For all the differences between the areas (Eastern Europe, Soviet Union and USSR successor states) and periods (post-WWI, Second World War, 1990s-2000s) covered, they do have a number of points in common. In these fractured societies, where social relations are being redefined, state authority operates in new ways, often authoritarian (whether Communist or not). Research here focuses on the individual and collective actors in these changes, with all their differences, their histories and practices. The research falls into two sub-themes.

Changes in the monopoly of state violence

Post-conflict situations are particularly prone to a renegotiation of the line between state and society. “Reconstructing” states, on the one hand, seek to recover their entire monopoly of violence, by repression (purges, military and police pacification) and integration (veterans). By involving the population in their repressive practices they provoke or exploit real antagonisms. On the other hand, groups of citizens seek to take over these same state functions, by competing with or complementing and supporting state action. This theme examines all these dynamics, which often generate further violence, using the example of war crime trials after the Second World War, legal and extra-legal policies to combat post-war insurrection by veterans and combatants in Soviet and post-Soviet conflicts, vigilante groups and citizen police forces in contemporary Russia and Ukraine.

Redefinition of social relations and justice

These major changes necessarily involve redefining social relations in societies that have been severely shaken, covered by this research particularly from the viewpoint of loyalty and justice. It seeks to identify first the various ways the past is “put on trial”, making up stories (war villains and heroes, crimes of Communism) and using practical procedures: trials of war criminals, blacklisting (lustration), rehabilitation, return of or financial compensation for nationalised property. The connections between memories of the Second World War and Communism loom large throughout the study area (Ukraine, Belarus, Poland, Baltic States). Another aim is to observe how some groups are reintegrated (return of deportees and camp prisoners to Ukraine and the Baltic States, return of Russian émigrés after the Revolution, etc.), involving the comparison of memories and a redefinition of the criteria for living together. This revived “life together” also means various ways for people to be involved in the exercise of justice or various norms of citizen oversight (1960s Soviet Union, stopping police violence in present-day Russia). This project’s purpose is particularly a comparative one, not only bringing together historians and specialists in current affairs but also extending the comparisons to other geographical areas.


Institut des sciences sociales du politique (ISP), Paris Nanterre
Centre d’Études Turques, Ottomanes, Balkaniques et Centrasiatiques
Centre Chine, EHESS
Fondation Maison des sciences de l’homme (FMSH)
Russian Foundation for the Humanities (RGNF)
Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah, Paris
Marc Bloch Centre, Berlin
Creation, Art and Heritage (CAP) centre for research excellence
Higher School of Economics, Moscow
Centre d’études franco-russe (CEFR), Moscow
Université Libre de Bruxelles