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Restoring the “unbroken continuity of our history”: Commemoration of the Great War in the former Russian Empire

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Translated title of the contributionLa restauración de la «continuidad ininterrumpida de nuestra historia»: la conmemoración de la Gran Guerra en el antiguo Imperio Ruso
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)31-48
JournalComillas Journal of International Relations
Publication statusPublished - 2015


A combination of factors has ensured that commemoration of the First World War in the lands of the former Russian Empire has lagged far behind the rest of Europe. The fact that the conflict led directly to the collapse of the tsarist regime and its replacement with a Bolshevik state focused attention elsewhere. The immediate demands of fighting the Civil War and then the establishment of the Soviet state provided a strong counter-narrative to the mainstream European story of grief, commemoration and loss. Veterans of the “imperialist war” sat uneasily in the new Soviet state during the inter-war years where, under Stalin, even private commemoration became difficult. Despite a partial return to Russian national traditions during the “Great Patriotic War” of 1941-1945, this largely ensured that the defeat of Nazism would be the defining experience of Russia during the century, legitimising the Soviet state and confirming her status as a global power. After 1989/1991 the memory of the Great War re-emerged from this shadow, more clearly as the midwife of national independence in the successor states of the tsarist empire, and with the return of the Russian state this has continued, perpetuating the narrative that her experience was not typical of the rest of Europe.

    Research areas

  • Memory, Commemoration, Russia, Great War, Independence

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