Instilling Identity in Late Russian Empire

Tuesday, 12 June 2012, 2:00pm - 3:30pm, IWM library

Seminar “Faces of Eastern Europe”

Construction of identity and the transmission of common memory have always been important tools in the politics of governments in multiethnic and multicultural empires of Central and Eastern Europe. These empires sought to achieve cohesion and solidarity of citizens in order to maintain inner piece and loyalty to the government. In the nineteenth-century multinational empires, like the Russian and the Austro-Hungarian ones, the politics of memory and identity was exercised through visual symbols, commemorative ceremonies and celebrations, cults of monuments, and, of course, through education. History teaching in primary and secondary schools was instrumentalized to bring up new generations of citizens sharing the feeling of belonging to a common greater fatherland. Along with presenting the Russian politics of teaching history in schools, in my talk I will try to identify the specific character of its implementation, and compare it to the main characteristics of the Habsburg government politics. Would it be fair, for instance, to argue that, unlike the Habsburg’s government, which aimed at not distorting historical truth, and avoided explicitly pronounced patriotism, the schoolchildren in late Russian Empire were taught, as a contemporary teacher has it, “not history, but a fairytale to arise national feelings”?

Julia Komleva is Assistant Professor of History, Ural State University, Yekaterinburg; currently she is Alexander Herzen Junior Visiting Fellow at IWM.