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Rapping about the Divided Memory of Victory

Today marks the 66th anniversary of Victory Day. As Sean Guillory notes in a must-read post, victory, like so many other aspects of 20th century east European history, is remembered quite differently in many post-Soviet and post-Communist states. He writes:

Russia, with much justification, views this transformation of the memory of liberation into the memory of conquer as deeply insulting.  Yet the whether one thinks about the legitimacy of these moves, they nevertheless raise some quite uncomfortable questions about the basis for history, memory and identity. How to reconcile all these memories of victimhood into a general narrative, where the field of victims in the war can be objectively be dispersed between the war’s winners and losers?  Can it be done?  Should it? Or is the European memory of the war, as Tony Judt suggests, ever to remain “deeply asymmetrical”?

Of course, it is not only in Russia where the war is fondly remembered and revered as unsullied victory. In addition to the beautiful sand art animation from Ukraine’s Got Talent that I shared previously, I can’t help but think of this video, which I frequently show to my post-1945 Soviet/post-Soviet history students. It was made for the 60th anniversary of Victory Day in Karaganda, Kazakhstan. It is another great way to get my students to think about the different degree to which World War II continues to matter in the United States versus the former Soviet Union (obviously, as Sean highlights for us, this memory is not always positive). All you have to do is pick the latest favorite hip hop artist and ask the students if they could imagine them rapping about World War II.


2 replies on “Rapping about the Divided Memory of Victory”

Just to add a bit more to a really good post. Last night’s (9 May 2011) local news in Moscow was filled with images of the “neo-Nazi nationalists” in Lvyv (pick your spelling) who were blocking people from placing flowers on the graves of Soviet soldiers. Riot police had to restore order as rocks, bottles, and flares were hurled at them. One person’s victory is another’s national subjugation.

Steve, you’re right, that was a must-read post–thanks for sharing it. I’m curious: in the overall picture of relations between Russia and the former Soviet bloc countries, how strongly do you see this issue of antagonistic memory playing a part? Or to put it another way–in matters of trade, diplomacy and defense, is it a peripheral disagreement, or one that’s likely to come more and more to the forefront, coloring what would normally be larger concerns?

Thanks for sharing the sand animation too–astonishing, as well as beautiful.

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