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The Myth of Malaia zemlia: Remembering World War II in Brezhnev's Hero-City, 1943-2013

Davis, AV; (2015) The Myth of Malaia zemlia: Remembering World War II in Brezhnev's Hero-City, 1943-2013. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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The 1943 battle to free the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk from German occupation during World War II was fought from the beach head of Malaia zemlia, held for seven months by Soviet landing troops, including the young Leonid Brezhnev. The heroes of this campaign are commemorated through an amalgam of memoir, monuments and ritual, rendered particularly paradoxical by the discrepancy between the insignificance of the campaign at the time and the importance attributed to it retrospectively. Novorossiisk appears to have been honoured as a Hero City due to myth alone, largely dependent upon Brezhnev’s political influence when leader of the Soviet Union. Using an interdisciplinary historical, cultural and sociological approach, this thesis establishes the mechanism and dynamics of the construction of the war myth in Novorossiisk under the Brezhnev government and its propagation today under the Putin régime. This research on the sociology of myth making in an authoritarian political environment adds significantly to scholarship of the war cults prevalent in the late Soviet Union and contemporary post Soviet Russia. Based on an analysis of agency, I demonstrate that, despite pervading state influence on remembrance of the war, there is still scope for the local community and even the individual in memory construction. This is a case study with wider political and social connotations, linking the individual citizens of Novorossiisk with evolving state policy since the war. Through the prism of this minor Hero City, the complexity of myth and memory is revealed, as new evidence is brought to bear on a myth that most Russians consider dead, along with Brezhnev and the Soviet Union. This work demonstrates that the myth of Malaia zemlia is still relevant as much more than just local history for citizens of Novorossiisk today, remaining an integral part of its identity seventy years after the end of the war.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Myth of Malaia zemlia: Remembering World War II in Brezhnev's Hero-City, 1943-2013
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Brezhnev, memory, hero-city, Soviet Union, Novorossiisk, World War II, Malaia zemlia, war myth
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1469245
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