Blacker, Uilleam, Fedor, Julie

Soviet and Post-Soviet Varieties of Martyrdom and Memory


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This essay explores the narratives of martyrdom connected to the history and memory of twentieth-century violence in Eastern Europe. The archetypal figure of the martyr offers a powerful vehicle for remembering the dead, and a potent tool for making and remaking identity, and especially for cultivating national myths. The language and imagery of martyrdom has long been a central part of the memory cultures of Eastern Europe, but in recent decades in particular it has undergone a striking revival. Images of martyrdom have proliferated especially since the beginning of the war in Ukraine in 2014, where they are being used to underpin territorial claims, calls for retribution, and new national myths. In this article, we examine a range of manifestations of this mode of remembering in Soviet and post-Soviet space. Our focus is on the distinctive forms which these martyrdom narratives take, and the ways in which these in turn are used to frame and shape identities.

DOI: 10.24216/97723645330050102_08
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10/2015, 25 pages