15 Feb 2024 – 16 Feb 2024

Popular Culture, Social Media and Populist Politics. Perspectives from Eastern Europe

Venue: Leibniz-Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung, Ilse-Zimmermann-Saal, Pariser Str. 1, 10719 Berlin
Organized by Aleksandra Szczepan (University of Potsdam), Nina Weller (ZfL)
Research project(s): Adjustment and Radicalisation

Given the huge success of populist movements (as in Poland or Hungary) and the establishment of authoritarian forms of rule (as in Belarus and Russia), the role of popular culture within society has also changed. Popular culture faces greater political instrumentalization and, in part, repression, but also functions to compensate and resist as it transforms social unrest into entertaining formats. Social media in particular have opened up new possibilities and techniques to exaggerate political antagonisms, undermine ideological discourses, or create alternative symbols and narratives. At the workshop, we will compare a series of case studies from Poland, Russia, Hungary, and Ukraine to analyze different formats of popular culture from Eastern Europe, observing how their forms and functions have changed in recent years.


Fig. above: generated by OpenAI


The workshop will be held in English.

Please register in advance at


Thursday, 15 Feb 2024

2.30 pm

  • Welcome & Introduction of Participants and Projects
  • Aleksandra Szczepan (University of Potsdam): Sentimental Auschwitz and Righteous Gentiles: Holocaust Kitsch as a Political Tool in East-Central Europe
  • Alina Mozolevska (Petro Mohyla Black Sea National University, Mykolaiv/Centre for East European and International Studies, ZOiS): Meme Wars: Weaponization of Popular Culture in the Russo – Ukrainian War

5 pm

  • Marina Scharlaj (Dresden University of Technology): Pop Music, Politics and the Construction of War (Before and After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine)
  • Indira Anna Hajnács (Leibniz Institute for the History and Culture of Eastern Europe): Folk Music as a Projection Vehicle. Music and Populism in Hungary


Friday, 16 Feb 2024

10.15 am

  • Konrad Sierzputowski (Jagiellonian University, Kraków/ZfL): Populism, Popular Culture, and Communities of Laughter in Poland (2015–2023)
  • Joanna Staśkiewicz (University of Potsdam): Burlesque as Queer Heterotopia. Queering Gender Constructions, Myths and Biography in Burlesque using Examples from Berlin, New Orleans, and Warsaw

12.15 pm

  • Daria Ganzenko (Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam): Comedy of Resentment and Pride: ‘Russian People’ in Mikhail Zadornov’s Satiric Monologues (1989–2000s)

2.30 pm

  • Final Discussion