In 2010, the Future of Russian project will welcome a younger sibling: yours truly received HERA funding for a three-year project on memory debates in Russian and Ukrainian new media. The project is part of a larger project, led by Dr Alexander Etkind from the U of Cambridge, which will focus on the ongoing “memory war” between Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. Memory at War – as the project is called – explores how, in these countries, political conflicts take the shape of heated debates about the recent past, and especially World War II and Soviet socialism.

As you may understand from the above, the project at large does not focus on new media per se. It is a trans-institutional endeavor in which the Universities of Cambridge, Helsinki, Tartu, Groningen, and Bergen cooperate to scrutinize Eastern Europe’s memory wars from varying angles. The Bergen team focuses on its outlines in new media – and in social media in particular.

In Russian and Ukrainian blogging communities, and in social media such as vkontakte or odnoklassniki, the recent past is as alive and kicking as if it never ended. How, in these media, do new technologies alter public and private commemorative discourse, in other words, the language of memory? That question is central to the Bergen project, titled Web Wars: Digital Diasporas and the Language of Memory. Web Wars will be coordinated by me, but executed by a parttime postdoctoral research assistant. We plan to recruit that assistant next Spring, so spread the word if you know anyone who might be interested in the job. Activities include the organization of an international conference and the production of a documentary film with Dutch filmmaker Maartje Gerretsen.

The findings of the Future of Russian team will naturally be pivotal to this new digital-media project – but possibly the information flow will work the other way as well: after all, Web Wars has language culture as a focus, too.

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