6. Understanding Values of Cultural Heritage within the Framework of Social Identity Conflicts

  • Karina V. Korostelina
Heritage specialists often find themselves embroiled in identity-based conflicts, and scholars and practitioners of conflict analysis and resolution have developed approaches and expertise that may be constructively applied to navigate them. Social identity theory can help us better understand how heritage can be valued by certain social groups to increase group self-esteem, provide stability, and give meaning to everyday life. It can also help explain conflicts between social in-groups and out-groups, which may involve a complex interplay of collective memory, nationalism, grievances, relative deprivations, and security dilemmas. Case studies are presented illustrating international historic conflicts between Japan and South Korea, and contemporary internal conflict in Ukraine relating to national identity and history.

Heritage conservation specialists often find themselves embroiled in identity-based conflicts. The values attached to heritage sites or objects tend to be profoundly linked to a group’s need for increased self-esteem and pride, the restoration of justice, and healing the traumas of the past. These values also serve to challenge or preserve social hierarchies and legitimize a group’s position of power. In many cases, social groups have competing or conflictual values attached to a heritage site, thus exacerbating already-existing tensions. This chapter explores the different functions that groups in conflict attribute to heritage sites and provides some practical recommendations for heritage conservation specialists.

In the framework of heritage conservation, “value has been used to mean positive characteristics attributed to heritage objects and places by legislation, governing authorities, and other stakeholders” (, 5). Thus, value is defined by the significance for and interests of stakeholders and authorities. Placing heritage values within the context of identity-based conflict brings in another dimension: value is defined through political, emotional, and moral meanings attached to specific events, places, objects, or social practices by the in-group (the group that people feel they belong to). These values help in-groups justify their claims or current position in relation to the out-group(s) (defined as other groups), increase in-group self-esteem, shape the in-group image (internally and externally), and preserve or challenge existing power structures. The value of heritage is, thus, attached to a specific in-group, its identity, and its relations with out-groups.

Heritage Conservation in the Midst of Identity-Based Conflicts

Social identities are based on a strong sense of membership in a specific group (ethnic, national, religious, regional), emotional connection and feelings of loyalty to this group, and perceptions of difference with respect to other groups. Identities do not develop during intergroup conflict, but rather become more salient and mobilized, which serves to significantly change the dynamic and structure of the conflict. The dynamics of identity-based conflict are presented in the 4-C model (), which comprises four stages: comparison, competition, confrontation, and counteraction.

In short, ethnic and religious groups living in multicultural communities develop intergroup stereotypes and beliefs. They can be a result of favorable comparisons, prejudices, relative deprivation, or attribution errors, where out-groups are perceived as cunning, artful, cruel, mean, and aggressive. Injustice, histories of conflictual relations, and economic and political inequalities contribute to these unfavorable images, increasing a desire for social change. In situations of competition for power or resources, group leaders use these stereotypes and beliefs as well as in-group loyalties as tools for group mobilization. These employed identities are connected to economic and political interests, and they reinforce negative perceptions of out-group members, attributing aggressive goals to them. Intergroup prejudice becomes stronger when groups have opposing goals and interests. Perceived external threat, especially in the circumstance of a lack of information, strengthens these feelings of insecurity among in-group members. The in-group identity becomes more salient and mobilized, leading to the development of the dual “positive we, negative they” perception. Once a society has become separated into antagonistic groups, social identities come front and center in the conflict, highlighting the security fears, beliefs, values, and worldviews of each group. In the perception of in-group members, the out-group is put outside the moral boundary, devalued, dehumanized, and turned into a homogenous evil. Thus it becomes moral and honorable to completely destroy the economic and political structures that support the Others—even to kill them all. These actions are, in turn, perceived by the out-group as threatening, resulting in the development of counter-actions, causing a new turn in the spiral of conflict and violence.

These complex dynamics of identity-based conflicts are closely connected with the power relations within a given society and specific connotations of power (; ). The legitimization of power in contested intergroup relations is based on the employment, modification, and creation of specific norms and social-identity manifestations that justify a particular order. To increase or stabilize their power, representatives of dominant groups utilize the prevailing meaning of social identity while superordinate groups challenge and attempt to reshape it, thus contributing to the dynamics of identity-based conflict ().

