History of Communism in Europe vol. 4-2013: Transitional Justice and Civil Societies
after Dictatorial Regimes

Argument: Transitional Justice: Between Political Myth and Civil Society Reality

Dalia Báthory
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile

Transitional Justice. Philosophical Foundation and Constitutional Rejection in Hungary

Csaba Varga
The Catholic University of Hungary
Abstract: There are internationally set criteria that apply in the case of a legacy of grave and systematic violations of human rights, generating obligations of the state towards the victims and society. They specify: (1) a right of the victim to see justice done, (2) a right to know the truth, (3) an entitlement to compensation and nonmonetary forms of restitution, as well as (4) a right to reorganized and accountable institutions. Facing the complete failure of implementing the first three points, one can claim that none of them has been fulfilled in Hungary since the fall of Communism, almost one quarter of a century ago. This paper analyses the context in which constitutional adjudication may confront certainty of law with the very idea of justice by putting an end to any progress of leaving the legacy of Communism behind. As a consequence, the Rule of Law becomes a mere simulacrum.

Justice of another Kind. Laying Claims to the Past in Post-Dictatorial Albania

Andreas Hemming
German-Albanian Friendship Association
Abstract: More than twenty years after the collapse of the totalitarian regime in Albania, the archives of the state security apparatus (Sigurimi) have yet to be opened. The horror of the Hoxha regime remains under lock and key. Not one word is lost on the network of political prisons and the state security apparatus in the history schoolbooks; in today’s only history text about Albania written by a university scholar, that addresses some details of the socialist period, this part of the socialist past is also left out. The lack of initiative from the government or any other state organisation to address this situation has led to setting up a number of alternative civil society organisations that focus on this issue. One of these is a very important movement in northern Albania, having at its core a disparate but vibrant publishing industry that provides space for the local actors to publish their memories and experiences. Two genres of writing can be identified here: local histories and family histories. Common to both are motifs of local patriotism and personal sacrifice, but the local histories – mainly of specific villages and towns – tend to be apologetic of the regime while the family histories tend more often to be those of victims and opponents of the regime.

Healing the Wounds of Past: Ex-Combatants Live in Belgrade Theatre Performance “Tanatos”

Olivera Simić
Griffith Univeristy
Abstract: This paper addresses the organised civil society efforts to bring excombatants into the public sphere in Serbia, and investigates the potential for constructive use of ex-combatants’ war experiences in theatre. By staging the theatre performance Tanatos, the Group “Hajde da…” (the Group) from Belgrade aims to challenge negative views of this category of the Serbian population. So far, ex-combatants have been largely ignored, and as such, their capacities for contributing to transitional justice processes in the Serbian community have been neglected.  Not only does the Tanatos bring four ex-combatants onto the stage to share their combat-related experiences with an audience, but it also gives the audience an opportunity to meet the ex-combatants after the performance in an open ‘question and answer’ session. As a qualitative case study, the paper draws from multiple sources: direct observation of the theatre performance in Belgrade in 2011, documentary research and fieldwork in Serbia undertaken during the summer of 2013, analysis of internal documents produced within the Group, and an interview with the dramaturge of the performance. The paper concludes that through Tanatos, the Group has opened public space for a dialogue about the recent past that acknowledges ex-combatants as an important factor in transitional justice processes in the region.

Remembering Resistance, Forgetting Torture: Gender and Agency in Former Political Prisoners’ Oral History Narratives in Postdictatorial Argentina

Rebekah Park
Marlboro College
Abstract: This paper focuses on how thirty-nine former political prisoners in Córdoba, Argentina spoke about their compromiso (political commitment) to a leftist, socialist-leaning political project during the Cold War. After being imprisoned in the 1970s and 1980s and then marginalized after being freed, they began to formally record their stories in the mid-2000s as part of their political activism. In these thirty-nine oral history narratives, collected in 2008 and 2009, women, by and large, spoke about personal experiences in clandestine detention centres, while the men focused on Argentina’s broader history of social and labour movements. This paper theorizes that men interviewed in this study speak about values of solidarity and resistance in broad historic-social terms, while their women counterparts focus on personal experiences; in this regard, men and women both focus on the most salient, and available, site of political commitment for their respective genders. Identifying such a distinction between the stories told by male and female survivors is relevant for the ways in which Argentina’s history is told in memorialized spaces, encouraging curators, historians, and archivists to make use of both personal narratives as well as the broadly historical ones, and is crucial to understanding how acts of resistance and solidarity were gendered, even though social transformation is assumed to be “gender-neutral.”

Le « procès du communisme » et les formes de la rhétorique de l ’« anticommunisme » dans la presse intellectuelle roumaine au début des années 1990

Camelia Runceanu
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile
Abstract: Sous l’emprise de l’urgence, à la suite de la démission du communisme, des intellectuels autonomistes d’avant 1989 se mobilisent au nom de la morale. Le regroupement d’intellectuels permet de mettre en valeur le capital moral qu’ils cumulent et que certains ont obtenu avant 1989 et le volume du capital symbolique en procédant à une réévaluation du capital culturel acquis sous le communisme pour s’engager au nom des valeurs intellectuelles. L’affirmation collective des intellectuels suppose la construction d’une identité commune qui est en rapport avec l’évaluation du passé. Cet article présente une première étape dans le travail de construction d’une identité commune et de légitimation des engagements intellectuels qui consiste dans le recours à la mémoire individuelle au moment même de la restructuration de l’espace politique et dans la formulation du « procès du communisme » comme procès « moral ». Le témoignage est une forme prise par le travail de mémoire qui prend une place importante dans les stratégies discursives de légitimation de la position des intellectuels, des revendications d’un rôle politique par des intellectuels consacrés sous le communisme et des intellectuels autonomistes de la période communiste. Le travail de mémoire qui nous est présenté sous diverses formes s’inscrit et fonde l’objectif principal de ces intellectuels, à savoir faire le « procès du communisme ».


David BRANDENBERGER, Propaganda State in Crisis: Soviet Ideology, Indoctrination, and Terror under Stalin, 1927-1941, Yale, University Press, 2012, 357 p.

Teo Enache
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile

Igal HALFIN, Red Autobiographies. Initiating the Bolshevik Self, University of Washington Press, 2011, 224 p.

Georgiana Leșu
The Institute for the Investigation of Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile

Coleen MURPHY, A Moral Theory of Political Reconciliation, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, 214 p.

Andrei Galiță
The Institute for the Investigation of the Communist Crimes and the Memory of the Romanian Exile