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Russia's Hero Cities

From Postwar Ruins to the Soviet Heroarchy

by Ivo Mijnssen

Published by: Indiana University Press

332 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 x 0.00 in, 40 b&w illus.

  • Paperback
  • 9780253056221
  • Published: May 2021


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  • eBook
  • 9780253056238
  • Published: May 2021


  • Hardcover
  • 9780253056207
  • Published: May 2021


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World War II, known as the Great Patriotic War to Russians, ravaged the Soviet Union and traumatized those who survived. After the war, memory of this anguish was often publicly repressed under Stalin. But that all changed by the 1960s. Under Brezhnev, the idea of the Great Patriotic War was transformed into one of victory and celebration.

In Russia's Hero Cities, Ivo Mijnssen reveals how contradictory national recollections were revised into an idealized past that both served official needs and offered a narrative of heroism. This triumphant narrative was most evident in the creation of 13 Hero Cities, now located across Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. These cities, which were host to some of the fiercest and most famous battles, were named champions. Brezhnev's government officially recognized these cities with awards, financial contributions, and ritualized festivities. Their citizens also encountered the altered history at every corner—on manicured battlefields, in war memorials, and through stories at the kitchen table. Using a rich tapestry of archival material, oral history interviews, and newspaper articles, Mijnssen provides a thorough exploration of two cities in particular, Tula and Novorossiysk.

By exploring the significance of Hero Cities in Soviet identity and the enduring but conflicted importance they hold for Russians today, Russia's Hero Cities exposes how the Great Patriotic War no longer has the power to mask the deep rifts still present in Russian society.