As identity-based conflicts permeate the fabric of social life in a vast number of societies, many social practices and institutions become entrenched in their dynamics. Processes surrounding the use, conservation, and management of heritage that emphasize the historic roots of groups are deeply embedded in the complex relations of identity and power in existing intergroup conflicts. Ongoing identity-based conflicts connected with injustice, inequality, contested regions, and historic or contemporary violence between groups place heritage at the very heart of intergroup relations. Conflict can rest on simple recognition of places as heritage, limited access to or threats to them, and damage or destruction by different agents (). In the context of heritage conservation, conflict groups attribute competing values to heritage based on the meanings they assign to a heritage object or site. Given that conflicts, which are based on identities of the groups involved, are also bound up with issues of coercion and legitimacy, heritage becomes entangled in power struggles among conflicting groups.

At the same time, interactions with heritage reshape and fortify existing identity-based conflicts. First, the preservation of or investment in historic objects and sites may contribute to the collective self-esteem of the group and the positive image they seek to promote. However, they may also provoke resistance from competing groups or incite violence against particular heritage places or related activities. For example, the preservation of, or impact on, a site connected to one ethnic or religious group can aggravate protests from other groups in the contested region. Second, valorization, marginalization, or destruction of heritage may shape perceptions in intergroup relations by justifying or challenging existing social hierarchies. The conservation of a heritage place that is connected to the historical oppression of one group can be perceived as a threat to the identity of the oppressors. Conversely, the destruction of such a place as evidence of violence is opposed by the oppressed; victims also can support the destruction, as a place may remind them of trauma (; ). Third, the preservation, marginalization, or destruction of historic objects or sites can also contribute to the legitimacy of existing power structures or mobilize collective action against this structure. Protecting and interpreting the significance of a heritage place connected with a minority group can create a foundation for the mobilization and empowerment of this minority in the fight for their rights. Fourth, actions affecting heritage may shape discourse in society and impact a group’s agenda for the future. Activities that are connected with valorizing the heritage of one group can encourage the competing group to actively advocate for activities that showcase its own heritage.

Functions of Values in the Framework of Social Identity Conflicts

During identity-based conflicts, heritage serves four functions: enhancing (confirmation of identity); legitimization (supporting or challenging existing power structures and intergroup relations); normative (restoration of justice and empowerment); and healing (maintaining a balance between remembering and forgetting).

Enhancing Function

Many efforts aimed at protecting or interpreting the significance of a heritage place provide a foundation for verifying and enhancing the identity of group(s) connected to it. Different groups attribute certain values to heritage places based on explicit judgments about the importance of specific events, people, or places in the history of the nation, or ethnic or religious group. The group connected to the place might want to glorify its past and praise in-group identity—the place is deemed a significant and essential foundation for its ideas and goals (, 26)—thus creating a situation when one “mode of regarding history rules over the other,” and a “monumentalistic concept of the past” endorses a process of selectively emphasizing places and explicit interpretations, which creates specific modes of history (, 70, 69). The “monumental history” value attributed to a place can provoke fierce responses, especially in societies with a history of injustice and discrimination.

Alternatively, the values attributed to heritage places can reflect a critical history, which aims to improve society and restore justice. Through a critical presentation of events connected to a particular place, “the past can become a force for personal growth and political and social betterment” (, 13). Efforts that confront and consider alternative narratives of heritage give voice to the stories of different groups and communities within the nation and emphasize multiple interpretations of the roots of the past violence (). Thus, the historic place becomes an object of creativity, which allows for constant reinterpretation and for transitioning from conflict toward possible cooperation. However, at the national level, such values of critical history do not create a sense of continuity, patriotism, and loyalty to the nation. Thus, the values attributed to heritage in such cases balance critical and monumental history.

Legitimization Function

The legitimization function of heritage refers to the maintenance of existing power structures and intergroup relations. Some regimes and groups in power can use heritage to justify their current position as superordinate in relation to out-groups by emphasizing past violence committed by out-groups or depicting these out-groups as simplistic, uncivilized, and posing realistic and symbolic threats to the in-group. Such myths, which provide a symbolic foundation for the established social order, are contextualized within the political and social life of a community (, 12). Offering “intellectual and cognitive monopoly” (, 19), myths not only provide the basis for commemorating events connected to a specific site, but also reinforce them, making the protagonists of the myth present in contemporary life (), thus continuing to divide post-conflict societies.

Through their treatment of heritage, groups in power can validate violence toward out-groups. Because of their belonging to a specific social category, a group can be denied some rights or access to resources and power (economic and political discrimination) or to basic needs, including food (famine), territory (including denying or restricting access to heritage or deportation), or the right to exist (genocide) (). Thus, some of the values attributed to heritage by groups in power can support “regimes of truth” (), which validate existing power structures and develop loyalty among the younger generation.

