Visions of Victory: A Postwar Debate over an All-Soviet War Monument in Moscow

Saturday, January 5, 2019: 11:00 AM
Price Room (Palmer House Hilton)
Jonathan Brunstedt, Utah State University
As the Wehrmacht bore down on Moscow in November 1941, Stalin famously summoned a host of Russian and proto-Russian military commanders before columns of Red Army troops readying to march to the front. From an open-air platform atop Lenin’s mausoleum, the country’s leader urged the soldiers to “[l]et the heroic image of our great ancestors inspire you in this war—Aleksandr Nevskii, Dmitrii Donskoi, Kuz’ma Minin, Dmitrii Pozharskii, Aleksandr Suvorov, Mikhail Kutuzov.” The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 compelled the Soviet leadership to deploy patriotic symbols and imagery associated with prerevolutionary Russia as part of mass mobilization. While this helped stiffen the resolve of a population still reeling from Germany’s rapid advance, it also sparked something of a Russian national awakening, which complicated postwar efforts to commemorate the experience of war and occupation. Should depictions of World War II, or the “Great Patriotic War” as it was known in the USSR, portray it as the culmination of a thousand years of Russian military victories or as something entirely unprecedented and possible only under conditions of Soviet socialism? This question dominated postwar discussions over the war’s visual representation. Focusing on one of the most important efforts to commemorate the war—Moscow’s All-Soviet Victory Monument project—this paper will explore the tension between “Soviet” and “Russian” notions of patriotism and the role that tension played in determining late-Stalinist visualities of invasion, occupation, and victory.