Collective Memories in War
This edited collection offers an empirical exploration of social memory in the context of politics, war, identity and culture. With a substantive focus on Eastern Europe, it employs the methodologies of visual studies, content and discourse analysis, in-depth interviews and surveys to substantiate how memory narratives are composed and rewritten in changing ideological and political contexts. The book examines various historical events, including the Russian-Afghan war of 1979-89 and World War II, and considers public and local rituals, monuments and museums, textbook accounts, gender and the body. As such it provides a rich picture of post-socialist memory construction and function based in interdisciplinary memory studies.
This chapter reviews the representations of the Afghanistan war in school textbooks published in Russia. The authors define school textbooks as a document of public cultural memory showing what it is ‘necessary’ to know about the past. The chapter demonstrates the representations of the Afghanistan war in school textbooks published from 1990 to 2010.
The sample included 16 history textbooks. For the analysis, we divided the textbooks into four groups. The division was based on presidential transitions and therefore includes textbooks for the presidencies of Gorbachev, Yeltsin, Putin and Medvedev. The discourse analysis by Laclau and Mouffe (2001) was applied as an analytical framework.
We reveal the diversity of the representations of the Afghanistan war in different political periods. In Gorbachev’s presidency, the Afghanistan war was represented through a discourse of Soviet political dissidents. In the Yeltsin era, a discourse of Soviet political dissidents remained, but the field of discursiveness was significantly expanded. Additional discourses included the public discourse of the first years of post-Soviet Russia and the official discourse of the Soviet Union. Finally, in Putin’s time, the field of discursiveness was reduced; there was no change in the Medvedev period.
In this chapter, we consider the city as a space in which the collective memory of important events of the past are represented. Hostilities that a country has lived through hold a special place in people’s memory. They impose their mprint on the mind for generations and are reflected in city spaces as monuments, street names and other structures. This chapter analyses commemorative places associated with the Soviet–Afghan War and the Second World War. Modern trends in the creation of monuments are also examined. This analysis is based on the results of a project ‘Historical memory’ (in-depth biographical interviews with Russian ex-soldiers of Soviet–Afghan War and focus groups with 18-year-old students) and research using online materials (news feeds and photos of memorials and monuments).
In this article, we analyze the peculiarities in commemorative traditions of the “Afghaners,” who find it difficult to express a coherent narrative regarding their war experience. We also look at public memory about them as part of the discourse on Russian war obituaries, which contrast with the discursive customs seen in NATO obituaries for British veterans. This contrast allows an evaluation of differences in these societies’ cultural productions of public memory. The essay concludes with a reflection on the Internet’s influence on public memory regarding the Afghan war; how it gives the war a new lease on life in the digital world, yet also brings a risk of re-evaluating the war and the its’ participants actions.
This monograph has been written based on the results of a joint Russian-Polish project devoted to problems of social memory in various socio-cultural contexts, and it deals with the modern politics of memory in Eastern European countries.In the book, two conceptual patterns intersect: concepts of social memory and concepts of war memory studies. The problematic nature of war memory is based on the principle of cross-cases: it follows logically that upon examining social memory, the authors address, first and foremost, the most traumatic moments of a national past – the memory of war. But while the Polish authors chose as their focal point several distinct events from World War II, the Russian sociologists fixed upon a closer and more local war – the Afghan war. Comparison of these two war discourses allows us to meaningfully deepen our comprehension of the mechanisms at work in the social institution of memory.