Normative Function

The normative function of heritage refers to the restoration of justice and the empowerment of minorities and oppressed groups. This value “represents an impulse to confront and undo the injustice of history” (, 122). The underpinning notion of this value is that many norms and morals within society are created through manipulation and force on the part of dominant groups. The analysis of the past—genealogy—can help people prevent cycles of violence “by taking an increasing control over the habits and values built into us by social-historical processes … and ways we have been controlled and used by forces outside us” (, 108). Attributing this normative value to a place provides a foundation for restorative justice and group empowerment for positive social change. It provides freedom from judgment in addition to confronting and addressing historical injustice.

Healing Function

The healing function of heritage allows us to take responsibility for the past: “We have to acknowledge what we have done in the past in order to make amends for it; remembering will promote collective and individual healing” (, 35). Historic preservation can provide an opportunity for groups to heal their traumas and reduce the likelihood that similar events will occur in the future. However, this value is connected to the question of what amount of remembering is most efficient for reconciliation and prevention of violence. Offering excessive evidence about atrocities can reinforce negative attitudes between groups and lead to hostility and revenge. Thus, heritage professionals should be aware of the effects of presenting violent historic events, which could function to impede reconciliation processes.

Another danger of this function is that selecting events can reinforce prejudice and biases among groups or create misconceptions that favor victimized groups. Empowering victimized groups often leads to the perception of victims as innocent. However, in many conflicts, both sides bear responsibility for igniting violence and victimized groups may have also been involved in hostile acts. Acknowledging the victimhood of a group together with providing a balanced view on the roots of conflict can help heal traumas of everyone involved.

The following two case studies illustrate how these functions affect the ways in which societies deal with historical places. The first represents an international historic conflict between Japan and South Korea, and the second illustrates a contemporary internal conflict in Ukraine.

Case Study 1: Heritage and Japanese-Korean Relations

Japanese invasions and control over Korea started at the end of the nineteenth century, when Japan, leveraging Korea’s unstable situation, started to exert influence over the country. Japan completely annexed it with the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910 (). During the thirty-five-year Japanese occupation, many Koreans were arrested for political reasons and sixty thousand Korean laborers were moved to Japan to sustain industrial production, especially mining operations. These laborers were forced to work more than twelve hours a day in harsh and dangerous conditions, including tunnel collapses, gas explosions, and falling rocks.

On September 9, 1945, the Japanese governor-general of Korea surrendered to the United States in Seoul, effectively ending Japan’s administration of Korea. Seeing Japan as a security partner in the fight against Communism, US leadership decided not to establish a process similar to the Nuremberg tribunal in Germany, but rather grant immunity to most of the Japanese leadership. The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE) convicted only twenty-five Japanese Class A criminals. Seven of them were sentenced to death and the rest were imprisoned, but pardoned in 1956.

The United States also advised South Korea and Japan to normalize their relations, and the first negotiations started in 1951. These negotiations resulted in the treaty of June 22, 1965, despite protests throughout Korea demanding an apology from Japan. Under the treaty, Japan provided $300 million in Japanese products and services as well as $200 million in long-term low-interest loans to Korea (). South Korea, in turn, agreed to demand no more compensation at the government-to-government and individual-to-government levels (). South Korean civil organizations have stated that compensation for South Koreans has not been settled or fully achieved, while Japan believes that the treaty settled it definitively. Moreover, Japan insisted that the treaty be regarded as economic cooperation rather than compensation. President Chung-hee Park (1963–79) spent the money on highways and industrial plant construction; only 9.7 percent was used to compensate 9,546 victims of the Japanese occupation. Former comfort women (women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the imperial Japanese Army), forced laborers, and injured war veterans were excluded from compensation ().

The question of forced Korean labor is closely connected to three other contentious issues that impact Japanese-Korean relations. First is the continuous denial of Japanese responsibility for comfort women. Japan completely avoids discussion of this issue or reframes it using the term “women sent to the front” (, 280). Survivors’ demands for compensation are labeled by conservatives as “double or triple dipping” and a threat to Japan’s national interests (, 38). The second contentious matter is visits made by Japanese leaders and officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine that commemorates Japanese war dead. For the Japanese people, the shrine is a symbol of the bravery and sacrifices made by solders and of the glory of the empire (). South Korea emphasizes the fact that it enshrines major war criminals identified or convicted according to the London Charter of 1945. Third, the disputes between Japan and South Korea also involve two tiny rocky islets surrounded by thirty-three smaller isles, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea. To sum up, Japan’s desire to forget the past and the South Korean aspiration to remember has impacted their relationship (). Their different approaches to history have also influenced assessments and approaches to historic conservation, as is evident in the case of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.

