Narrowcasting collective memory online: ‘liking’ Stalin in Russian social media
The Internet has transformed history and collective memory. Narratives of the past are produced and perceived faster and by larger communities. In other words, the Internet facilitates the most pervasive broadcasting of historical narratives ever known. However, it is not only speed and reach that characterize the impact of the digital revolution on memory cultures. It has also led to a shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting, propelled by a growing number of online memory agents. As a great number of people have access to the Internet, even memory agents with a particular view on the past can find their audience. Thus, the Internet, and social media in particular, facilitates the fragmentation of memory and narrowcasting. To illustrate this point, I studied Russian social media groups dedicated to the adoration of Stalin. Generally, Stalinists are perceived as a homogeneous group sharing a glorified memory of the Soviet leader. However, my analysis reveals that there are at least three types of online Stalinism that promote different narratives and have different agendas. This finding is not merely shedding new light on the persistence of the Stalin cult, but is also theoretically generative, indicating additional conditions for the fragmentation of memories in countries with contested and toxic pasts.