Rethinking the Democratic future: Lessons from the 20th Century

Categories: ProjectsPublished On: 2021 October, 12

Project summary


Beginning of project: October 1st of 2019 (18 months)

Lead partner: Open Lithuania Foundation (OLF) (non-governmental organization promoting progressive change towards an open society through joining forces and executing advocacy initiatives, visibility campaigns, joint projects, monitoring and training programs).

Partners: Res Publica Foundation (a Warsaw-based publishing house and a think-tank focused on Central European region – ideas and values, politics, innovation and culture) and the Jan Nowak-Jezioranski College of Eastern Europe in Wroclaw (KEW) (an NGO specializing in international politics, culture and society).

Background/project goal and aims: The democratic revolutions and the following democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), the “Autumn of Nations” erupted despite the constrains for active citizenship by the oppressive regime. They emerged as bottom up movements, balancing between the active citizen and the forms of civil disobedience. With democratic rule facing new challenges, including disintegration of active citizenship, internal hostility, open assaults on rule of law and democracy, with digital age presenting unique challenges for active citizenship, this project aims to commemorate the democratic revolutions.

The key goal of this project is to commemorate the legacy of the democratic revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, by re-evaluating various forms of active citizenship, reflecting critically of their relevance to contemporary Europe, reimagining the forms for a meaningful political involvement in the digital age.

The project aims to (1) commemorate the democratic revolutions and facilitate cross-country, regional learning from diverse democratic revolutions in the context of current democratic decline; (2) critically and accurately reflect on democratic transition in the region to counter non critical, misinformed use of history; (3) draw lessons from the democratic revolutions, its intellectual heritage for active citizenship in digital age.

The activities and scope: Through diverse type of activities (study visits, international public debates, non-formal education) and targeted yet wide dissemination of results the project will propose meaningful political participation through learning from the democratic revolutions in digital age.

Implemented by 3 partners covering 4 countries (Lithuania, Poland, Latvia and Hungary) with wide regional reach to European countries (extending the scope up to 7 countries through international events). The project will create synergy through wide partnership of cultural/political journals, civil society organizations, think-tanks and academics, involving up to 250 -330 people directly, including young people. Indirectly through digital and print platforms with wide regional reach it will reach 30 000 people.

Activities are separated into 4 work packages:


lt includes a kick off meeting, brainstorming on the legacy of democratic revolutions. The meeting will be aimed at detailed planning of the project activities, aliening it to the work partners and the events related to commemoration of democratic revolution memories in countries. This is of crucial importance in order to find a common ground for evaluation of varied process of democratic transition and its success across the focus countries.


The project will be launched following the partners meeting at public event focusing on 1989 and following democratic transition (in Vilnius, Lithuania) in order to generate the public awareness and interest in the project. Further, study tours covering 4 countries will be concluded (Poland and Lithuania+Hungary and Latvia). They will consist of wide consultations with various stakeholders (NGOs, think-tanks, civil society groups, academics, participants of the democratic movements, 25 participants in each study tour) to experience and evaluate experiences on the state of memory about the democratic revolutions, their relevance for current political discourse, as well as contemplate the differences and similarities faces by active citizenship during the revolutions/transition. During this phrase we will gather critical reflections on the democratic revolutions and transition in CEE.


One summer school (in Poland) organized for youth, contemplating the past forms of active citizenships and the paths for civil engagement and resilience towards the manipulation of memory organized for representatives from 4-6 countries (25 people in total). An international conference organized in the last quarter of 2020 reflecting on the past and contemplating the ways towards active citizenship today (it will include participants from 7 countries, 51-75 people).

Workpackage 4: DISSEMINATION OF THE RESULTS (ongoing)

We will prepare special reports based on the study tours. Information also will be disseminated though social media and though partner websites. We will also prepare the special issue devoted to the memory of the democratic revolutions and their lessons on the platform of “New Eastern Europe”.

The European dimension will be sustained though transnational learning and sharing of ideas on democratic rule and active citizenship in Europe. Through actualized and problematized reflections on revolutions in the region, the project will offer a valuable perspective on democratic deficit and new ways for meaningful democratic participation.

