This seminar will explore a variety of materials related to the Great Patriotic War, as the conflict between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in 1941–1945 is called in the countries of the former Soviet Union. While in the West Victory Day might be seen only as a pretext for the military parade on the Red Square and Putin’s demonstration of Russia’s military might, in fact, the memory of the war is very strong and very personal in Russia. This war was arguably the most traumatic event in the history of the USSR: the war affected every family, as more than 27 million Soviet people perished and many more were injured or displaced.After a brief historical introduction, we will concentrate on the experience of the war by Soviet citizens. Participants will read selections from war memoirs, as well as excerpts from fiction and poetry; look at photographs, paintings, and propaganda posters; and listen to musical selections in class. Optional film screenings will be held in the afternoon.
Recommended readings: Werth, Alexander. Russia at War, 1941–1945: A History. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2017. (ISBN: 978-1510716254). Alexievich, Svetlana. The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II. Transl. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Random House, 2018 (ISBN: 978-0399588747).
Victoria Kononova is Assistant Professor of Russian at Lawrence University, where she teaches a variety of courses on Russian language, literature and culture. She is originally from Velikie Luki—a small town in western Russia that was entirely destroyed during World War II. She earned her “specialist” degree (B.A. and M.A. equivalent) in Russian literature and language from Lomonosov Moscow State University, and her Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures from UW–Madison.