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Doctoral defence: Andrii Nekoliak “‘Memory laws’ and the patterns of collective memory regulation in Poland and Ukraine in 1989–2020: a comparative analysis”

On 18 August at 13:00 Andrii Nekoliak will defend his doctoral thesis “‘Memory laws’ and the patterns of collective memory regulation in Poland and Ukraine in 1989–2020: a comparative analysis” for obtaining the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (in Political Science).

Supervisor:
Professor Vello Pettai, University of Tartu

Opponent:
Senior Researcher Maria Mälksoo, University of Copenhagen (Denmark)

Summary
​​​​​​​
The dissertation investigates the politics of memory laws in Poland and Ukraine since the democratizing moments of 1989/1990. Considering two cases emblematic of the intensity of the politics of memory in the region, the thesis aimed to explain the overall patterns of memory legislation evolution and explicate the specific processes of punitive memory law-making in the parliaments of Poland and Ukraine. It systematically investigated the political dynamics behind collective memory regulation in two country-cases.

I contribute to the state of the field in three ways. On a conceptual level, the thesis distinguishes the domain of collective memory regulation from transitional justice politics. It critically revisited the works over the concept of ‘memory law’ in order to show how this conceptual category can be used to analyze the patterns of collective memory regulation. In particular, I introduced a novelty with regard to the conceptualization of memory law originally formulated by Eric Heinze against the backdrop of other works in the field. Empirically, the dissertation provided an exhaustive and systematic investigation of commemorative lawmaking in the parliaments of two country-cases. The dissertation advanced its analysis based on a unique set of legislation consisting of 447 and 719 parliamentary acts issued by Ukrainian and Polish legislatures, respectively.

Analytically, the dissertation explicated the reasons behind the patterns of collective memory regulation (Study 1) and the specific processes of the emergence of punitive memory laws (Study 2) in Poland and Ukraine. The rationale for dividing the dissertation into Study 1 and Study 2 was to illustrate the potential of operationalizing the concept of memory law into the empirical investigation of the politics of memory of country-cases. Study 1 examined the patterns of commemorative lawmaking in the parliaments of Poland and Ukraine, asking why there was a variation in intensity and propensity of commemorative lawmaking occurring in the politics of Polish Sejm and Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. Study 1 formulated two hypotheses regarding the politics of memorialisation. It set an aim to verify these hypotheses through an empirical investigation of the politics of memory laws in two countries. Furthermore, Study 2 engaged in process analysis of the emergence of punitive memory laws in the national parliaments of Poland and Ukraine. It asked why there was a variation in criminal punishment functions between Polish and Ukrainian laws on historical denialism. While each country-case outlawed certain instances of historical speech over the national past, the severity of prohibitions found in the relevant laws was different. As an analytical added value of the investigation, Study 2 argued that the types of orientation towards national historiographies taken in the politics of the Sejm and the Verkhovna Rada predicted the variation in the formulation of punitive provisions between Polish and Ukrainian laws on historical speech.

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