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The Soviet Myth of World War II
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Book description

How did a socialist society, ostensibly committed to Marxist ideals of internationalism and global class struggle, reconcile itself to notions of patriotism, homeland, Russian ethnocentrism, and the glorification of war? In this provocative new history, Jonathan Brunstedt pursues this question through the lens of the myth and remembrance of victory in World War II – arguably the central defining event of the Soviet epoch. The book shows that while the experience and legacy of the conflict did much to reinforce a sense of Russian exceptionalism and Russian-led ethnic hierarchy, the story of the war enabled an alternative, supra-ethnic source of belonging, which subsumed Russian and non-Russian loyalties alike to the Soviet whole. The tension and competition between Russocentric and 'internationalist' conceptions of victory, which burst into the open during the late 1980s, reflected a wider struggle over the nature of patriotic identity in a multiethnic society that continues to reverberate in the post-Soviet space. The book sheds new light on long-standing questions linked to the politics of remembrance and provides a crucial historical context for the patriotic revival of the war's memory in Russia today.


‘The Soviet Myth of World War II represents a major new study of Soviet ideology and commemorative culture during the postwar era. Combining extensive archival research with insightful analysis, Jonathan Brunstedt highlights the place of pan-Soviet and internationalist appeals in war commemoration. His book stands as an important corrective to the idea that Soviet leaders were Russian nationalists.’

David L. Hoffmann - author of The Stalinist Era

‘Jonathan Brunstedt takes us deep into the myth that developed about Soviet victory in World War II and how it provoked intense, often contradictory debates about the nature of patriotism in the USSR. The Soviet Myth of World War II is insightful, deeply researched, and an important work for understanding the nature of postwar Soviet life.’

Stephen Norris - author of A War of Images

‘A meticulously researched and beautifully written contribution to debates about national identity and commemoration in the Soviet Union. Using a wide range of textual and archival evidence, Brunstedt ably charts five decades of tensions about whether to use the myth of World War II to foster a Soviet multi-ethnic patriotism or to promote an imperial Russo-centric narrative.’

Karen Petrone - author of The Great War in Russian Memory

‘As today’s Kremlin struggles to navigate between strident Russian nationalism and its multinational polity, while urgently promoting a World War II-centered patriotism, The Soviet Myth of World War II - a truly compelling book that provides a deep historical context for current ideological battles - could hardly be more timely!’

Nina Tumarkin - author of The Living and the Dead

'This work is an imposing intellectual force in Soviet studies. The source base is remarkable … This work is a towering academic achievement that puts forth imposing evidence and a convincing thesis.’

Christopher Bishop Source: H-Net

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