Peace and War International project dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe

On the Day of Memory and Reconciliation, PEN Ukraine and National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy organize an international project “Peace and War” dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

Watch the intellectual TV marathon on 8th of May from 10:00 to 21:00 live on Ukrainian TV channels Pryamiy, Espreso and 5 channel.

Ukrainian and foreign intellectuals are going live to discuss the contemporary views on World War II, democracy and totalitarianism, memory of war, and challenges for Europe nowadays.

The aim of the conference is to present a modern European (in particular, Ukrainian) perspective on World War II and to warn of a new threat to peace in Europe. Therefore, in parallel with the historical reflection, the participants will also discuss the current challenges: the new war Ukraine has faced and the conditions needed to achieve peace. No less of a challenge for the contemporary world, including Ukraine, is the fight against the pandemic and suspension (temporary, we hope) of civil liberties and restriction of human rights.

The Conference Concept

The end of World War II in Europe had a fundamental impact on the structure of the postwar world. On the one hand, it meant peace sought by millions of people, but on the other hand, as a result of the Yalta agreements, it entailed a great redivision of Europe, with tragic consequences for Central and Eastern Europe. Another confrontation succeeded it: the Cold War, which ended only half a century later. The fall of the Communist system created a powerful positive energy among the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe, who began to regain independence of their countries and build a new political system on a democratic basis. In these countries, the time came for rethinking of recent history, focused both on the European pattern of reconciliation and on the region’s wartime and postwar experience.

Western Europe, in the process of its unification, has built its identity on the memory of World War II and the Holocaust, on the reckoning with Nazism, but first of all, on the belief that only restoration of basic values – respect for human life, democracy, human rights, tolerance and solidarity – can put an end to wars, at least in its territory. By contrast, in the countries of the socialist camp, the memory of war was strictly regulated and subordinated to ideological purposes: the creation of the Victory myth and the Cold War confrontation, once former allies became irreconcilable enemies. The myth of the “Great Patriotic War” supplanted the Soviet Union’s foundational tale of the “Great Socialist Revolution” and, in turn, became its new object of worship. This myth assumed no place for democratic values, for reconciliation, for any alternative, non-heroic narrative. The truth about the war casualties, as well as about Stalin’s alliance with the Third Reich in 1939–1941, and the Soviet complicity and responsibility for the outbreak of World War II, was forbidden. Nor there was any place for the true word on Moscow’s occupation of territories of several Central European countries. After all, the myth was silent about Soviet war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the deportation of Crimean Tatars and other wartime and postwar deportations, which remain an unhealed wound for many people in Ukraine and beyond.

Following the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, only a number of Central and Eastern European countries made their own first attempts at reckoning with the totalitarian past and rethinking the communist-imposed image of World War II. It is significant that only in these countries can we notice fairly sustainable democratic change.

Seventy-five years after the end of World War II, we are witnesses to Russia’s unilateral efforts to bring back the outworn Soviet myth and to instill its vision in the entire world. Russian leaders have started rewriting history not only to restore the old myth; they also seek to legitimize their contemporary imperial aspirations. The experience of the latest Russian-Ukrainian war, the armed stage of which started in 2014, proved that the manipulation of history for Putin is the first stage of a hybrid war. Today its target is the whole Central Eastern European region.

«The monopolized and mystified history of World War II has become a powerful means of the Kremlin propaganda. The 75th anniversary of its end provided the Kremlin with an excellent opportunity for new informational special operations. Their victim is not only the historical truth, but the mind and conscience of millions of people – in Russia and beyond. We are looking for an answer. It cannot be symmetrical: we have neither those propagandistic resources the Kremlin possesses, nor that cynicism and brazenness, that “hutzpa” it demonstrates invariably – in both international and domestic relations. We can only answer with truth, as pathetic and, probably, naive as it may sound. This is not just about the facts, for overall they are generally known or at least public. This is also about the depth of their interpretation, the breadth of understanding, the comprehensive contextualization and relevance. Our answer is not a military parade and not rattling of propagandistic stamps, but a solemn analysis of World War II and all of its implications for our region».

Articles [UA]:

Mykola Riabchuk, honorary president of the Ukrainian PEN Centre, Сhairman of the organizing committee of the project Peace and War.

PEN Ukraine - UA | EN

Andriy Kurkov, writer, member of the organization committee, president of the Ukrainian PEN Centre.

PEN Ukraine - UA | EN

«In my view, it is important to talk about the events which influence even our present life. The history of World War II changes because its new pages, new archives are being discovered. Apart from this there is a particular slab, a slab of personal experience. It was certainly the experience of the participants or witnesses, or those who lived under the occupation, but now this experience is turning into information for descendants. Of course, this also changes our perception of the war. Each one of us has to understand what this war is today, what it was then, and how it may be used against us, what will it mean for us, the fact that the war did not end for us. This conversation is not just about concepts and different views about the political aspect and causes of war, but also about respect for the human being, respect for personal experience, and perhaps we will learn to listen to one another and understand that experience and information are different things».

«It is a major event for Ukraine, for our professionals, historians, public activists and many who care about both the memory of that war, which at the time claimed an unprecedented number of lives, and the current context, when they attempt to use the memory of it in order to justify the imperial ambitions to again cast doubt on the right of peoples to define their independence, their own path in history. That is why this war has not ended yet. It lasts in those heated discussions which, unfortunately, overshadow our present. This unprecedented marathon gives the opportunity for journalists, historians and politicians to unite to once again look at the lessons we may learn, take with us into the future, not only to prevent the physical war, but to prevent manipulations on the subject of the war allowing unscrupulous politicians and entire countries resort to the revision of history, question the independence and sovereignty of other countries».

Oleksandr Sushko, political analyst, executive director of the International Renaissance Foundation.

Wikipedia - UA


Module 1st

Module 2nd

Module 3rd

Module 4th


Conference Organizing Committee:

Yevhen Bystrytskyi, Myroslaw Czech, Mustafa Dzhemiliev, Leonid Finberg, Ola Hnatiuk, Polina Horodyska, Mykola Kniazhytskyi, Andriy Kurkov, Myroslav Marynovych, Rostyslav Pavlenko, Serhii Plokhii, Mykola Riabchuk (the Head of the Committee), Olena Styazhkina, Tetyana Teren, Volodymyr Yermolenko, Yosyf Zisels.