In 2015, Japan applied to put twenty-three sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List of places that meet a standard of outstanding universal value to humanity. Japan argued that the sites prove “the fact that Japan achieved industrialization in an extremely short period through [the] fusion of a wave of Western technology arriving in Japan and traditional Japanese culture” (, n.p.). The nomination document stated that the sites—including mines, shipyards, and factories—clearly represent the foundations of the modern Japanese state. South Korea strongly opposed Japan’s UNESCO bid, emphasizing that it undermined the suffering of Korean forced labor at seven of these sites, including a mine on Hashima Island, nicknamed “Battleship Island” (fig. 6.1). Seoul stressed that these properties represent the “‘negative legacy’ stemming from the 57,900 conscripted Korean laborers who were put to work in violation of their human rights” (, n.p.).

Hashima Island (nicknamed “Battleship Island”), Nagasaki prefecture, Japan.
Abandoned island with concrete ruins of a mining facility, undisturbed except by nature and the surrounding sea wall. Figure 6.1
Hashima Island (nicknamed “Battleship Island”), Nagasaki prefecture, Japan. Image: Σ64, Own work, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 3.0 Unported

In July 2015 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, a serial listing that encompasses twenty-three components at eleven facilities in eight prefectures of Japan, on the World Heritage List. As the UNESCO website states, this series of sites “bears testimony to the rapid industrialization of the country from the middle of the nineteenth century to the early twentieth century, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining…. The site testifies to what is considered to be the first successful transfer of Western industrialization to a non-Western nation” ().

Thus, for Japan, the Meiji Industrial Revolution sites represent the enhancing function of heritage, which supports the “monumental” history of Japan, glorifying its achievements. In the nomination document, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe emphasized that these sites “describe our ancestors’ optimism and determination to industrialize. This innovative spirit was passed on to our generation and will continue to sustain future generations. The sites that form the basis for this serial nomination reflect that period of transformation, fundamental to the essence of Japan today and her position in global society” (, n.p.). To avoid discussions of the use of forced labor, Japanese representatives stressed that the sites qualify for World Heritage status based on their role in the rise of Japan in the late nineteenth century during the long reign of Emperor Meiji. According to these officials, that happened before 1910 (when Korea came under Japanese rule) and is not connected with the period in the 1940s when Korean forced laborers were used. Thus the value of this site for Japan reflects its rapid industrial growth and represents the pride of the Japanese nation (fig. 6.2).

Port of Miike, one of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
Metal sluice gate system on top of a tall, brick wall blocking off ocean water, and a building next to it in the background. Figure 6.2
Port of Miike, one of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution. Image: じじき - own work, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0 International

The World Heritage Site also represents the legitimization function of heritage, which validates the legal nature of the use of Korean workers. As a senior foreign ministry official claimed, Japanese use of compulsory labor was not illegal under the 1930 Forced Labor Convention (, n.p.). In their official remarks and statements, Japanese officials avoided using the phrase kyosei rodo (forced labor) in favor of hatarakasareta (were forced to work). While at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Bonn, Germany, Japanese representative Kuni Sato acknowledged that some Koreans “were brought against their will and were forced to work under severe conditions” at some of the industrial sites, foreign minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo that the phrase hatarakasareta does not mean kyosei rodo (, n.p.). This justification of Japanese policies toward Korea reflects the general interpretation of history in Japan, which serves as a justifying myth and a reality postulate (the definition of what is considered to be truth). It emphasizes that “the annexation of Korea was legally undertaken based on agreements made between Korea and Japan. During the period of Japanese colonization, Korea benefited greatly both economically and socially” (, 352). Thus, the establishment of the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution as World Heritage supported these positions and provided legitimacy for historic Japanese policies in Korea.

For Koreans, the World Heritage Site signifies the potential normative function of heritage. It represents an opportunity to restore justice and acknowledge the illegal use of Korean forced labor. They want to revisit the historic positions of Japan to emphasize the vicious nature and structural violence of Japanese colonial rule in Korea and to Koreans elsewhere. Koreans believe that all history related to this site should be represented openly, which led Korea to advocate (unsuccessfully) for the inclusion of the history of forced labor in the inscriptions for seven of the sites (). From the Korean perspective, it is extremely unfair that Japan glorifies its military history and presents colonization as a positive period for Korean development. Current Japanese actions, including claims over the Dokdo islands and visits by Japanese officials to the Yasukuni Shrine, aggravate feelings of injustice among Koreans. They see these actions as a continuation of Japanese imperialistic policies and as symbolic of Japanese colonial rule. Moreover, they believe that these sites have the potential to address issues of justice and renouncing of Japanese colonial rule (fig. 6.3).

