Organisers: Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture, University of Tirana, Institute for East European History of the University of Vienna, Institute for the Studies of Communist Crimes and Consequences in Albania
Venue: Tirana, Albania
Political myths are fundamental to politics. They do not describe reality, but imagine it in accordance with certain political interests. Their emergence is closely related to a discrepancy between reality and aspirations. By appealing to emotions in particular, they aim to simplify explanations for failures, inspire loyalty and mobilize groups into action (Tismaneanu 1998). Totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century heavily relied on political myths to legitimize their power and policies, including crimes and persecution. In communist countries, myths about World War II, a genial leader, the party as the embodiment of historical wisdom, glorious achievements, internal and external enemies, and the new communist man, to name a few, were pervasive. In the late and end phases, larger segments of the population responded to state-sponsored myths with apathy, scepticism or irritation. Following the fall of communist regimes, their myths were shattered, and efforts were made to de-mythologize them. However, the difficult transition provided fertile ground for the perpetuation and adaptation of communist myths, as well as the creation of new myths in the process of remembering and evaluating the past (life) under communism.
In Albania, communist mythology has found and still finds especially favourable conditions: a pronounced bizarreness and radicality of the communist regime both in terms of ambitions to transform socio-economic conditions and ideologically indoctrinate society, a stark discrepancy between aspirations and reality, a dramatic post-communist transition including severe political and economic crises and deep anxieties, an almost complete failure of transitional justice, restrictive and problematic politics of access to archives and a comparatively extreme low number of professional studies still three decades after the regime fall. Among the most common, powerful and perplexing myths are those about the country’s ruler, communist party, Second World War, working class, new communist man, socialist heroes, emancipation of women, economic achievements, autarky, military strength, enemy siege and conspiracies, lack of religion feelings among Albanian people, the country’s reputation as a lighthouse of world communism, equality, communist-time social values such as sincerity and solidarity, high quality of education, low rates of criminality and corruption.
Against this backdrop, the conference “Communist myths in Albania, before and after the system change” aims to shed light on a critical, broad and understudied topic. We are interested in all aspects of communist myths and their interplay with post-communist memories and debates. Beyond simply deconstructing narratives, we aim to examine their processes of production, dissemination, reception, reproduction, adaption and transformation and to reflect on myths as valuable entry points to many socio-political aspects of communism and post-communism (cf. Claudia-Florentina Dobre 2017).
The organizers are looking for proposals elaborating clearly defined research topics. Please email your abstract of no more than 300 words, together with a brief academic CV, and any other queries to firstname.lastname@example.org by October 30, 2021. A publication of selected papers in a special issue of a peer reviewed journal is intended.
The conference is organised by the Institute for Democracy, Media & Culture (IDMC) in cooperation with the University of Tirana, Institute for East European History of the University of Vienna and the Institute for the Studies of Communist Crimes and Consequences in Albania. It is part of the annual event “Memory Days”, which IDMC organises in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Working languages: English and Albanian.
Keynote speakers (confirmed): Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers and Lavinia Stan.
Scientific committee: Jonila Godole (IDMC & University of Tirana), Idrit Idrizi (University of Vienna), Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers (Bournemouth University), Oliver Jens Schmitt (University of Vienna), Lavinia Stan (St. Francis Xavier University), Valentina Duka (University of Tirana), Egin Ceka (Vienna), Klejd Këlliçi (University of Tirana).