subconsciously recalled only the positive memories about Communism from their families and lacked the true understanding of the ruling dictatorship at the time.

Walter Glos, the director of KAS, introduced an expert from Germany, Hildigund Neubert, who previously served as a commissioner for STASI documents. He praised the recent developments about the process of remembering in Albania, and the establishment of the Authority for the Opening of Communist-era Files.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On her part, Mrs. Neubert talked about the experience Germany had gained from facing its past. "History does not heal old wounds, but the process in itself is very important for the future; if you know your past you can build a safer future. This is the reason why the Communists falsified history, because they thought that by changing the facts they would be in command of the present. Europe has had a similar experience with Communism," said Mrs. Neubert.

A Bulgarian expert on the memories of Communism, Daniela Koleva, viewed nostalgia as a form of social critique. "By idealizing about the past we identify the defects in the present," said Mrs. Koleva, noting that post-Socialist nostalgia is not about going back to the old system. Prof. Dr. Afrim Krasniqi considered nostalgia in Albania's case resulted from the lack of information about the past rather than from a critical examination of the present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for Romania's case, Dr. Cristian Vasile, outlined the immense work that special commissions in the country had carried out on the subject of remembrance over the years. He said they had also faced many difficulties, in particular some concerning religious-related crimes. Mr. Vasile admitted that politics oftentimes tries "to instrumentalize the process for political purposes", but he remained optimistic that Romania would persevere in its attempt to condemn Communist crimes.

Elidor Mëhilli, an historian, shared his experience of accessing the dictatorship-era archives, including the archives of at least six different countries worldwide.  "To think that these archives hold the truth is simply inaccurate. Now we know that Communism was built on lies, and the archives normally will contain inaccuracies or lies. Therefore, our approach to studying the past should not be based on mystifying the dictatorship," he noted.

Idrit Idrizi's talk on Communism typology in present-day Albania aroused interest among the conference participants. "The demonization and glorification of the Communism period could be classified into three narrative typologies: Life under Communism was normal, life under Communism was terrifying, and Communism achieved superior outcomes. All three depend on the time the people were born, their sympathies to the system and their persecution by the State Security."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Days will run until 23 November, and conclude with the announcement of the winners of the "Ask Your Grandparents 2" competition. The presentation of other research works on the dictatorship and a public reading of Musine Kokalari file will take place on 21‒22 November.

 

Organizing committee:

Dr. Idrit Idrizi: Postdoctoral fellow of the Austrian Academy of Sciences (Post-DocTrack-Pilotprogramme). Research areas: contemporary history of Albania, communism and post-communism studies, everyday life history and oral history.

Dr. Jonila Godole: Lecturer at the University of Tirana, Department of Journalism and Communication. Research areas: journalism cultures, media and memory studies. Director of the Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture, which is supported by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

Sonila Danaj: PhD candidate at the Department of Social Sciences, University of Jyvaskyla/Researcher, European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research, Vienna, Austria.

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