Institute of National Remembrance – “transmitter of historical knowledge”
Rumours about the possible dissolution of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance compelled its representatives on Tuesday to present their institution to the public. As reported here, earlier Deputy Prime Minister for Humanitarian Issues Volodymyr Semynozhenko issued an instruction to several ministries to look into the question of the Institute of National Remembrance’s continued existence. He stated that he planned to meet with the Institute’s management, though no date has yet been set.
Under Viktor Yushchenko’s presidency, the State was actively involved in forming national awareness, and for this purpose the Institute of National Remembrance was created in 2006. The Institute is not an academic research institution, but a higher body of State power, Vladyslav Verstyuk, Deputy Head of the Institute says.
“The Institute has been given the following tasks: to heighten public attention to its own history, to disseminate objective information about its history, to implement State policy on reinstating and retaining national memory, ensure an all-sided study of the stages of the struggle for the renewal of Ukraine’s statehood in the twentieth century, including all forms of repression; to carry out a range of measures to immortalize the memory of the victims of Holodomor and the other manmade famines and of political repression, the participants tin the national liberation struggle, etc”.
As well as concentrating on Holodomor 1932-1933, the Second World War and the national liberation struggle, one of the main areas of its work has been to create a new concept of historical education in Ukraine. The main idea is to depoliticize history textbooks”.
“So that you don’t have to rewrite the textbooks every 5 years (when there is a change in the political forces coming to power), and that is considerable State expense. We propose as much as possible to depoliticize history, placing at the centre not the State or political institutions, but the ordinary person”.
Mr Verstyuk points out that in the majority of post-socialist countries bodies analogous to the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance have been created, with the Polish Institute especially strong. He says that the two cannot be compared.
“There the scale is quite different – 200 members of staff, against our 43. The budget there is 10 million USD, there are 17 branches in woewodstwa (oblasts), and the security service archives have been handed over to the Institute of National Remembrance. There are even powers linked with lustration. We somehow or other try to coordinate work in the cultural sphere, support book publishing”.
Historian Stanislav Kulchytsky told Radio Svoboda that such institutes of national remembrance are vital. They exist, for example, in Israel and Poland – in countries which suffered the most during the 20th century. “Ukraine badly needs the Institute of National Remembrance as a transmitter of historical knowledge. It was of course founded with this idea in mind.
A great amount of academic work has been achieved, a great organizational task, a huge amount of information which will be studied for many many years has been released”.
Mr Kulchytsky adds that an important aspect of the Institute’s work is to inform the older generation about Ukraine’s history, while its greatest achievement, he believes, is the publication of the National Book of Remembrance of Victims of Holodomor 1932-1933.