Myth, Memory, Trauma

Myth, Memory, Trauma: On Rethinking versus Repackaging the Past

Let me begin by thanking Steve Barnes for inviting me to comment on Polly’s book. I am glad that this blog provides such a valuable opportunity for informative discussions of new scholarship in our field.

The book is based on extensive archival research, and it presents a broad overview of discussions about the Stalinist past in Soviet high politics and public culture, mostly the literary world, between 1956 and 1969-70. Because the concept of the “Stalinist past” is very vast, it is worth delineating first what the book considers under this rubric. Mainly, the Stalinist past is epitomized here by three of its crucial phenomena: Stalin’s cult of personality, the terror (designated in the book by the date ‘1937’ and mostly referring to the peak phase of repression in the late 1930s), and the tragic blunders and losses of human life during the Second World War, which many in the Soviet literary world of the 1960s came to blame on Stalin and the effects of the terror.