Russia: Searching for the golden mean between forgetting and remembering
There is hardly a single country on earth that doesn’t have a couple of shameful pages in its history book. We keep telling ourselves “we should remember our history to avoid messing things up again”. But let’s consider a fact that the darkest period in some country’s history could be its most glorious time as well. What do I mean by glorious? First of all it’s a blend of power and importance in the international scene, fast development and military victories. The other factor is romantic memories and stereotypes about that time formed much later through works of art and mass media. And when a country needs an emotional ‘jump’ these happy images of the past can be used by the government to inspire its people.
Russia needs that ‘jump’ right now and the governmental officials have been thinking about changing the name of Volgograd city to Stalingrad. Let me tell you a bit of information behind it to clarify things up. Volgograd city (literally, a city on the Volga River) had three names throughout its history; it was called Tsaritsin (or Tsar City) up until 1925 when Joseph Stalin gave the city his own name. The city of Stalingrad was a place of a huge Second World War battle in 1943. The battle is won. Who cares how much blood was shed? The victory was glorious and will be remembered. In fact, Stalin didn’t bother keeping his people alive: a sword of being sent to prison was hanging over every one, and if you are sent to prison consider yourself lucky for not being executed. That’s why any talk about getting Stalin’s name back into a present-day Russia gave some people quivers down the spine. The proposal to rename the city hasn’t been supported… yet.
But the history shouldn’t be forgotten to ensure the lesson is learned. For that reason in July 2012 a group of Russian activists came up with an interesting set of social prints. They called it “Stalin was like…”. In these prints Stalin is compared to Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google, Yandex ( Russian Search Engine), Youtube, Foursquare and Vkontakte ( Russian Facebook). The purpose was to ignite the conversation about Stalin’s cruelty and avoid romanticizing this period of time. Unfortunately, according to Snob magazine the Russian youth doesn’t really know a thing about the Great Purge or Yezhovshina the time when the Secret police, death sentences and Siberian exiles flourished. For a good chunk of them Stalin “was a man who won the Second World War” and that’s it. I personally find these ads very original and amusing; first they make you smile than your face turns into a question mark when you read a text under an image.
Everybody is kind of familiar with Twitter nowadays. When I look at the picture I can’t help but love these moustaches. So funny, you think at first, but then your eyes go down to read the following:” The arrested were often tortured; the sentences were carried out immediately without a hearing in court. Great Terror 1937-1938 it’s not the time to forget”.
Stalin was like Apple – very expensive.
Apple is a symbol of quality and chic which you should pay dearly for. Russia paid dearly as well for Stalin’s terror:” 681,692 people we condemned to execution by shooting”.
This campaign caused a stir in the society; it was accused of being cheap and provocative. But as Demian Kudryavtsev, a media manager, replies: “The project was aimed at 14-24 year olds who know plenty about social networking sites but nothing about their own country. We’ve taken this controversial step not to stand still any more”.
It is so hard to have your say about the deeds of the past. What is the best way to educate people about the past? How can you make people feel the past? The farther you go the more difficult it is to recall and the easier to forget.
The quotes were taken from Snob.ru
This is a guest post by Mary Ann. Mary Ann is a translator and Farsi teacher with a degree in Cultural Anthropology. She enjoys helping other people to learn and broaden their horizons in terms of cultural knowledge. You can visit her blog at firstname.lastname@example.org