Debates on politics and culture
This double issue of NZ is devoted to the memory of the Second World War in Russia, Germany and Europe 60 years after the end of recent history’s greatest armed conflict. Just like our special edition on Russia as part of Europe in 2003, this issue has been prepared jointly, and is published simultaneously in two languages, by NZ and the Berlin-based monthly Osteuropa. This time, however, the Russian version is more comprehensive, presenting a number of original articles not featured in its German counterpart, as well as translations of a number of French, German and English texts on collective memory and World War II.
Our first, theoretical section features a chapter from Maurice Halbwachs’s posthumously published book Collective Memory, where he developed and revised the ideas first outlined in his classic The Social Framework of Memory. Entitled Collective Memory and Historical Memory, the excerpt explains Halbwach’s distinction between historical, collective, and personal memory, and shows how personal memory always draws on collective structures to test, correct and supplement its own recollections of past events. Harald Welzer, director of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Memory in Essen, provides an update which focuses specifically on personal memories of the Second World War, drawing on recent work in psychology and neuroscience (History, Memory, and the Presence of the Past: Memory as a Political Arena). We also publish a Russian translation of Theodor Adorno’s seminal 1959 lecture What Does ▒Working through the Past’ Mean?, a critical analysis of collective strategies of guilt denial prevalent in post-war Western Germany.
The next section, Russia and Germany: Remembering and Overcoming the Past, is devoted to general surveys of the public memory of the Second World War in Russia and Germany. It starts with a detailed interpretive article by sociologist Lev Gudkov, who draws on survey data collected since 1989 to define the role of the memory of the Great Patriotic War in the structure of Russian identity. Gudkov illustrates the paramount and unrivalled significance of the war among all other events of Russian history, as judged by public opinion, and unveils the mechanisms that block all attempts at a critical reappraisal of the war or at including the grassroots, everyday vision of wartime life into the official heroic picture, which serves to legitimate the Soviet and post-Soviet political regime (The ▒Memory’ of the War and Russians’ Mass Identity). Historian Alexander Boroznyak provides a critical survey of the memory of the war in the Federal Republic of Germany and its evolution since 1945. He shows how the debate on WWII and German guilt has developed in waves corresponding more or less to successive wartime and post-war generations (Waves of Historical Memory in the FRG). Art historians Monika Flacke and Ulrike Schmiegelt look at the other side of the Iron Curtain and describe the ways in which the East German state built its identity on the idea of antifascism and a denial of East Germans’ involvement in Nazi crimes. They make special reference to the visual and symbolic means employed to institutionalize that vision, such as the famous statue in Berlin’s Treptow Park, or the Buchenwald memorial (The GDR. From Darkness to the Stars: A State in the Spirit of Antifascism). After these general surveys, we continue with critical appraisals of commemorative traditions in Russia and Germany. Maria Ferretti argues that while in post-war Western Europe, there was a consensus to build the new democratic polities upon a shared memory of democratic anti-fascism, the memory of the Great Patriotic War in Russia served only to prop up the totalitarian regime (Implacable Memory: Russia and the War). Jörg Echternkamp stresses the tensions between views of 1945 as a national catastrophe and as a national liberation that have prevailed in Western Germany ever since the event (A ▒German Catastrophe’? On the Public Memory of the Second World War in Germany). In his essay on the historiography of the Great Patriotic War in the USSR and Russia, Joachim Hösler asks, echoing Adorno, What Does ▒Working through the Past’ Mean?, reviewing the debate on the war among Soviet and Russian historians from the earliest appearance of critical voices in the 1960s through the ▒revelations’ of Perestroika to new work published since some state archives were opened in the early 1990s. Finally, Helmut König takes another critical look at the evolution of the memory of WWII in Western Germany, stressing especially how the myth of an untainted Wehrmacht and the idea of Germans as victims of the war for a long time made it difficult to come to terms with collective guilt and responsibility (The Memory of National Socialism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War in the FRG’s Political Consciousness).
Our columnist Alexei Levinson devotes his Sociological Notes to an analysis of recent survey data showing that Russians believe all of Russia’s wars throughout the 20th century, with the sole exception of the Great Fatherlandic War but including the two Chechen wars, to have been ┌unjust’.
