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Heritage of war 1914-18

Heritage of War 1914–1918

PI: Kamil Ruszała

“Heritage of War 1914–1918” Research Network strives to intensify theoretical and practical research on WWI heritage in Europe on an international scale by debating it in transnational perspective, considering the European continent and its WWI heritage. Thus it realizes proposes several objectives, namely:

  • To examine WWI heritage (primarily war memorials, graves, and cemeteries, but also military churches and chapels, artefacts, exhibits, outdoor museums or intangible heritage, etc.) on a comparative scale, analysing how the idea of creating memorials to fallen soldiers, and war-related historical events and figures functioned in Europe, taking into account both macro- and microscales (case studies).
  • To integrate individual experts and infrastructures dealing with the heritage of the war, such as academic institutes, research units, museums, foundations, NGOs, etc. (Research2Research).
  • To prepare a report on the state of World War I heritage and provide further perspectives on the research material (for example, attempting to map heritage).
  • To try to engage a wider non-academic audience on the presence of, and challenges to, WWI heritage (Research2Society).
  • To prepare activities to nominate WW1 heritage to European Heritage Label or Cultural Routes of Council of Europe or UNESCO lists.
  • To cooperate with foreign non-academic institutions, i.e. In Flanders Fields Museum in Ieper/Ypres (Belgium) or European Walk of Peace in Kobarida (Slovenia) and to develop the project of mapping the WW1 heritage (World War One Sites – The NETWORLD Database:

The Heritage of War 1914–1918 research network will be made up of an interdisciplinary team of experts dealing with the heritage of the First World War, thus involving, integrating, and stimulating debate among researchers affiliated with various research centres around the world, and establishing a platform in Krakow for the exchange of ideas, and meetings of researchers at various levels (from PhD Students and PostDocs to experienced researchers), thus presenting the Jagiellonian University as a place open to foreign visitors and a moderator of international dialogue and debates on topical issues through the prism of past experiences, including the legacy of World War I as an example. The group's activities correspond to the four packages (Work Packages, hereafter abbr. WP) presented below:

  • WP 1: Military cemeteries and monuments in Europe 1914–1918 in a comparative perspective (conference in Kraków, summarized by a collective research monograph or special issue).
  • WP 2: Workshop in a Field in Lesser Poland (Małopolska): WWI heritage and its protection in practice.
  • WP 3: Debate (roundtable) about WWI heritage as a challenge (methodological, theoretical, practical contributions as to how to protect/narrate/promote/preserve/restore WWI heritage).
  • WP 4: Conference/debate with Hyde Park discussion about WWI heritage in contemporary Poland (summarised with a potential report/documentation)

So far, members of the research group have participated in international conferences and study visits to partner institutions in Belgium, Austria, and Slovenia. Additionally, the group organized an international scientific conference titled "Commemoration and Heritage: The First World War Memorials and Cemeteries" (June 1-2, 2023), as well as field workshops exploring the legacy of World War I (June 3, 2023), and a collective monograph titled "Architectures of Commemoration: First World War Monuments and Cemeteries in Europe" for the Brill publishing house is being prepared. The monograph is the result of the conference held in Krakow in June 2023. Additionally, there are plans to publish a historical and documentary publication on cemeteries from World War I based on archival materials, as well as a platform for social mapping of the legacy of World War I within the current borders of Poland.


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Group events

Call for Papers

Organiser: Critical Heritage Studies Hub at the Jagiellonian University & Institute of History, Jagiellonian University

Venue: Jagiellonian University, Kraków

Date: 1–3 June 2023 (Thursday–Saturday)

Application deadline: March 1, 2023

Form of abstracts: electronic file (doc, docx, pdf), up to 300 words

Working language: English

The monuments, cemeteries and memorials scattered across Europe commemorating the First World War are one of the many testimonies to the bloody fighting and the lost lives. They have become part of the public space, the cultural landscape and, in retrospect, part of the heritage of specific regions. Looking at the European continent, these memorials look diverse. From the very beginning, the policy of commemoration was differentiated, often even instrumentalised, whether by the Entente or the Central Powers, but also by the post-1918 states, often having a specific message in them. Differences resulted not only from territorial involvement in the war effort (after all, monuments and cemeteries on former battlefields looked different from those in the hinterland), but also from the role of the state in the conflict and the use of the narrative of war in public space for political purposes. Thus, the sites served multiple functions. On the one hand, war cemeteries and the memorials erected on them were intended to bear witness to the dignified burial of fallen soldiers, in accordance with the principles of humanity. Similarly, they were also an expression of the commemoration of the fallen coming from a given community (micro-region), especially in the case of areas not covered by hostilities, although this also remained problematic in areas with diverse nationalities. On the other hand, they were not infrequently an expression of the political agenda, war propaganda or political orientations in the interwar period. Over time, changes in war memorials and war cemeteries were noticeable – both in their physical form and cultural interpretation. By redefining them, changing the landscape and the space of remembrance, there are well-known examples of 'familiarisation' with 'foreign' monuments and cemeteries in the new political space or, going further, the adaptation of these objects to post–1945 realities.

