Re-Calling the Past: Collective and Individual Memory of World War II in
Russia and Germany
1 - 2 December 2006
University of Tampere, Finland
World War II has been one of the most important events and highly
emotive subjects in German as well as in Russian / Soviet history. Today the
recalling and remembering of the wartime experiences is significantly
gaining in importance. Due to the ruptures taking place in both countries in
the last decades - the decline of the Soviet empire and the unification of
Germany - a re-evaluation of recent history has emerged in both countries.
As a consequence it has been possible to discuss hitherto taboo subjects as
certain phenomena of war and occupation in both countries.
At a time when hitherto quite monolithic discourses of public and
collective memory start to break down into conflicting fragments, private
memories and their exploration are of growing interest for scholars from
various disciplines. The historical upheavals have forced various
negotiations with the past. The unresolved reflections on the tensions and
traumas of individual and collective memory of World War II have granted in
Germany and in Russia a special place for memoirs, autobiographical writings
and other kind of material which diagnose a dialectic of past and present in
attempts to recall or to forget past history. Reflection upon traumas and
collective taboos is linked with other discourses and cultural models - on
the German side the national unification is linked with the question on
whether the Germans should be seen as victims of war as well, and in Russia
which has seen a wealth of studies into collective historical memory over
the last few years, there are conflicting modes including the tradition of a
monolithic and heroic recalling of the Great Patriotic War and a critical
focus upon the tragedies during the war.
It is this situation of re-negotiating national self-identities by
constructing the past which is based on collective traumas that our
conference will focus on as its central topic. It is one of the prerogatives
of such a multidisciplinary conference to examine the fractures,
interactions and intersections of private and collective memories at
different times and different places in different texts as fiction,
autobiographic writing, movies, monuments, oral history or historiography.
The conference will also focus on the question of how and in which ways the
reconstructive working of the memory is anchored in the cultural traditions
of national imagery production, i.e. what are the topoi which are taken up
and reproduced by reconstructing the memory of the past. A comparative
conference paying attention to the parallel changes in Russian and German
societies can contribute to the discussion on whether and how meanings given
to similar experiences differ in different contexts. It is obvious that with
the topic of the war and its recalling we will also focus on methodological
issues of how to read and understand analogical experiences structured by
different cultural backgrounds.
Svetlana Aleksievich: “The War’s Unwomanly Face”
Peter Jahn (Berlin) “ "We" and "They", Friend and Foe in Recent Russian
Films on the Great Patriotic War”
Marianna G. Muravyeva (St. Petersburg) “The City of Women: Collective Memory
and Mythology about the Siege of Leningrad in Russian Historiography.”
Serguei Oushakine (Princeton) “Notes of Loss and Despair: Memorizing War in
Helmut Peitsch (Potsdam): "Changing Meanings of 'Vergangenheitsbewältigung'
('Mastering the Nazi past') in East and West Germany 1945-1975."
Please send electronic 400-word proposals by April 30, 2006 to programme
co-chairs Withold Bonner (firstname.lastname@example.org), Lecturer, German Language
and Culture, School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies, University
of Tampere, or Arja Rosenholm (email@example.com), Professor, Slavonic
Philology, School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies, University of
If electronic submission is not possible, send hard copies of your proposal
to Arja Rosenholm or Withold Bonner, School of Modern Languages and
Translation Studies, FIN-33014, University of Tampere, Finland.
Organizers: School of Modern Languages and Translation Studies, Department
of Political Science and International Relations at the University of
Tampere, and Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki.
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