Einstein Forum (Germany)
Memory, Authenticity, Heritage: Military-Artistic Patronage and the Making of (Post-)Soviet War Memorials
More memorials to the Second World War are now being built in Russia and Belarus than even in Soviet times, and new ones, sponsored by the Russian government or local groups, are appearing from Manchuria to California.
Even the most recent memorials of this type are often treated as sacred sites demanding adherence to a strict code of conduct— in ways not entirely dissimilar to recent Holocaust memorials in the West. In debates surrounding old and new memorials, officials routinely stress that their heroic representation of the war has greater authenticity than historians’ findings in the archives, especially where the two are at odds.
Why is there such a proliferation of war memorials now? What is the relationship with the past that is mediated by them, and how has this relationship changed in recent decades? What is the understanding of heritage that is embodied by such memorials, and what is the institutional apparatus that serves to enshrine and protect that notion, both at home and internationally? Finally, what are the pragmatics of sanctity that determine what kind of behaviour is deemed acceptable or taboo at such memorial sites, and which vision of the past has greater value?
Mischa Gabowitsch is a historian and sociologist based at the Einstein Forum in Potsdam, Germany since 2010. He earned his PhD degree in 2007 from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS), with his dissertation, “Le spectre du fascisme: le nationalisme russe et ses adversaires, 1987-2007“ (The Specter of Fascism: Russian Nationalism and Its Adversaries, 1987-2007).
His main research interests are in protest and social movements, commemorative practices, and war memorials and military cemeteries. He is particularly interested in unexpected parallels and interconnections between these phenomena, such as structural similarities between protest and commemorative movements.
Geographically, his work focuses on the Soviet Union and its successor states and former satellite countries, though he is also interested in transnational connections and comparisons e.g. with Western and South-Eastern Europe and the Global South.
- Gabowitsch M. (ed.), Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities, Basingstoke, 2017.
- Gabowitsch M., Foils and Mirrors: The Soviet Intelligentsia and German Atonement, in Gabowitsch M. (ed.), Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities, Basingstoke, 2017, pp. 267-302.
- Gabowitsch M., “Combattre, tolérer ou soutenir ? La société russienne face au nationalisme russe”, in Laruelle M. (dir.), Le rouge et le noir. Extrême droite et nationalisme en Russie, Paris, 2007, pp. 67-97 [DOI: 10.4000/books.editionscnrs.6080].