The Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia

TitleThe Living and the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsTumarkin, Nina
Number of Pages242
PublisherBasic Books
CityNew York, NY

The Living and the Dead weaves together the tangled threads of World War II's memory in the Soviet Union and Russia. This moving account of a suffering people's struggle with brutal history shows how state and party authorities stage-managed a national trauma into a heroic exploit that glorified the Communist party while systematically concealing the disastrous mistakes and criminal cruelties committed by the Stalinist tyranny. Tumarkin shows how Stalin first memorialized the war as heroic, triumphal, even messianic, but then demoted the myth because it had produced too many popular heroes and stories of personal initiative. The second half of the book relates the poignant story of the cult's demise from 1990 onward, serving as a prism to refract the spectrum of popular responses to the breakup of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The author deftly interweaves into her narrative candid autobiographical sketches focusing on her own encounters with death as well as the remembrances of her Russian emigre family. A new model bringing history to life through personal engagement and interaction, the book also helps us understand the roots of contemporary Russians' preoccupation with their nation's greatness.

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