The “big bang”, i.e. the greatest enlargement of the European Union, took place on 1 May 2004. The enlargement encompassed the countries of East and Central Europe: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Slovenia, along with Cyprus and Malta. In 2007, the EU was further enlarged to include Bulgaria and Romania. In July 2013, Croatia joined the group. Even though not all of these countries celebrate their 15th anniversary as members in the organization, the examination of the situation of these states (except Cyprus and Malta) seems valid from the point of view of the geographical area of interest. This Report deals with these issues.
In November 2018, one of the leading politicians of the Serbian opposition was beaten up by a group of hooligans in Serbia. This incident caused a wave of outrage throughout the Serbian society and led to the outbreak of the largest anti-government protests since the overthrow of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević (2000). According to the organizers’ intentions, the demonstrations, which function under the slogan “One of Five Million”, are for mally devoid of any political affiliation and represent a genuine civic opposition to the system of government which functions in Serbia under the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) and President Aleksandar Vučić. The people who have participated in the protests represent various ideological positions and political views. The opposition political parties associated within the Alliance for Serbia (SzS) are, however, closely involved
in the organization of the demonstrations. These circumstances relativize the declaratively civic and apolitical nature of the protests and inevitably politicize the demonstrations. The participants of the protests are accusing the authorities of serious violations of the rules of democracy and emanding a widely defined normalization of political life in Serbia. Despite declarations from the politicians of the opposition, the “One of Five Million” protests did not lead to a political breakthrough in Serbia. The declining scale and dynamics of the demonstrations show that Serbia’s ruling camp still enjoys a real support from the society, while the opposition parties (SzS) are unable to build a broad public support against the current Serbian authorities. The ongoing political crisis has led to a political stalemate in Serbia. In effect, the authorities are partially weakened, while the opposition does not know how to revitalize the declining anti-government protests. This situation reduces the ability of the current government in Belgrade to make difficult political decisions in its foreign policy concerning Serbia (the Kosovo question).
The Baltic States focus their own historical policies on the occupation and glorification of the struggle for independence, in which the Soviet occupation is the basis for the construction of historical narratives by the Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian authorities. The recovery of national consciousness and the shaping of patriotism in the Baltic States were influenced both by internal conditions (the presence of Russian-speaking minorities) and external conditions (the historical policy of Russia), which played a different role in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. In Latvia and Estonia, national divisions determine conflicts over historical politics, which reflect the so-called monument wars. These are disputes over Soviet monuments, the most striking examples of which are the Bronze Soldier Monument in Estonia and the Victory Monument in Latvia. Due to the large
Russian-speaking minority in Latvia and Estonia, Russia’s historical policy plays a special role there. Its actions are a reaction to the independence of the Baltic States, to their identity being shaped separately from Russia and to the loss of old privileges by the Russian-speaking inhabitants of the region. Memorial museums in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which mainly commemorate the crimes of the Soviet regime and the struggle for ndependence, play an important role in building of national identity. Lithuania stands out from the rest of the Baltic States mainly due to a lower percentage of Russian-speaking population. Despite its active participation in political life, it plays a lesser role than in Latvia and Estonia in formulating narratives contrary to the historical policy dominance. Therefore, disputes over the Soviet heritage in Lithuania are mainly of an internal
nature and concern the attitudes of Lithuanian society at that time. Decommunization in Lithuania was only partial, which was connected with the transformation of the local communist party into a social democratic group and its inclusion in the political life of the independent state. Although the post-communists did not question Lithuanian historical policy, the condemnation of the communist period in Lithuania was not as unequivocal as in the other Baltic States.
The paper is an attempt to describe and explain the solutions applied in the Czech Republic to the material heritage of the Soviet Union in the last 30 years. The strategies adopted by the Czech authorities and the Czech society will be described. Since the replacement of the symbols of a bygone era with new
ones was an important element in the desovietisation of public space, there will also be references to this issue. This will allow us to draw conclusions about the Czech historical policy: determination of its actors, tools and positions of the authorities in relation to the Soviet heritage. The Czech historical policy towards the material heritage of the Soviet Union Has not been uniform, consisting of many scattered activities. Therefore, the memory discourse was not dominated by one of the subjects. It is worth noting the involvement of, in particular, local communities and artistic circles, whose initiatives often changed the significance of the monuments and memorials created in the territory of the present-day Czech Republic during the period of popular democracy and, as a result, neutralised the burden of the past. At the same time, this approach has resulted in the gradual forgetting about the role of Czech society in building a system of popular democracy. Symbolic (and not only) desovietisation was carried out in the Czech Republic under the slogan “Return to Europe”. Activities undertaken in relation to Soviet material heritage, carried out by representatives of Czech society and local and national authorities, also had an image-building aspect. One such task was to re-incorporate the Czech Republic into the space of “Europe”, understood as “Western Europe”. The newly founded (Jan Palach) or reopened (National Memorial Site in Vítkov) memorial sites, which were a counterweight to the material heritage of the Soviet Union or referred to the interwar Czechoslovak Republic, were also to serve this purpose.