Baranov N. N. World War I in Popular Culture of Memory (.pdf)


World War I is a unique phenomenon due to its large-scale influence on the historical process. Besides that, it started the so-called “short twentieth century”, which is characterized by a multiplicity of global human cataclysms. However, its place in historical memory of countries and peoples remains ambiguous and largely depends on their subsequent historical experience. The highly complex interrelation between academic science, historical politics and memorialization practices specifies the research interest in the mechanisms of development, dissemination and assimilation of the war experience as national and supranational memory sites. Within the modern developed information society, popular genres of mass culture are increasingly translating symbols, images and myths, which shape the structure of cultural memory of historical events. The reflection of World War I in the popular memory culture is the subject of a collective monograph under review in the article. The principal novelty of the monograph is its uniqueness in relation to the problem statement. Its methodology is based on the multidisciplinary approach, which, first of all, synthesizes history and philology, and includes the principles of cultural anthropology and intellectual history, as well as the concepts of collective memory. The authors propose the idea that over the last hundred years, three “memory waves” on the war can be identified. They give an original definition of the “popular memory culture”, which should not be confused with the concept of mass culture. Attention is paid to the problem of the marginalization of World War I in the collective memories of the Central and East European peoples. The book is divided into three large sections: (1) museums, exhibitions, and monuments, (2) literature and comic books, and (3) history on the move: films, television, historical theatre, and travelling. The most important conclusions include the following: (1) in the official political culture and collective memory, the history of the World War I events with statesmen and commanders in the central place is giving a way to the history of ordinary people with their traumatic experience and distress; and (2) with overcoming controversies in national versions of historical memories, this war can become a symbolic all-European memory site and can strengthen European identity based on collective grief.


Key words: World War I, Great Britain, Germany, France, popular culture, historical memory.


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