COMPETITIVE NARRATIVES: MEMORY OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN RIVNE MEMORIAL SPACE
The article examines the changes in Rivne memorial space that have taken place during the last five years. On the eve of the Second World War, the city was a typical Jewish shtetl. 80% of the population were Jews. In 1941–1942, one of the most massive mass slaughters of Jews in Ukraine took place in Rivne. However, the memory of Holocaust victims has long been on the margins, both in terms of the city commemorative practices and in the context of existing memorial markers in Rivne symbolic space. The Memorial in the Sosonky tract, located on the outskirts of the city (on the site of the mass murder of Jews in 1941) is the only symbol of the Holocaust. For long time it was a symbol of the marginalization of the memory of Holocaust victims.
During the past five years, Rivne has faced changes that allow for the reanimation of a long-forgotten memory. These include the installation of “stumbling blocks” set in the sidewalk commemorating victims of Nazism in the central part of the city, creating a sign in memory of the Rivne ghetto victims, marking objects representing the Jewish historical and cultural heritage with annotation boards and QR-codes. Institutions in civil society initiated these changes. NGO “Center “Mnemonics” have installed “stumbling blocks” and a sign in memory of the Rivne ghetto victims. The marking of Jewish historical and cultural heritage sites was within the framework of the new practice of involving public organizations in the budgeting process – a participatory budget. All these initiatives are the result of strengthening the tools of civil society influence and local public policy in the process of reforms that have taken place since the events of the Revolution of Dignity (formation of the participatory budget and the increase in the effectiveness of advocacy campaigns).
Adjustment of the Rivne memorial landscape led to the coexistence of three visions of Second World War memory in its symbolic space – the Soviet mythologem of the “Great Patriotic War”, the nationalist canon of heroism (some of the symbols are not very well chosen – some memorials glorify people and organizations directly responsible for the Holocaust and ethnic cleansing), and monuments dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust. This latest vision is entirely new to the city and to date remains uncertain. But the city has already taken the first steps towards reviving the memory of the Holocaust victims and the multicultural nature of Rivne in the pre-war period.
Is such coexistence of mutually exclusive symbols possible? It is not easy to give a straight answer to this question. A number of factors are operative here. Among the most important conflict-generating factors are the following: (1) as long as the memory and “post-memory” of the Second World War remain alive, there is a risk that these mutually exclusive narratives will play a rather competitive role; (2) the political instrumentalization of these memorial markers during election campaigns also accumulates significant conflict potential. However, the ambivalence of the assessments of these symbols among a large part of the public speaks in favor of the possibility of their conflict-free coexistence. In any case, the situation will depend on the further political contexts that will determine the municipal memorial policy in Rivne.
Keywords: memorial space, symbolic space, memory politics, commemoration, Holocaust, the Second World War in memorial space.