Next we turn to Forms of Memory, a choice of articles on the different ways in which the memory of the Second World War has expressed itself in Germany and Russia. Irina Shcherbakova, the supervisor of a Russia-wide essay competition for schoolchildren organised by Memorial, describes how the Great Patriotic War presents itself to 15-20-year olds today, how the memory of the war is passed on from generation to generation, and what regional and thematic variety is displayed in the over 15,000 essays that have been submitted since 1999 (Looking at the Memory Map). Irina Pruss draws upon the same sources to make more general observations on how the memory of WWII ┌functions’ with post-Soviet teenagers. She especially stresses the co-existence of an ▒official’ and an ▒unofficial’ memory of the war, the former always coming to the fore in public contexts and the latter being confined to the private sphere (Soviet History as Seen by Contemporary Teenagers and Their Grandmothers). Zhanna Kormina and Sergei Shtyrkov present the findings of their anthropological fieldwork in rural areas of the Pskov region, which was occupied by the Germans between 1941 and 1944. Through their interviews with local inhabitants of all generations, they reconstruct patterns of social behaviour, collaboration and resistance, and public and private memories of the occupation and subsequent liberation (Nothing is Forgotten, No-One is Forgotten: A History of the Occupation through Oral Testimonies). Historians of culture Natalia Konradova and Anna Ryleva contribute a richly illustrated piece describing the history and social functions of WWII memorials in Russia and Germany, drawing especially on their fieldwork in small towns around Moscow (Heroes and Victims. Memorials of the Great Patriotic War). In another illustrated article, Natalia Danilova traces The Memorial Version of the Afghan War, 1979-1989, by showing how the commemoration of that ▒lesser’ conflict has evolved in the shadow of the ▒Great’ war, and how veterans’ associations have set up memorials expressing their particular vision of duty, loyalty, and death. Pavel Polian provides a critical examination of the state-sponsored committee officially in charge of the 60th anniversary festivities in May 2005, and shows how its activities (or lack thereof) express Russian top-level bureaucrats’ view of war veterans and victims of the war (An Anniversary à la Glavpour? The Victory Committee as a Natural Monopoly). Georgy Ramazashvili tells the story of censorship and secrecy in the main Russian archive for military history, and his struggle against it (The Central Archive of the Ministry of Defence on the Eve of the 60th Anniversary of Victory). Gabriele Freitag, a research fellow with the German foundation in charge of paying compensations to foreigners who were deported to Germany by the Nazi regime to do forced labour, describes the foundation’s work and reactions by some of the recipients (Nazi Forced Labour 60 Years on. The Work of the Foundation for Memory, Responsibility, and Future). Dorothea Redepenning, in a wide-sweeping comparative essay, looks at how West and East European composers have tried to express the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust in their music, and how the rigid dichotomy of ▒anti-heroic’ dodecaphonic music in the West and large triumphant works in the USSR has slowly softened and yielded to a more pluralistic musical culture (Ricorda cosa ti hanno fatto in Auschwitz: Music Against War and Violence).
This naturally introduces the next section, entitled The Internationalisation of Memory. This starts with an article by French historian Pierre Nora, Reasons for the Current Upsurge in Memory, which takes the French case as a starting point for general reflections about the replacement of historiography by memory in public representations of the recent past. Andreas Langenohl describes the international circulation of symbols of WWII as it is displayed in official commemorative ceremonies such as the anniversaries of D-Day or the end of the war (State Visits. The Internationalisation of the Memory of the Second World War in Germany and Russia). The other articles in this section are ▒country profiles’ that show how the memory of WWII has evolved in a number of European countries apart from Germany and Russia. Vladislav Grinevich writes about Ukraine (A Split Memory. The Second World War in the Historical Consciousness of Ukrainian Society), Eva-Clarita Onken deals with the Latvian case (From a History of Liberation to a History of Occupation. The Perception and Memory of WWII in Latvia after 1945), Sergei Romanenko tackles former Yugoslavia (Has the Second World War Ended on the Territory of Disintegrated Yugoslavia?), and Alessandro Portelli analyses an episode that mirrors the complexity of the memory of WWII in Italy (The Massacre at the Fosse Ardeatine: History, Myth, Ritual, and Symbol).
