Book Chapter

Introduction: Toward a Study of Memory Policy in Transatlantic Relations



Tóth G & Kozák K (2018) Introduction: Toward a Study of Memory Policy in Transatlantic Relations. In: Bauer P, Kozák K, Tóth G & Wanger A (eds.) Stretching "the Mystic Chords of Memory": Uses of Memory in Transatlantic Relations from the Cold War to the Global War on Terror. London: Routledge, pp. 1-8.

In the spring of 2015 – the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two – even an ordinary Internet search showed that recent public rhetoric had couched the ongoing crisis in Ukraine in terms of that past world conflict. It was not only sensationalist journalists, aged cold warriors or implacable Ukrainian nationalists who had been calling Russian president Vladimir Putin a modern day Hitler. Some of the highest dignitaries in the West who had made the same comparison included former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Britain’s Prince Charles, and the president of Lithuania – all public figures who knew the power of words, and who were fully aware that their reference to Europe’s darkest period would have a serious effect on the framing of the current crisis in Russian-Western relations. While they may have been intended as a rhetorical line in the sand for Russia, such uses of the past likely exacerbated the conflict rather than de-escalated it. On the other side, Russian Ukrainian separatists and the Russian media and government had consistently blamed the conflict on Western "fascists." This was their way of evoking their own narrative of the Great War in Defense of the Homeland against the Nazis and their collaborators 70 years before to mobilize their side in the current conflict. Such heated rhetoric lays bare the potential of public memory to serve as a tool of propaganda or cultural diplomacy: to move, persuade, mobilize, and commit people to a cause or policy not only nationally, but also in international relations. As important as they are, scholars, security analysts, and government officials need to look not only for short-term preventative measures but for a formulation of a coherent transatlantic memory policy to support peaceful relations in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. In other words, government officials as well scholars of nationalism and memory should do more than include memory as one of the resources of international relations. They should identify what expressions of memory can be used in diplomacy, when and how – and develop models for a coherent memory policy. This book is intended to aid such efforts.

Output Status: Forthcoming

Place of publicationLondon

People (1)


Dr Gyorgy Toth

Dr Gyorgy Toth

Lecturer, History