July 14, 2011
27 b&w illus.
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v2.1 Reference

The Great War in Russian Memory

Karen Petrone shatters the notion that World War I was a forgotten war in the Soviet Union. Although never officially commemorated, the Great War was the subject of a lively discourse about religion, heroism, violence, and patriotism during the interwar period. Using memoirs, literature, films, military histories, and archival materials, Petrone reconstructs Soviet ideas regarding the motivations for fighting, the justification for killing, the nature of the enemy, and the qualities of a hero. She reveals how some of these ideas undermined Soviet notions of military honor and patriotism while others reinforced them. As the political culture changed and war with Germany loomed during the Stalinist 1930s, internationalist voices were silenced and a nationalist view of Russian military heroism and patriotism prevailed.

About the Author

Karen Petrone is Associate Professor of History at the University of Kentucky. She is author of Life Has Become More Joyous, Comrades: Celebrations in the Time of Stalin (IUP, 2000) and editor (with Valerie Kivelson, Michael S. Flier, and Nancy Shields Kollmann) of The New Muscovite Cultural History: A Collection in Honor of Daniel B. Rowland.


"This important book radically alters understanding of the Russian and Soviet responses to WW I during the interwar period and up to 1945. Most scholars have believed until now that the response to WW I in Russia and the Soviet Union differed from that in the rest of Europe, and was muted or suppressed by the political leadership who wanted to focus attention on the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war of 1918-21. Petrone (Kentucky), however, persuasively argues that although the official Soviet response downplayed the impact of the war and did not establish an overarching mythic narrative of the war, there was a wide variety of public remembrances of the war because so many people were directly touched by it. The author skillfully analyzes films, graphic arts, novels, short stories, journalism, architecture, memoirs, paintings, museum exhibits, and many other expressions of people's memory of the war to demonstrate the main themes of this discourse as well as how it changed over time. The book deserves a wide readership. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries. — Choice"—N. M. Brooks, New Mexico State University, February 2012

"Petrone makes very important contributions not only to the field of Russian and Soviet history but to the field of World War I studies as well."—Joshua A. Sanborn, Lafayette College

"An original work of serious scholarship. . . . Petrone engages with a flourishing literature on the cultural consequences of the First World War."—Peter Gatrell, author of A Whole Empire Walking

"Karen Petrone's book is at one and the same time a major contribution to the history of Russia and to the history of the Great War. By placing the cultural history of Russia in a European perspective of mass mourning and selective remembrance, Petrone has managed to help 'Russify' the way the history of the First World War and its aftermath is configured. Here is cultural history at its best."—Jay Winter, Yale University

"This important book radically alters understanding of the Russian and Sovet responses to WWI during the interwar period and up to 1945. . . The book deserves a wide readership. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"[This book] has . . . the merit of being an important contribution in intergrating Soviet WWI memories into the history of European war representation, without underestimating the peculiarities of Russian history and culture."—wwiindex.blogspot.com

"Petrone's achievement in this important book is to have set a convincing benchmark for a discussion that will run for many years."—H-Memory

"Karen Petrone has devoted years to her project, producing a readable and compendious study that weaves its way through early Soviet culture, literature, and art with commendable determination. What results is a lively review of traces of imperial Russia's last great war, ranging from poetry to novels and posters to the (doomed) Moscow Military History Museum."—American Historical Review

"Overall, this book offers a detailed and comprehensive survey of World War I discourse. . . . After reading The Great War in Russian Memory, there is little doubt that THE Russian experience of war merits closer study in a broader, European context."—Canadian Slavonic Papers

"Was the memory of the Great War somehow reflected in the Soviet cult of the Second World War? These questions are merely an indication of how engaging and welcome Petrone's book is. This is cultural history at its best."—Journal of Contemporary History

"Professor Petrone has provided an important account of Russia's dealing with its forgotten war—which turns out to have been not so forgotten after all. Hopefully, this volume will lead to further studies of how World War I came to resonate in Russian cultural, historical and political memory."—Slavic and East European Journal

"Petrone has revealed new and fascinating lines of inquiry into an important topic. Indeed, she has reset the research agenda on Russian World War One memory, and future scholars will hereafter be following in her footsteps.Oct 2013"—Slavonic and East European Review

"T]his excellent work of scholarship is a timely reminder of Russia's participation in the Great War, connection to Europeanwide practices of memory and remembrance, and therefore deserves a place in future international commemorations of the Great War."—Europe-Asia Studies

"[W]orld War I was not completely forgotten, but when one compares Russia to every other country, this book's main contribution is its detailed confirmation of an incredible story of the near total elimination of public memory of the most traumatic historical event in Russian history in the entire century from 1815 to 1917.January 2013"—The Russian Review

"[T]his book serves as a timely and poignant reminder of this dark chapter in human history and reveals the dangers of ignoring history."—Bowling Green Daily News

"[An] illuminating and refreshing book."—New Books in Russia and Eurasia

"[E]xcellent . . . Petrone's work [is] . . . an invaluable contribution to understanding how those who shaped the Red Army after 1917 saw the Great War and what it meant.25.4 2012"—Journal of Slavic Military Studies

"The Great War in Russian Memory is an important addition to both the literature on World War I and Russian/Soviet historiography. It provides fertile ground for further research, which should aim to go beyond accepted paradigms about the European experience and examine how Russian memory became Soviet."—Laboratorium

9780253356178 : the-great-war-in-russian-memory-petrone
408 Pages
$39.95 USD

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