Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I

Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I

Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I

Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I

Synopsis

War is always far more than just a military event, and the cultural effects of world war are massive. The Great War suffused Russian culture to an extraordinary degree. In this heavily illustrated book, Hubertus Jahn explores a variety of ways in which Russians expressed their patriotic fervor. He assembles little-known evidence from diverse sources - postcards and fairground peepshows, operettas and circuses, posters and movies - to illuminate the cultural life of the nation in the last years of the tsar. Patriotism invaded the world of entertainment and popular culture during World War I, shaping the imagination of Russians of all classes and changing with the fortunes of the nation at war. Between 1914 and 1917 cartoons of a bewhiskered kaiser gave way to caricatures of greedy speculators; the exploits of Cossack heroes faded into sentimental images of heroic nurses tending to wounded soldiers; and sensationalist movies offered an increasingly popular escape from the disasters of the eastern front. Jahn correlates these metaphoric shifts with changes in the way the Russians understood their nation; the revolutions of 1917 reflected not only social and political cleavages but also, he suggests, a crisis of national identity.

Excerpt

Russians, like people elsewhere in Europe, greeted the declaration of war in 1914 with a great outburst of patriotic enthusiasm. Large crowds gathered in the streets to sing the national anthem, waving banners with patriotic slogans and pictures of the tsar. But the war they cheered soon turned into a military, economic, and social debacle for the Russian Empire. It contributed to the fall of the Romanov dynasty and helped trigger a revolution that profoundly shaped the history of the twentieth century.

Historians investigating World War I have traditionally written about strategies and battles, victories and defeats. They have counted the human and economic losses, discussed technological innovations, and analyzed the decisions of politicians. More recently, social and cultural issues have risen to prominence in studies focused primarily on Great Britain, France, and Germany. Unfortunately, the failure of these works to address patriotic culture specifically makes it difficult to compare the Russian situation with that of other countries. Soviet researchers largely neglected World War I, which for ideological reasons they did not see as a direct contributor to the October Revolution. Since the fall of the Soviet regime, however, this disregard in official . . .

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