In retrospect, whether speaking of war monuments and cemeteries or of their formation through their expression of the cult of fallen soldiers, mourning, commemoration, and the construction of a national and imperial mythology (albeit already in a post-imperial space), we are considering the heritage of war, both tangible and intangible, which, from being places of mourning and commemoration, have become part of the landscape’s identity.

 Looking at these differences across the European continent will be of great value and the focus of the conference proceedings. The main goal of the project is a comparative and transnational perspective, hence we encourage researchers from different centers and representing different disciplines (interdisciplinarity) to propose their papers on the following proposed topics: 

  • the functioning of war grave systems in Europe, 1914–1918;
  • the creation of war memorials and memorials in Europe: their cultural interpretation, transmission and post-war histories (including redefinition/'recycling');
  • war memorials, cemeteries and memorials, and the commemoration perspective.
  • the cult of fallen soldiers in war memorials, memorials and cemeteries;
  • institutional care of cemeteries and war memorials since the war period till post-1945 (organizations – people – meaning);
  • the role of World War I memorials in the interwar period and the formation of national attitudes, political and propaganda messages;
  • creators of cemeteries and monuments, sources of inspiration and their analysis;
  • creation of war memorials and cemeteries as a project for further “colonization” at the end of empires;
  • landscape, historical and artistic aspects of cemeteries and war memorials;
  • World War I memorials as challenges to heritage and heritage theory.

The topics of the papers are not necessarily limited to the above points, but these outline a selection of the issues we will address during the conference.

The conference is organized as a launch event of the Research Cluster 'Heritage of War 1914–1918', which is part of the Critical Heritage Studies Hub at Jagiellonian University. A post-conference publication is planned as a project result. The event will be accompanied by a seminar on source studies in the archives in Krakow, presenting sources on World War I cemeteries and monuments as well as a tour of former World War I battlefield in Małopolska (Lesser-Poland).

Abstracts no longer than 300 words, along with contact information, name, and institutional affiliation, should be sent to (conference secretary). The deadline for abstract submission is March 1, 2023, and the full list of speakers will be announced before March 15, 2023. The conference will be held in Kraków in 1–3 June 2023. 

The organizers will cover the cost of accommodation, conference materials, participation in the planned excursion, refreshments, and lunch. For technical reasons we cannot cover the transportation cost to Kraków. 

Contact: Kamil Ruszała (Jagiellonian University):

Conference secretary:

International Conference, Kraków, 1-3 June, 2023

From June 1st to 3rd, Jagiellonian University will host an international scientific conference entitled "Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries." Read More o International Conference, Kraków, 1-3 June, 2023

From June 1st to 3rd, 2023, the Jagiellonian University hosted an international scientific conference titled "Commemoration and Heritage: First World War Memorials and Cemeteries." This conference brought together researchers from over 20 institutions representing various countries, including the USA, France, United Kingdom, Belgium, Austria, Poland, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Italy, Estonia, Netherlands, Lithuania, Bulgaria, and the Czech Republic. The conference aimed to provide a platform for researchers to explore the heritage of the First World War and the commemorative practices associated with fallen soldiers in Europe. Read More o

On the last day of the "Commemoration and Heritage" conference, the participants took part in a field trip through Małopolska in search of WW1 monuments

The expedition through Małopolska provided the research group with a rich tapestry of war memorials, each telling a unique story of sacrifice and remembrance from a time of the First World War. As they visited the cemeteries and monuments dating back to the 1914-1915 battles, the researchers delved into the intricate details of these sites, examining their architectural styles, inscriptions, and symbolism.

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From October 4th to 7th, 2023, Dr. Kamil Ruszała, the PI of the research group "Heritage of War" within the CHSH, conducted a study visit to the "In Flanders Fields Museum" in Ieper/Ypres, Flandria, Belgium.

The purpose of this visit was to explore the museum's operations and gain a broader understanding of World War I heritage in the Flandria region. During the visit, Dr. Ruszała engaged in a multifaceted itinerary, which included a comprehensive examination of the museum's permanent and temporary exhibitions related to the First World War, as well as a temporary display concerning war cemeteries in Flandria. He also delivered a guest lecture and participated in a field trip, all of which provided valuable insights into the functioning of the museum's research center, its resources, personnel, challenges, and ongoing projects. This visit facilitated an exchange of experiences and knowledge between the research groups and highlighted the potential for future collaborations in the field of World War I heritage.

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"Architectures of Remembrance on the Crossroads of Empires" at the In Flanders Field Museum in Ieper, Belgium.


 The area between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians was a battleground on the Eastern Front during World War I, where three empires – Austria-Hungary, Germany, and Russia – clashed. Soldiers lost their lives on both sides in military operations and hospitals, resulting in the establishment of diverse war cemeteries and monuments due to differences in architecture and commemoration resulting from the merging empires.

A notable case arises from Galicia, once part of the Habsburg Monarchy and later southern Poland. This region illustrates how the Austrian military agency crafted narratives of commemoration through cemeteries and memorials, exemplified by the Battle of Gorlice in May 1915. The lecture will explore WWI cemeteries and monuments in present-day Poland, with a specific focus on southern Poland. It will reveal Austrian imperial narratives of war heroism in architecture and discuss their adaptations after 1918 and 1945.

Read More o "Architectures of Remembrance on the Crossroads of Empires" at the In Flanders Field Museum in Ieper, Belgium.