“Excluded from Memory”: The Question of Passing Down National History





troubled past, memory of the Great Patriotic War, politics of memory, family memory, ancestors, descendants, national history, “complex heritage”


This article considers the (partial) “exclusion” or “self-exclusion” of the “complex heritage” descendants from the “inheritance” of the official narratives of national history. As a rule, such discourses rely on antagonistic logic. In the article, the idea of “complex heritage” descendants denotes people whose family history includes both representatives of mutually exclusive groups (from the point of view of different public discourses of memory). When any single discourse is dominant in the public space or in a competition between antagonistic discourses of national history, descendants of “complex heritage” must independently cope with the emerging internal tension and discomfort (if they arise). In this article, in the context of common European trends, the author shows and analyses different options for such reactions with reference to competing discourses of national history in Russia, i. e., “Triumph” (Victory in the Great Patriotic War) and “Tragedy” (the era of political repression), as well as the most massive public practice of memory dedicated to the Great Patriotic War heroes: the civil event known as the “Immortal Regiment”. The analysis refers to forty indepth interviews conducted by the author in 2021–2023 with descendants of the repressed from the third, fourth, and further generations (as well as those who fought and showed themselves differently in the past). The author relies on the concept of antagonistic memory, supplemented by the ideas of Ts. Todorov on the principles of working with the “difficult past”, the theory of post-memory by M. Hirsch and others. As a result of the research, the author draws the following conclusions: first, the experience of “exclusion” from national history due to the lack of blood ancestors that give the right for “inclusion” into the “fundamental myth of the nation” really exists; second, in the conditions of (even unequal) competition of antagonistic discourses, the descendants of the “complex heritage” find themselves constrained between the narrow limits of each of them. At the same time, the need to meet externally set criteria and the impossibility of doing this lead to resistance to the imposed public antagonistic models of understanding the past; finally, those “excluded” from national history in one or different interpretations thereof, the descendants collect, preserve, and transmit their family histories as “heritage” in the full diversity and inconsistency, as life itself, and the circumstances in which their ancestors were placed.

Author Biography

Yulia Zevako

PhD (Political Sciences), Research Fellow, Institute of History and Archaeology, Ural Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor, Ural Federal University named after the first President of Russia B. N. Yeltsin.

16, S. Kovalevskaya Str., 620990, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

19, Mira Str., 620002, Yekaterinburg, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0001-7656-0141



Assmann, J. (2008). Communicative and Cultural Memory in Cultural Memory Studies. In Erll, A., Nünning, A. (Eds.). An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook. Berlin, N. Y., Walter de Gruyter, pp. 109–118.

Bell, D. (2003). Mythscapes: Memory, Mythology, and National Identity. In British J. of Sociology. Vol. 54. No. 1, pp. 63–81.

Berger, T. (2012). War, Guilt, and World Politics after World War II. Cambridge, MA, Cambridge Univ. Press. 259 p.

Cento Bull, A., Hansen, H. (2016). On Agonistic Memory. In Memory Studies. Vol. 9. No. 4, pp. 390–404. DOI 10.1177/1750698015615935.

Coakley, J. (2004). Mobilizing the Past: Nationalist Images of History. In Nationalism and Ethnic Politics. Vol. 10. No. 4, pp. 531–560. DOI 10.1080/13537110490900340.

David, L. (2020). The Past Can’t Heal Us: The Dangers of Mandating Memory in the Name of Human Rights. Cambridge, MA, Cambridge Univ. Press. 243 p.

Fedor, J. (2017). Memory, Kinship, and the Mobilization of the Dead: The Russian State and the “Immortal Regiment” Movement (Chapter 11). In Fedor, J., Kangaspuro, M., Lassila, J., Zhurzhenko, T. (Eds.). War and Memory in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus / foreword by A. Etkind. Cham, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 307–345.

Hirsch, M. (2021). Pokolenie postpamyati. Pis’mo i vizual’naya kul’tura posle Kholokosta [The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust]. Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo. 428 p.

Importance of European Remembrance for the Future of Europe. 19 September. (2019). In European Parliament. URL: https://www.europarl.europa.eu/doceo/document/TA‑9–2019–0021_EN.html (accessed: 15.02.2022).

Informarsionnyi servis “Pamyat’ naroda” [The Memory of the People Information Service]. In Ministerstvo oborony Rossiiskoi Federatsii [official website]. URL: https://mil.ru/commemoration/memorial/pamyat_naroda.htm (accessed: 15.02.2022).