The next section, Partial Amnesia, starts with an essay by historian Ilya Altman which traces The Memorialisation of the Holocaust in Russia: Past, Present, and Perspectives. Starting with the tragic story of the Jewish Antifascist Committee’s Black Book and ending with the creation of the Holocaust Centre in Moscow and a range of Holocaust museums in the former Soviet republics, Altman reviews the stages of the difficult and unfinished process of making the Holocaust a part of the collective memory of WWII in the USSR, Russia, and the other successor states. Journalist and director Richard Chaim Schneider casts a highly critical glance at commemorations of the Holocaust in Germany, which he portrays as a highly self-centred and hollow practice that takes no notice of Jewish concerns (German Rituals of Coping with the Past, the Return of the Dead Jews, and the Disappearance of the Living Jews. An Analytico-Polemical Essay). Wolfram Wette tackles the most tenacious German myth about WWII, the idea that the Wehrmacht wasn’t fought a ▒clean war’ and wasn’t involved in Hitler’s crimes against humanity (Hitler’s Wehrmacht: Stages of the Debate on a German Legend). Two articles deal with the role of female soldiers on both sides of the Second World War: Franka Maubach presents her research on The Wehrmacht’s ▒Helpers’: A Paradigmatic Figure of the End of the War, while Olga Nikonova provides a survey of recent work on women in the Red Army (Women, the War, and Preterition). Beate Fieseler recalls another neglected minority: ▒Poor Winners’: The Invalids of the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Union. Finally, Jörg Ganzenmüller draws attention to A Secondary Theatre of the Memory War: The Leningrad Blockade in German Memory. This is a followed by an interview with a survivor of the blockade, Nikolai Viktorovich.
In his Humane Economics column, Yevgeny Saburov reflects upon the economic equivalents of concepts such as love, hope, and memory, and argues that the memory of Russia’s former greatness acts as an obstacle to investment into its future.
There follows a section on literary reminiscences of the war. Ilia Kukulin provides a detailed survey of reflections of the war in Soviet official and unofficial literature, quoting from a range of works that have only published in recent years (Regulating Pain: Preliminary Notes on the Transformation of the Traumatic Experience of the Great Patriotic / Second World War in Russian Literature in the 1940s-1970s). Volker Hage looks at German writers’ treatment of the bombings of German cities in the final years of the war (Buried Feelings: How German Writers Coped with the Bombings). Klaus Städtke contributes a short essay on Vassily Grossman’s novel Life and Fate, which he portrays as a theory of totalitarianism comparable with the work of Hannah Arendt.
Our final thematic section, The War on the Screen, opens with the transcript of a debate on Russian media and WWII that took place in October 2004 at a conference organised by NZ. Journalists Yelena Nemykh, Konstantin Eggert and Sergey Parkhomenko, as well as Alexei Simonov, president of the Glasnost Foundation, discuss a documentary radio and TV interview series called The Birth of Victory, as well as wider issues of the post-Soviet Russian media and their treatment of the Great Patriotic War. As a counterpoint, German media critic Hanno Loewy analyses a recent German documentary on the Holocaust, and shows how the mediatic dramatisation of the Holocaust at the hands of German TV guru Guido Knopp leads to a dangerous trivialisation of this difficult topic (Full Moon Holocaust: Theoretical Notes on the Genre of a ZDF Documentary). Finally, cinema historian Neya Zorkaya analyses the Images of the War that were presented in war-time Soviet movies and shaped cinematic representations of the war for decades to come.
Our New Institutions section presents the Holocaust Centre, an institution devoted to promoting awareness of the Holocaust in Russia.
Two very detailed Journal Reviews cover Russian periodicals in both political and social studies and culture, dwelling specifically on a number of special issues devoted to memory and the Second World War.
The New Books section contains reviews of over a dozen recent Russian and German books on memory and history.