Expected outcomes:

(1)  Inter-cultural dialogue through better understanding of diverse historical memory of democratic transition strengthened across at least 4 countries of Central and Europe Europe (25-50 representatives of various fields, including civil society, youth organizations, political think-tanks, academics, activists, etc per each country);

(2) The critical understanding of the past is promoted though open, transnational debate countering the missuses of the past for political gain and presented to European audiences across different countries, the resilience to propaganda misusing the memory of the revolutions increased as lessons in active citizenship and sustainability of the democratic rule across the European countries (general public across European countries, estimated 30 000 citizens in total).

(3) The lessons in democratization and active citizenship drawn, rethought and reapplied to democratic governance in Europe in the digital age (the representatives working on active citizenship and democratic politics in Central and Eastern Europe have better understanding on the forms of active citizenship, 25 young people are educated on paths to active citizenship).

Financial support: European Commission through Europe for Citizens Program

We are now accepting applications for the upcoming #Rethink1989 Autumn Memory School.

DATES: October 4th-8th 2020
ORGANISER: The Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe

The 1989 Memory School an international project aimed at gathering young scholars and activists who are interested in European history and its impact on contemporary developments. The school will focus on the memory of 1989, which was a breakthrough year in Central and Eastern Europe. Its long-term impact is seen in the current political developments and social divisions. As a result, modern states in this region have been experiencing an escalating polarisation in societies and  seeing a growing lack of mutual understanding between different groups. Scholars and activists often become part of this phenomenon, taking sides rather than trying to draw conclusions from past events and positively impact the new reality.

During the organised workshops and lectures we will focus on finding ways how to approach the complex past in order to build a better future, with less divisive political life. During these activities the participants of the Rethink 1989 Autumn School will have an opportunity to expand their knowledge about the history and the region and improve their critical thinking skills. Workshops and tasks will be both theoretical and practical. Participants will have an opportunity to work in an international team and get to know stories and witnesses of history from the region.

The school will be held at the renaissance castle in Wojnowice near Wrocław (Poland).
 All efforts will be made to follow necessary health and sanitary requirements.

> In the event that travel to/from Poland would be restricted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – the Autumn School will take place virtually/online.

We are looking for 12 young (20-35 years old) scholars and activists from the EU, Balkans and Eastern Partnership countries who are willing to improve their knowledge and understanding of European history and its impact on the present.

Organizers cover the costs of travel (up to €200) and the participants’ stay in Wojnowice (room and board).


31 August 2020: deadline of the call for applications

10 September 2020: results of the recruitment

4-8 October 2020: Rethink 1989 Autumn School in Wojnowice, Poland


The working language of the project is English.

Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the organizational team:
More information about the project:

We are looking forward to meeting you in Wojnowice!

Partners of the project:

Atviros Lietuvos fondas / Open Lithuania Fund

Res Publica Foundation / Visegrad Insight

Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe /New Eastern Europe

CLICK HERE TO APPLY Deadline is August 31st

This project is co-funded by the European Commission

On the 4-8th of October, an autumn school for young researchers, interested in European history and its impact on the present, started in Wojnowic castle. This program includes a variety of topics from the history of politics to the liberation movements in the 20th century and political transformations in Eastern and Central Europe. Special attention is paid to the year 1989, the time of great transformations and changes that redrew the map of Europe. Since the events of 1989 became a point of confrontation between different political visions, they are worth rethinking today, in the light of emerging anti-democratic and anti-European political forces in the region.

The four-day program includes both seminars and Oxford-style discussions, as well as visits to various historical places associated with the Solidarity Movement in Krakow.

The school is a part of the project “Rethinking the Democratic Future: Lessons from the 20th Century” organized by the Open Lithuania Foundation’s partner in Poland – Jan Nowak- Jeziorński (College of Eastern Europe /New Eastern Europe). The aim of this project is to rethink the legacy of democratic revolutions in the context of the current forms of political activism and civil disobedience and to honour the 30th anniversary by debating on democracy, freedom, active citizenship, and the future of Europe. This project is funded by the European commission’s program “Europe for Citizens”.

Today the democratic order is facing new global challenges. At least in part, they can be connected to the 1989, the moment of collapse of bipolar world and the turbulent transition period in Central and Eastern Europe. We invite you to the conference “The Democratic Future: Lessons from the 20th Century”, during which academics, public intellectuals, media, civil society and education representatives will discuss democratic challenges from the regional, historical perspective. All the information can be found in the interactive program. Open Lithuania Foundation team and partners will be waiting for you online.