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Article

Victim-heroes in collective memory: Surviving soviet repressions heroically

Memory Studies. 2021. P. 1-14.

Memory narratives commonly include characters such as heroes (triumphant or fallen), martyrs, perpetrators, and victims. In recent years, the victim has become the central character in the dominant, western-centric, and globalized memory culture. A victim’s definition is problematic: few existing memory narratives include “ideal,” or innocent victims who suffered meaninglessly. The lines between victims and other characters in memory narratives are blurry in many cases, for instance, between a victim and a perpetrator. Using the case of Russian museums dedicated to the Soviet repressions, I study the problematic relation between victims and heroes, adding to the discussion of the victim character’s complexity. Often, victims of Soviet repressions are presented as both victims of political persecution and heroes who did not just suffer through their imprisonment but continued to live productive and creative lives. The resulting victim-hero character indicates that the category of a victim is too limiting and adds to calls for the theorization of victim taxonomy.