Ivanushkin, G. (2016). Fond “Protyani ruku” otkryl bazu dannykh repressirovannykh v SSSR [The Give a Hand Foundation Opened a Database of Those Repressed in the USSR]. In Agentstvo sotsial’noi informatsii [website]. May 4. URL: https://www.asi.org.ru/news/2016/05/04/126007/ (accessed: 11.03.2022).

Khlevnyuk, D. (2010). Bernard Gizen. Triumf i travma [Bernard Giesen. Triumph and Trauma]. In Sotsiologicheskoe obozrenie. Vol. 9. No. 2, pp. 112–117.

Kurilla, I (2023). Understanding the Immortal Regiment: Memory Dualism in a Social Movement. In Europe-Asia Studies. Vol. 75. No. 3, pp. 1–20. DOI 10.1080/09668136.2023.2197179.

Kurilla, I. (2022). Bitva za proshloe: kak politika menyaet istoriyu [Battle for the Past: How Politics Changes History]. Moscow, Al’pina Publisher. 232 p.

Kurilova, A. (2017). V “Memoriale” 6 naschitali 3 mln repressirovannykh [3 Million Repressed Counted in Memorial]. In Kommersant.ru [website]. Dec. 6. URL: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.kommersant.ru/amp/3488108 (accessed: 15.02.2022).

Levy, D., Sznaider, N. (2002). Memory Unbound: The Holocaust and the Formation of Cosmopolitan Memory. In Europ. J. of Social Theory. Vol. 5. No. 1, pp. 87–106. DOI 10.1177/1368431002005001002.

Lushnikov, D. A. (2018). Degumanizatsiya i demonizatsiya kak mekhanizmy formirovaniya obraza vraga v kampaniyakh po negativnomu informatsionnomu vozdeistviyu [Dehumanization and Demonization as Mechanisms of Forming the Image of the Enemy in Campaigns on Negative Information Impact]. In Poisk: Politika. Obshchestvovedenie. Iskusstvo. Sotsiologiya. Kul’tura. No. 5 (70), pp. 116–122.

McConnell, T. (2018). Memory Abuse, Violence and the Dissolution of Yugoslavia: Theoretical Framework for Understanding Memory in Conflict. In Innovation: The Europ. J. of Social Science Research. Vol. 32. No. 3, pp. 1–13. DOI 10.1080/13511610.2018.1508334.

O proekte “Podvig naroda” [About the Feat of the People Project]. (N. d.). In Podvig naroda. 1941–1945 [website]. URL: http://podvignaroda.ru/?#tab=navAbout (accessed: 15.02.2022).

O proekte [About the Project]. (N. d.). In Bessmertnyi barak [website]. URL: https://bessmertnybarak.ru/about/ (accessed: 15.02.2022a).

O proekte [About the Project]. (N. d.). In OBD-Memorial [website]. URL: https://obdmemorial.ru/html/about.htm (accessed: 15.02.2022b).

Olick, J. (1998). Introduction: Memory and the Nation: Continuities, Conflicts, and Transformations. In Social Science History. Vol. 22. No. 4, pp. 377–387. DOI 10.2307/1171569.

Onlain-resursy Tsentra dokumentatsii [Documentation Centre Online Resources]. (N. d.). In Muzei istorii GULAGa [website]. URL: https://gmig.ru/visitors/document-center/online-resources (accessed: 16.02.2022).

Plamper, J. (2018). Istoriya emotsii [History of Emotions]. Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie. 568 p.

Siddi, M. (2017). The Ukraine Crisis and European Memory Politics of the Second World War. In European Politics and Society. Vol. 18. No. 4, pp. 465–479. DOI 10.1080/23745118.2016.1261435.

Todorov, Tz. (2009). Memory as Remedy for Evil. In J. of Intern. Criminal Justice. Vol. 7. No. 3, pp. 447–462. DOI 10.1093/jicj/mqp017.

Ustav polka [Charter of the Regiment]. (N. d.). In Bessmertnyj polk [website]. URL: https://www.moypolk.ru/ustav-polka (accessed: 15.02.2022).

Zombory, M. (2017). The Birth of the Memory of Communism: Memorial Museums in Europe. In Nationalities Papers. Vol. 45. No. 2, pp. 1–19. DOI 10.1080/00905992.2017.1339680.

Zubrzycki, G. (2011). History and the National Sensorium: Making Sense of Polish Mythology. In Qualitative Sociology. Vol. 34. No. 1, pp. 21–57. DOI 10.1007/s11133–010–9184–7.



How to Cite

Zevako , Y. (2023). “Excluded from Memory”: The Question of Passing Down National History. Quaestio Rossica, 11(4), 1294–1312. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2023.4.848



Problema voluminis