Genocides and Memories: Russia’s War Against Ukraine in Comparative Perspective

November 13, 2023, 12:30 pm - November 15, 2023, 4:45 pm

Price Gilbert Memorial Library, Scholars Event Theater (Room 1280) and Online

The war in Ukraine is the most serious armed conflict in Europe since the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. The groundwork for this war was laid by memory wars between Russia and its former satellites in the 2000s and 2010s. These memory wars were mainly focused on the legacy of WWII and crimes against humanity committed by the fascist, communist, and nationalist regimes and movements. Thus, the language of the Russian anti-Ukraine propaganda is based entirely on the Soviet myth of WWII, according to which all anti-Russian forces are Nazi allies.

The dynamics of violence in the region seem to follow a vicious circle: genocides – memory wars – new genocides. Indeed, according to many observers, Russian atrocities on Ukraine’s occupied territories seem to fall under the concept of genocide as defined in the 1948 UN Convention. Similar dynamics were also characteristic of the Yugoslav wars.  

The return of violence, largely stimulated by populist history politics, came as a surprise to many observers, convinced as they were in the 1980s and even 1990s that the rise of memory, including the memories of past tragedies, promised peace and mutual understanding between different racial, national, ethnic, and religious communities rather than the renewal of hostilities. This is, however, not what we see today. Memory wars are currently raging from East Asia and Australia through Europe and the Near East to the Americas. The war in Ukraine has shown that a memory war can trigger a shooting war. This conference will focus on the ways in which populist movements and neo-authoritarian regimes weaponize the historical past as a major instrument of their propaganda, as well as on the long-term evolution of modern culture and historical consciousness, which has made possible such manipulations through collective memory.

Co-hosted by Georgia Tech School of Modern Languages and School of History and Sociology; Emory University Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures; Emory University Center for Human Rights and Democracy and the Department of Political Science; Georgia State University Department of Political Science, Criminology, and International Studies; and Georgia Gwinnett College.

Conference Schedule

Monday, Nov. 13

Panel 1, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m., hosted by Georgia Tech, online


  • Georgi M. Derluguian (New York University, Abu Dhabi) – Is This World War III Yet?
  • Uladzislau Belavusau (University of Amsterdam, T.M.C. Asser Institute) – Belarus as a Missing Particle of the Puzzle in the Memory Wars in the Context of Russia’s War against Ukraine.
  • Neringa Klumbytė (Miami University, Oxford) – Post-Imperial Predicament: Suffering and Victimization in Lithuania’s Sovereignty.

Moderator: Nikolay Koposov (Georgia Tech)

Tuesday, Nov. 14

Panel 2, 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., hosted by Georgia Gwinnett College, hybrid

1000 University Center Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30043, B-1600,


  • Dirk Moses (City College of New York) – Armed Conflict and the Question of Genocide in Ukraine and Gaza.
  • Dovilė Budrytė (Georgia Gwinnett College and Vilnius University) with Ana Nolasco Roblero (Georgia Gwinnett College) – “Critical Situations” and Mnemonic Legislation: Memory Politics in the Baltic States and the War in Ukraine.
  • Violeta Davoliute (Vilnius University), The Securitization of Memory and the Practice of Public History in the Baltic States.

Moderator: Laura Young (Georgia Gwinnett College, Department of Political Science, Criminology, and International Studies, Associate Professor and Chair)

Panel 3, 3:30 – 4:45 p.m., hosted by Georgia State University, online


  • Yana Prymachenko (Ukrainian Academy of Sciences / Princeton University) – The Shield of the Motherland: Russian Invasion and the End of the Soviet Cult of the Great Victory in Ukraine.
  • Jade McGlynn (King’s College, London) – Three Phases of Putin’s Politics of Memory.
  • Jelena Subotic (Georgia State University) – Russia, NATO, and the View from the East.

Moderator: Ryan E. Carlin (Georgia State University, Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Director)

Panel 4, 5 – 6:15 p.m., hosted by Emory University, online


  • Dina Khapaeva (Georgia Tech) – Terror as National Identity: Russia’s War against Ukraine.
  • Amanda Weiss (Georgia Tech) – Memories of Manchuria in China and Japan.
  • Matthew Payne (Emory) – Nation, Memory, and History in Central Asia: The Kyrgyz Exodus of 1916 and the Kazakh Famine of 1931-1933

Moderator: Juliette Stapanian Apkarian (Emory University, Department of Russian and East Asian Languages and Cultures, Associate Professor and Chair)

Wednesday, Nov. 15

Keynote Event, 11 a.m. – 12:15 p.m., hosted by Georgia Tech, hybrid

Georgia Tech Library, Scholars Event Network, Room 1280, 686-704 Cherry St NW, Atlanta, GA 30332,

Welcoming remarks: Richard Utz (Georgia Tech, Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts, Senior Associate Dean and Professor, School of Literature, Media, and Communication)

Keynote speaker: Anne Applebaum (The Atlantic and the Johns Hopkins University, Agora Institute)

Moderator: Dina Khapaeva (Georgia Tech)

Book presentations followed by a reception, 12:30 – 1:45 p.m., hosted by Georgia Tech, hybrid

Georgia Tech Library, Scholars Event Network, Room 1280, 686-704 Cherry St NW, Atlanta, GA 30332,

  • Dina Khapaeva, Putin’s Dark Ages: Neomedievalism and Re-Stalinization (Routledge, 2023).

  • Amanda Weiss, Han Heroes and Yamato Warriors: Competing Masculinities in Chinese and Japanese War Films (Hong Kong University Press, 2023).

Moderator: John Lyon (Georgia Tech, School Chair, Charles Smithgall Jr. Institute Chair, and Professor, School of Modern Languages)      

Keynote Lecture, 2 p.m. - 3:15 p.m., hosted by Georgia Tech, hybrid

Georgia Tech Library, Scholars Event Network, Room 1280, 686-704 Cherry St NW, Atlanta, GA 30332,

Keynote speaker: Elazar Barkan (Columbia University) - The Guilt of Nations: Twenty-Five Years After

Moderator: Nikolay Koposov (Georgia Tech)

Panel 5, 3:30 – 4:45, hosted by Georgia Tech, hybrid

Georgia Tech Library, Scholars Event Network, Room 1280, 686-704 Cherry St NW, Atlanta, GA 30332,


  • Dmitry Dubrovsky (Charles University, Prague) and Irina Rebrova (Technical University Berlin, Center for Research on Anti-Semitism) – The Notion of the “Genocide of the Soviet People” in Putin’s Propaganda.
  • Kate P. Brown (Georgia Tech, HSOC) - Culture as Toolkit in Selling Russia’s War.
  • Nikolay Koposov (Georgia Tech, HSOC/LMC, and Emory, REALC) – Left-Wing Populism, Far-Right Authoritarianism, and Cosmopolitan Memory.

Moderator: Victoria E. Thompson (Georgia Tech, School of History and Sociology, Professor and Chair)

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Amanda Weiss