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International Scholarly Conference "A «Memory Revolution»: Soviet History through the Lens of Personal Documents"

The conference was held on 7-8 June 2017 in Moscow

The 1990s brought about a revolution in the study of Soviet history. This was symbolized by an “archival revolution”, i.e. the declassification of many official documents from the Soviet period, which were made available to historians. At the same time, through the disclosure of personal texts written during the Soviet period, there was another and no less important “revolution of memory,” allowing for a better understanding and evaluation of the Soviet period. There were diaries, whose existence had been concealed by their owners for many years. There were also memoirs suddenly brought to light that had not been intended for publication. Along with letters, personal photographs, audio recordings and amateur films, these sources from the Soviet period allow for the recreation of a multi-faceted picture of public sentiment in the Soviet Union.

During the conference historians from Russia, USA, France, Germany and other countries examined the significance and role of personal sources in the study of Soviet history. Researchers went beyond an analysis of “Soviet subjectivity,” the construction of the “socialist self,” and related approaches and, above all else, drew attention to unconventional texts and personal documents, which differed significantly from the official Soviet view of reality. 

Organizers:

  • International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences, National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Moscow)
  • The Friedrich Ebert Foundation
  • With additional support from the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, DC), the German Historical Institute (Moscow), the Center for Russian, East-European and Caucasian Studies (Paris), the Franco-Russian Research Center (Moscow) and the Blavatnik Family Foundation

The conference started with the plenary session which included the following presentations:
  1. Vladimir Buldakov "
Between Revolution and Dictatorship: Ego-Documents and Identification Processes in Russia in the 1920s"
  2. Yuri Slezkine "Letters from the Personal Archives of Residents of the House of Government"
  3. Oleg Budnitskii "“Into the Drawer”: Uncensored Memoirs of the Second World War, 1940-1970s"
  4. Stephen Lovell "The “Late Soviet” Memoir as a Genre"

After that the conference's speakers were giving their presentations in the parallel sessions that included various topics: "Personal documents of Soviet leaders", "Society and Culture in the Post-War Soviet Union", "Observing the Soviet Experiment: Outsider Perspectives", "Jewish Memoirs and Ego-Documents", "Experiences of World War II" and more.

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More than 130 people have visited the conference.

This event is intended to build on and extend a series of major international conferences organized by the International Center for the History and Sociology of World War II and Its Consequences of the Higher School of Economics: “World War II, Nazi Crimes, and the Holocaust in the USSR” (2012); “Russia in the First World War” (2014); “Europe, 1945: Liberation, Occupation, Retribution” (2015) and “Stalinism and War” (2016).