DIn the months following the invasion of Crimea by Russia in 2014, anonymous photos spread on social networks representing laughing warriors, surrounded by their banners, seated around a scribe writing a missive. The photographer Youry Bilak was soon to give the key to this tableau vivant. Ukrainian soldiers replayed a canvas of Ilia Repine painted in the 1880s, The Zaporozhian Cossacks writing a letter to the Sultan of Turkey.
By mimicking the troops of the mythical Tarass Boulba who, in the 17the century, responded with curses to the imperialist pretensions of the Turk, their distant descendants laughed at Vladimir Putin, “More criminal than Barrabas, / Horned like bad angels / Nourished on filth and mire” – according to the verses of Apollinaire, who in turn celebrated in Alcohols the provocation of the Zaporozhians, those natives of the regions where the fighting in Ukraine is taking place today.
These long filiations, both continuous and bouncing, consistent and unreal (the letter to the sultan is a fake, with its own history), proud and ambiguous (became a Ukrainian icon, Repin has, in fact, everything from the Russian painter) , illustrate in their own way the whirlwind in which the uses of history are caught today. primacy “presentist”masterfully identified by the historian François Hartog, signifies less a narrowing down of exclusively contemporary references than an uncertainty about the pillars on which our world rests – an uncertainty which opens the doors wide to memorial battles.
The triumph of the norm
Ironically, the hopes, fears and illusions symbolized by the observation of a supposed ” end of the story “ by Francis Fukuyama, in 1989, have today become an object of history. In the eyes of the political scientist, the replacement of the bipolarism of the Cold War by a unipolar system dominated by the United States marked the final stage of a process of geopolitical simplification. Globalization promised global integration, spilling over from the economic sphere to all others. The obsolescence of war was to ensure the triumph of the norm in matters of international relations.
In practice, the model would above all prove to be relevant for identifying the axes of its own reversal… The return of war in its “humanitarian” form accompanied the weakening of international regulations by the privilege of acting unilaterally for the dominant nations, starting with by American power. The social and cultural upheavals brought about by globalization, including for large segments of the middle classes of the most advanced economies, were to lead to populist contestation of the very democratic regimes whose diffusion was expected to mark the end of history.
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“The disorder of the world upsets the place assigned to historical consciousness”
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