Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities

Mischa Gabowitsch (Einstein Forum, Potsdam). November 30, 16:00. Tallinn Univesity, Zoom

11/30/2021 - 16:00 - 18:00

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The rise of expressions of regret and atonement for past atrocities has been described as the triumph of an international norm, and recent years have seen increased scholarly interest in the different actors and processes—sub-, trans-, or supra-national—that contribute to the diffusion of that norm. Yet in most cases, the idea is articulated not simply as the application of a universal norm to a particular national or local context, but by analogy. Other countries are held up as examples, as models to emulate or as unreachable gold standards of atonement. Germany in particular is often referred to as a master atoner, a country with an exemplary track record of “coming to terms with its past” that holds valuable lessons for other nations.

Based on a major volume I edited, in this talk I will explore the effects and implications of atoning by analogy. I distinguish between four different ideal-typical uses of foreign models in debates about atonement: as a springboard, a yardstick, a foil, or a screen, and illustrate them with examples from around the world before focusing more specifically on the role that references to the “German model” have played in a Soviet and post-Soviet Russian context.

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