At the Battle of Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, 1944, Korean laborers help Allied forces locate Japanese soldiers.
Group of men crouching down in front of a large map. A Korean laborer points to a part of the map while a soldier looks on. Figure 6.3
At the Battle of Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, 1944, Korean laborers help Allied forces locate Japanese soldiers. Image: United States Army (, 248)

Koreans also see a missed opportunity to attribute a healing function of heritage to the World Heritage Site. The vivid memory of brutality and violence during Japanese occupation, including coercing Korean girls to work as comfort women, the harsh treatment of forced laborers, and the complete denial of Korean identity and culture, is still alive among Koreans. The unwillingness of Japan to acknowledge its wrongdoings, issue a consistent apology, or create a program of compensation for victims exacerbates their existing and profound feelings of victimhood. They believe that the site should portray the harsh treatment endured by Korean forced laborers and depict how their rights were violated (). This portrayal could serve as a foundation for Japan’s compensation policies toward Koreans who suffered.

Case Study 2: Ukraine

Since Ukraine achieved independence in 1991, conflicts around national identity and history have profoundly affected society there (; ; ; ; ). “Since independence at the end of 1991, Ukraine has been divided between an anti-Russian, pro-European West and a more pro-Russian South and East. Ukrainian nationalism, anchored in the West of the country around L’viv (part of Austria-Hungary only a century ago and part of interwar Poland), is Western-looking, built against Russia as the significant rival, while the Eastern and Southern parts of the country see themselves as more organically linked to Russia” (, n.p.).

This divide is deeply rooted in the history of Ukraine, which for centuries belonged to different empires and ideological systems. Its eastern territories became part of the Soviet Union in 1919, while the western territories were annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 based on the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact (German-Soviet nonaggression pact). The population of these western territories considered the Soviet Union an alien occupying regime and regarded the Nazis as liberators. The Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) engaged in a series of guerrilla conflicts during World War II against the Soviet Union and, later, Nazi Germany. In some western regions of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army survived underground and continued its resistance against the Soviet authorities well into the 1950s. Most Ukrainians in the east and south fully defied the Nazi occupation by organizing underground resistance and partisan movements. A significant subset of Ukrainians fought against Nazi Germany in the Red Army under the leadership of Joseph Stalin. Of the estimated eleven million Soviet troops who fell in battle against the Nazis, about 25 percent (2.7 million) were ethnic Ukrainians.

Before the events of 2014, including annexation of Crimea by Russia and violent war in the eastern region, Ukraine was divided by differences in moral values, ethnic identity, and perceptions of history. Even now, historic interpretations of World War II are among the most contested and differ between the western and southeastern regions of Ukraine. According to the narrative popular in the east and south, people in western Ukraine collaborated with the Nazis and committed violent crimes against Poles, Jews, and Communists. Most people see the Great Patriotic War as a source of pride, and perceive the Soviet Red Flag as a flag of glory and victory. According to the narrative popular in the west of Ukraine, Russia dictates the writing of Ukrainian history, especially as it relates to the history of World War II. They see the UPA as the only movement that fought against the regimes of both Stalin and Hitler, and they consider the Red Flag a foul flag of totalitarianism.

The events of spring 2011 represent a vivid example of the role of value attached to a historic site in the identity conflict over history. A group of World War II veterans and representatives of NGOs went from the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine to the west of Ukraine to lay Red Flags and flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on the Hill of Glory in L’viv (fig. 6.4). Many local veterans and members of families of fallen solders also came to honor remembered heroes. A group of Russian diplomats led by Consul General of Russia Oleg Astakhov joined this demonstration with a wreath, which they planned to lay at the tomb. Ukrainian nationalists from the party Svoboda attacked the procession. Several hundred young people chanted “Shame” to elderly veterans, prevented them from laying flowers, ripped off their medals and other decorations, and burned the Red Flag (fig. 6.5). They also crushed the wreath held by the Russian consul general.

