The focus topic of LMF 2023

The IX LMF will take place on May 25-27, 2023 in a new format and will bring together international and Ukrainian media experts, public intellectuals, researchers, policy makers, representatives of civil society, and international organizations.

The focus theme of the event: “After or Before War. How Can Civilization Defeat Chaos?

In 1989, standing at the Vienna train station, Tony Judt conceived his magnum opus, “After War.” At that moment, it seemed that Europe was leaving its military past behind, and the century of confrontation was coming to an end. Judt wanted to record the new page in the history of the European continent.

The fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans, along with the belated disintegration of the Russian Empire — or, more precisely, what it had transformed into after the revolution and the civil war of 1917-1922, the Soviet Union — offered a chance to send dictatorship, militarism, economic decline, and ideological slavery to the ash heap of history. Especially since the search for a new identity for a united Europe was accompanied by the displacement of memories and a resolute rejection of hunting down their creators in the name of a future of peace. The European continent’s tectonic political and economic changes filled politicians and their voters from the Atlantic coast to the Urals with optimism and hope. Yet, as history shows, it happened way too soon.

Destroying the Iron Curtain that separated civilization from decay and establishing institutional foundations for joint development turned out to be insufficient. The system of international law and close economic cooperation among countries, contrary to the beliefs of liberal thinkers, did not prevent a new outbreak of violence. Russia, which was supposed to become not only the largest European state in geographical terms but also in economical and civilizational dimensions, refused to join the club of adherents of liberal values ​​and, at the same time, was unable to create an alternative role model of social relations that would attract other countries of the free world. Instead, historical revisionism and irredentism became pillars for the ideology of greatness — the very ideology that once led to the collapse of Europe.

Perhaps if Tony Judt had lived to our days, he would have republished his book under a new title. He could have named it “Before the War” (Ante bellum) or “The Illusion of Peace.” Apparently, peace cannot be achieved through the law, institutions, and economic prosperity alone. The only thing that truly restrains you from killing an annoying neighbor is your values, not the threat of societal condemnation. 

Today, over 30 years after the end of the era of global confrontation, the “axis of evil” is strengthening, and Western civilization is once again at the edge of a great war. This war has already erupted on its eastern borders, but for Western society, it only echoes through millions of refugees, economic instability, and timid attempts to comprehend the new reality intellectually. Everything is like it was in 1938. Only instead of the Sudetenland, this time, Crimea has become the new point of reference, and the “Volksgemeinschaft” has taken the form of the “Russian World.” The only unclear thing is the ultimate result of this war for the right of democratic civilization to exist and be itself.

Ukrainians who found themselves on the front line of the battle against the resurrected demon of imperial thinking aim not to win a war but to secure peace for future generations. The Sustainable Peace Manifesto, presented by civil leaders of Ukraine in early 2023, is based on the lessons of history. The change of the President of Russia did not help the Chechen people defend their independence, as ultimately, the choice of president is a symptom, not a cause of the disease, and the state is nothing more than a social contract. Moreover, it is difficult to attribute the idea of the Russian World to any particular author when all its features reveal a formed social ideology.

To achieve sustainable peace, it is not enough for the Ukrainian soldier to defeat the Russians on the battlefield and for the Ukrainian state to restore the integrity of its internationally recognized borders. It is also necessary to eradicate the desire of Russian society for resentment, its persistent idea of cultural superiority, the inertia of its thinking, and moral relativism, which, like the World Turtle, support the sky of Russian imperialism.

Many citizens of the Western world, who have lived in the “After War” era for almost three and a half decades, experience cognitive dissonance thinking of a new war. It seems impossible due to its absurdity. However, the slogan “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength,” originated from Orwell’s dystopia, has become a reality. There may also be an equal sign between Europe “After War” and Europe “Before War.” Ultimately, absurdity is not merely a sign of this war but its ultimate goal. The war that the future leads with the past, civilization with modern barbarism, and life with death. And in this duel, the media are not only chroniclers, but also seconds.

We know how civilizations decline. But how do civilizations survive? And what should we do about that? 

Let’s meet on May 25-27 in Lviv at the IX LMF to search for answers together.

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