Beyond 1989: Hopes and Disillusions After Revolutions

International Conference “Beyond 1989: Hopes and Disillusions after Revolutions”, Prague, 6th & 7th of December 2019.

On the 6th and 7th of December 2019, the French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences in Prague (CEFRES) has organized, in collaboration with the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University, as well with the Institute of Contemporary History of Czech Academy of Sciences, the international conference called “Beyond 1989: Hopes and Disillusions after Revolutions”. Exceptionally opened by the speeches of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, Mr. Tomáš Petříček, and the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, about the 1989 legacies in Europe and the European sovereignty and security issues, this colloquium has gathered more than 300 people (students, academics, diplomats, etc.).

2019 is a primordial commemorative event for Europe history. Four key topics have been explored this year in academic fields: the origin of the fall of communism, the “89 moment”, the posterity and memory politics and controversies of 1989, the assessment of thirty years of democracy. The Prague Conference was rooted in the continuity of those questionings, but proposing an enlargement in time and space, considering post-revolutionary phenomena within a comparative approach. Indeed, the thirtieth anniversary is a unique occasion to think about revolutionary experiences and regime changes in various historical contexts. The chosen perspective has been to study the after-revolutions, and particularly the feelings, the representations and the paradoxical interpretations which those historical moments provide. Therefore the aim was to re-questioning the notion of “revolution” through practices and narratives, which are participating to her promotion as well as her rejection.

Beside the inaugural sequence to which French and Czech Ministers have participated, the conference has been introduced by Lenka Rovná, vice-Rector of European Affairs at Charles University, Miroslav Vaněk, director of Institute of Contemporary History at Czech Academy of Sciences, and Jérôme Heurtaux, director of CEFRES. After having mentionned the genesis of this conference, M. Heurtaux has reminded that it was completed a cycle of three international conferences organized with the Center for French Civilization and Francophone Studies at Warsaw University, the Center for Polish Culture at Sorbonne Université and the Paris Center of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The first conference has taken place in Paris in June 2019 (“Revisiting the 1989 Event in Central Europe: Social Margins, Writing Practices, New Archives”) and the second in Warsaw (“1989 Contested Legacies. The Challenges of the Ideological, Institutional and (Geo)Political Heritage”) in September 2019. The colloquium has carried on with the keynote speeches of Adéla Gjuričová, about the gender inequalities before and after the fall of communist regimes, and of Georges Mink, who proposed to revisit 1989 as a committed observer at that special time in the European history. A roundtable about the result of European Union integration, offering various and complementary points of view (Ivo Šlosarčík, Marie-Elizabeth Ducreux, Marion Van Renterghem, Michael Žantovský), has concluded this first day.

The second day started by the keynote speech of Michal Kopeček, who revisited the last thirty years under the angle of a history of ideas. It kept on with two academic sessions: one about the theme “Promoting Revolutions”, the other about “Disillusions after Revolutions”. Those two sessions have showed the diversity of possible approaches and has opened a comparative dialogue between the post-communist experiences and the Arab World ones after the fall of authoritarian regimes in 2011. A doctoral student session, getting a glimpse of what the “young research” is all about, and the screening of Anna Szczepanska “Solidarnosc. How Solidarity Changed Europe” ( LOOKSfilm/Arte-NDR, 2019) at the French Institute of Prague have concluded this conference marked by the richness of topics and the diversity of formats.

Organised at the initiative of UMIFRE CEFRES (French Research Center in Humanities and Social Sciences in Prague, founded in 1991), together with Charles University and Czech Academy of Sciences, this colloquium is for CEFRES his main public event of the year 2019. For the trio formed with Charles University and Czech Academy of Sciences, it celebrates an excellent cooperation between these institutions, gathered since 2015 in “Platform CEFRES”, whose convention has just been extended for five years. This Franco-Czech event highlights the quality between those two countries within academic fields, as well as the recognition of CEFRES position as a center of research and knowledge in the heart of Visegrád quadrilateral.

Beyond its Franco-Czech dimension, this colloquium had a Central-European scope, since it involved Polish institutions and Polish and Slovak researchers. He also had a broader European aspect, involving a research team funded by a grant from the European Research Council (the “Tarica” team, specialising in Arab revolutions) and mobilising researchers from other European countries (Italy, in particular). The conference brought together forty-two participants from six countries. Its partners were seven other institutions, including the French Institute in Prague.

Check the Charles University report:

The video of the 6th of December (Minister speeches, keynote speakers, round-table):