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Victory Day: history

A central theme of my current research is the history of Soviet practices of war commemoration—especially, but not exclusively, those associated with May 9, known as Victory Day in the Soviet and post-Soviet tradition. This has grown out of my work on the history of Soviet war memorials. In the archives I kept coming across textual and visual sources on commemorative practices in the 1940s and 50s which contradicted the widely held view that Stalin had scrapped Victory Day in 1947 and there was no state-sanctioned commemoration of the Second World War (or Great Patriotic War) until 1965. I started working on the history of commemorative practices, using sources from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus: documents from state archives, a database I put together of newspaper articles in different languages from the regional press in three republics, and ego-documents (memoirs, diaries, letters). I am currently working on a book that traces the history of Victory Day from the beginnings to the present. It is intended as a companion volume to the book on the history of Soviet war memorials that I am also writing. On a theoretical level I am especially interested in performative aspects of commemoration and in the materiality of war memorials (the hardware of memory, in Alexander Etkind’s terms) as opposed to the narratives of memory that have been the focus of most research on these matters.

The most detailed result of my work on this so far is presented in a recent English-language book chapter. On this page I have collected my publications on the topic in English, French, German, and Russian, as well as audio and video recordings of talks and discussions in different languages on the history of Soviet war commemoration. There is some overlap with the much more comprehensive bibliography and collection of video and audio recordings on the sociology of war commemoration, since many of my texts, talks, and interviews discuss both.

My work on the history of Soviet commemorative practices has been supported by the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, the Hamburg Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Culture, the German Historical Instiute in Moscow, the German-Ukrainian Historical Commission, the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst and the Russian Science Foundation project no. 20-18-00342 (Institutionalized and non-institutionalized rituals in the structure of late Soviet society, 1956-85), directed by Alexander Fokin at the University of Tyumen.


Video and Audio

Victory Day: Ethnographies of post-Soviet war commemoration
Soviet and Post-Soviet War Commemoration Reconsidered. CISR Berlin, December 2020
Беседа с Александром Фокиным о военной памяти и истории Дня Победы
День Победы в 1945–1965 гг.: коммеморация до культа