Heritage and Society. The Experience of Central Europe

HomepageHeritage and Society. The Experience of Central Europe

Panel discussion:

Heritage and Society. The Experience of Central Europe

Cultural heritage is not simply the collective stock of a given culture’s material assets. It also includes our memory and identity, making it vitally important for society. Heritage is people: its creators, interpreters, and users. Herein lies the key to discussing the dynamic process of creating and reinterpreting heritage, as well as of protecting and valorising it.

People are the owners of cultural heritage and it is up to us, and not to a narrowly defined group of experts, to define its meaning and value. In this sense, as well for other good reasons, cultural heritage has been recognised as one of the basic human rights. Heritage emerges as a generator of different kinds of social activity and has potentially unlimited users.

The specific nature of Central Europe follows from a unique historical experience of this part of the continent. This became obvious in the 20th century. The long-lasting feudalism, delayed nation-building processes and formation of new nation-states only after the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, the Holocaust, the scale of damage and looting of cultural property during World War II, post-war border changes and ethnic cleansing on a large scale. It has to be noted that in the 20th century political borders in Central and Eastern Europe have changed faster than cultural borders. Finally the almost half-a-century long “lesson of communism” cannot be ignored in analysing the complex and unique situation of the Central and Eastern European nations, as well as the violent change after 1989, the dynamics and complexity of which is usually subsumed under the fashionable term “transition”.

The question of belonging to the East or the West is not a question of geography and borders, but primarily of an aesthetic sensitivity: belonging to a particular cultural circle, economic zone and political system is a matter of philosophical outlook! Central Europe has never found itself outside the European civilisation. But it retained its distinctiveness – which today is a value.


Dr Piotr Gerber, President of the Foundation for the Protection of Industrial Heritage of Silesia

Dr Natalia Moussienko, Vice-President of Europa Nostra, Ukraine

Prof. Dr Gábor Sonkoly, Chairman of the European Commission Expert Panel on the European Heritage Label, Hungary

Dr Stsiapan Stureika, European Humanities University, Belarus/Lithuania

Moderated by Prof. Dr Jacek Purchla, Vice-President of Europa Nostra

Biographical notes

Dr Piotr Gerber is a Professor of Technical University of Wrocław. He is an architect and an expert of the history of technology, President of the Management Board of the Polish Committee of The International Committee For The Conservation Of The Industrial Heritage TICCIH and The Foundation for the Preservation of the Industrial Heritage of Silesia, member of the Industrial Heritage Committee of Europa Nostra. Author over seventy scientific publications on the protection and conservation of architectural and technical monuments, as well as hospital architecture.

Dr Natalia Moussienko is a Vice-President of Europa Nostra and a coordinator of the international Heritage Solidarity Fellowship for the Ukrainian defenders of the cultural heritage. She is a Leading Research Fellow at the Modern Art Research Institute of the National Academy of Arts of Ukraine in Kyiv, and also is an expert in cultural heritage of the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation. She pays special attention to the issues of art and cultural heritage at war. She was twice awarded a Thesaurus Poloniae fellowship hosted by the International Cultural Centre in Krakow (2017 and 2022).

Dr Gábor Sonkoly (Ph.D. EHESS, Paris; Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences) is a Professor of History and Head of the History PhD School at ELTE University, Budapest. He published/edited twenty books and one hundred articles/chapters on urban history, urban heritage and critical history of cultural heritage. He presented at over one hundred and twenty international colloquia and was a guest professor in fifteen countries in five continents. He is the member (since 2017) and chairperson of the European Commission Expert Panel for European Heritage Label since 2020.

Prof. Dr Jacek Purchla is a Vice-President of Europa Nostra since 2018. Polish Art Historian and Economist, Professor of Humanities, a member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the founder of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow, and was its director since its inception in 1991 until 2018. He is the head of the Department of Economic and Social History and the UNESCO Chair for Heritage and Urban Studies at the Kraków University of Economics. He specialises in urban studies, social and art history, as well as the theory and protection of cultural heritage. Between 2016 and 2017 he was the President of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. He is a member of many organizations and associations including The Society of Friends of Kraków History and Heritage he is a current president. He is the author of over 400 academic works, including a number of books published in many languages.

Dr Stsiapan Stureika is an Associate Proffessor at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, Lithuania), a Belarusian university in asylum, where he is supervising BA and MA programmes on cultural heritage preservation, curating research and publishing projects aimed at actualisation of heritage’s social and environmental potentials. He is also holding a Chair at ICOMOS-Belarus National Committee with numerous projects dedicated to civil society engagement into heritage preservation. In 2015 he was awarded a Thesaurus Poloniae fellowship of the Ministry of Culture of Poland hosted by the International Cultural Centre in Krakow.