The Russian Review 2016. Vol. 75, No. 3 pp. 536-537 Kees Boterbloem, University of South Florida Mikhailov, N. V., and Jan Plamper, eds. Malen'kii chelovek i bol'shaia voina v istorii Rossii: Seredina XlX-seredina XX v. St. Petersburg: Nestor-Is
Маленький человек и большая война в истории России: середина XIX – середина XX в. : Международный коллоквиум. ISBN 978-5-4469-0480-8
The Russian Review 2016. Vol. 75, No. 3 pp. 536-537
Kees Boterbloem, University of South Florida
Mikhailov, N. V., and Jan Plamper, eds. Malen'kii chelovek i bol'shaia voina v istorii Rossii: Seredina XlX-seredina XX v. St. Petersburg: Nestor-Istoriia, 2013. 570 pp. ISBN 978-5-4469-0480-8.
Military historians have long overlooked the ways in which the wars of the twentieth century have altered society, individual lives, and communities. Traditional focus on military tactics, diplomacy, and battlefields tended to highlight the "great men" of world history for their wartime efforts that led to success or failure for whole armies. More recently, scholars shifted their focus away from these traditional event driven histories toward a broad set of themes and subjects that employ sociological, psychological, and women's studies approaches to better understand society at war. Participants in the Ninth International St. Petersburg Colloquium in Russian History produced a remarkable array of new avenues for research in this collection.
Perhaps the most impressive and important contribution that this edited volume makes to the field of modern Russian and Soviet history is the breadth and richness of its topics. The volume is organized into two parts: war and social consciousness, and individual perceptions of war and daily routines of the military. The chronological scope of the volume ranges from Sevastopol and the hero Petr Markovich Koshka through the Great Patriotic War and many points between. Thematically, the contributors take on religion and national self-determination, the changing tides of historical memory, propaganda, life for individuals at the rear (v tylu) and at home, and the nature of violence within the army. The articles address specific case studies that lend themselves to new theoretical approaches and archival materials. One element that sets this volume apart from other "conference volumes" is the inclusion of "discussions" as part of each thematic section. Although the discussions were helpful in some ways, they were often repetitive and did not consistently add to the quality of the volume. Perhaps a limited selection of discussion pieces would have allowed the editors to focus in on a few critical points rather than fifteen or twenty different perspectives that covered too much ground too quickly.
Of the twenty-nine essays, a few stood out for their significance and innovative approaches, Christopher Stroop's look at the creation of non-government propaganda during the First World War provided a fascinating history of the Silver Age intelligentsia and I. D. Sytin's "Voina i kul'tura." This essay examines the development of an alternative source of propaganda among Russian subjects. In so doing, Stroop has complicated, in a healthy way, our understanding of Russian subjects' moral, political, and religious obligations toward the nation. The essays at the end of the book, including Aleksander Sumpf's insightful treatment of Russian invalids as "instruments of propaganda" and Kerstin Bischl's work on sexual violence and the Red Army, proved to be the most original and engaging pieces.
Book Reviews 537
Although not all essays in this volume were of equal quality, the very best ones opened up new approaches and topics for scholars interested in Russia and its wars. The shift in focus toward the "small people" of Russia throughout this volume is a welcome and significant trend within a field that has expanded its scope to include women, children, and soldiers who were usually not at the front but proved integral to the history of Russian and Soviet wars.