Memories from the Future: The Historical Experience of the First World War and the Civil War in Soviet Propaganda of the 1920s and 1930s

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The article deals with the historical experience of the First World War and the Russian Civil War as it was brought up in Soviet propaganda of the 1920s and 1930s; topic is thus the employment of a “useful past” in the production of ideas about future wars. The present research is based on a corpus of normative texts related to the assessment of the First World War and the Civil War in the late 1920s and 1930s (including periodicals, political writings, materials of the Communist Party) as well as archival documents about campaigns dedicated to the anniversaries of the First World War and the Civil War. Despite their proclaimed policy of peace, Soviet leaders spoke of a major future war as inevitable, and tried to anticipate its nature through comparison with conflicts of the recent past. In the Soviet information space of the 1920s and 1930s, the Great War was presented primarily from a socio-political perspective. Assessing the First World War as imperialist, Soviet propaganda emphasized that the future conflict would inevitably start as a counter-revolutionary war against the USSR. The Civil War became the main source of heroic military discourse, and was presented as a national war against external enemies. The future war was thereby imagined on the model of the foreign interventions of 1918-1920. The author analyzes this approach with the example of the Soviet campaign dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of the defense of Petrograd from Yudenich's troops in 1919.

About the authors

Svetlana B. Ulyanova

Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University

Author for correspondence.

Doktor Istoricheskikh Nauk [Dr. habil. hist.], Professor of the Department of Social Sciences

29, Polytechnicheskaya St., St. Petersburg, 195251, Russia


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