Hill of Glory memorial in L’viv.
Figure 6.4
Hill of Glory memorial in L’viv. Image: Водник, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 2.5
Nationalists burn a Soviet army Red Flag during ceremonies celebrating victory over Nazi Germany in L’viv, Ukraine, May 9, 2011.
Figure 6.5
Nationalists burn a Soviet army Red Flag during ceremonies celebrating victory over Nazi Germany in L’viv, Ukraine, May 9, 2011. Image: AP Photo / Petro Zadorozhnyy / © 2019 The Associated Press

The organizers of these violent actions attributed an enhancing function of value to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They stressed that the main aim of this visit was to support the Red Army veterans in L’viv and to honor the memory of Soviet soldiers who died on the territory of western Ukraine fighting the Nazi occupation. Veterans from eastern and southern Ukraine came to L’viv to restore their positive identity as people who had fought and won in World War II.

The organizers also assigned a legitimization function to the memorial. The ceremony of laying flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was a token paid to the older generation of voters for their support of the regional parties. They aimed to increase loyalty among voters who had brought into power former President Viktor Yanukovych and the pro-Russian Party of Regions and increase their support against the background of deteriorating economic conditions. They also aimed to reestablish a balance of ideologies in a country that had become more pro-West and supportive of Ukrainian nationalism during the presidency of Viktor Yushchenko: “This nationalistic abscess should be removed, it could not be cured, it is too late…. All pro-fascist and Nazi parties should be prohibited—immediately!” (, n.p.).

Ukrainian nationalists who believed that the independence of Ukraine was a result of their nationalist struggle attributed a normative function to the memorial. They saw the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as a symbol of Soviet power—an aggressive invader, totalitarian colonizer of western Ukraine, and promoter of Russian imperial nationalism. They demanded a restoration of justice and aggressively protested Russian imperialistic attempts to impact the development of an independent Ukraine and return to a colonial and totalitarian past. The following excerpt illustrates this value: “One may find some disturbing analogies between Russian supremacists waving red flags in Western Ukrainian cities and Ulster unionists marching with their flags through the Catholic quarters to celebrate the 1688 historical victory and symbolic dominance of the colonizers over the aborigines” (, n.p.).

In protesting the demonstration near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the opposition also saw the healing function of heritage. They stated that the symbols of a nonexistent state should not be celebrated because of the repression of the people under Soviet rule. This Soviet totalitarian regime rested on violence, mass famine, Russification, and the forced assimilation of the Ukrainian-speaking population (). As one representative of the opposition stated, “Repression resulted in millions of victims under the Red Flag. This was the main reason to prohibit the use of the symbols of a nonexisting state” (, n.p.).


These case studies show that heritage valorization and conservation is a highly contextual, highly complex process that is deeply embedded in intergroup relations during identity-based conflicts. It involves intergroup perceptions and biases, relative deprivation and security dilemmas, issues of self-esteem and the revival of identity, out-group threat and in-group support, historic traumas and victimization, and issues of justice, power, and legitimacy. Addressing these issues requires a multifaceted approach.

First, it is important to identify each of the social groups that can attach a specific value to a heritage site. In addition, heritage places can provoke group reactions that are not directly connected to the site, but see similarities in their aspirations and demands, for example oppressed groups in the society and minorities. Each of these groups can attach multiple values to the place, which can motivate them to take actions and engage in hostilities.

Second, dialogue between these groups can help them understand not only their own needs, but also the needs of other groups. Dialogue in divided societies should not illuminate conflict but rather transform the nature of that conflict. Agonistic dialogue practices are less about finding the “truth” or some form of consensus about the history of the conflict, but rather about seeking “accommodation between conflicting accounts in such a way as to make a conflict more livable” (, 124; see also , 75; , 13).

Third, as each group has multiple identities, it is possible to identify common, crosscutting, or overarching identities that can facilitate understanding and cooperation between groups. Common identities that help groups increase their self-esteem and promote positive in-group images are most effective in getting support of each group involved.

Fourth, heritage conservation specialists should take into serious consideration power dynamics in specific communities and the society as a whole. Understanding the balances of power and processes of legitimization and delegitimization can help prevent hostility and violence.

Fifth, narratives connected to a site should represent multiple voices and a critical history, escaping the trap of “monumentalizing” interpretations. At the same time, it is important to stress the complexity of the conflict and avoid dualistic representations of “victim-perpetrator” groups.

Finally, heritage conservation specialists can collaborate with scholars and practitioners of conflict analysis and resolution. Connecting heritage management activities with ongoing projects of transitional justice, reconciliation, and conflict mitigation can help in the development of friendship, trust, empathy, and mutual understanding between groups in order to sustain effective heritage conservation.


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