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How and Why Russia Forgot The Great War

Published: August 1, 2014 (Issue # 1822)



  • The Great War barely features in mass culture, having contributed neither myths nor heroes to Russian folk culture, and barely having made a dent in nation's wealth of arts and literature.
    Photo:

Russia lost 3 million people in World War I. But it also provided examples of explosive military strength and economic resilience that would make any nation proud.

And yet, though the 100th anniversary of the war — which Russia joined on Aug. 1, 1914 — has revived some interest in the event, Russians generally do not often speak of World War I.

This is a nation that loves and cherishes memories of other past military triumphs. World War II has developed a cult-like status over the decades, and even the Great Patriotic War against Napoleon is widely discussed and revered.

But beyond the history books, the Great War hardly features in mass culture, having contributed neither myths nor heroes to Russian folk culture, and hardly having made a dent in nation's wealth of arts and literature.

World War I's marginal position in Russian lore owes to the fact that it fell between the cracks of history, or — more specifically — between the Tsarist and Bolshevik regimes, Russian scholars said.

In destroying the tsars, the Bolshevik revolutionaries denounced the Great War as imperialist, thus robbing it of its potential for a popular legacy.

"The two world wars are antithetical national myths for Russia," said prominent philosopher and columnist Maxim Goryunov.

"It is an either-or situation. [World War I and World War II] are mutually exclusive, you cannot celebrate them both," Goryunov told The St. Petersburg Times on the eve of the war's 100th anniversary on Thursday.

The Forgotten War

Russia boasts two major museums dedicated to the legacy of its 1812 war against Napoleon. Scores of museums celebrate the memory of World War II, and monuments to its heroes and victims can be found in abundance in every post-Soviet city, from Kaliningrad to Siberia.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Center’s Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at today’s Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nation’s premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the city’s elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolan’s latest film “Mommy” at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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