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Historical memory in the geopolitical dimension: the Crimean precedent
Material posted: Publication date: 15-11-2014

Event military-political confrontation in Ukraine again draw our attention to the inalienability of modern geopolitics from a specific socio-cultural features. Language, mental and mnemonic frame be more durable national boundaries, and the mechanisms by which the collective consciousness is more effective than direct military intervention.

In recent years "smart power" as the ability "to combine in various contexts of hard and soft power resources into successful strategies",[1] often manifests itself in Russian foreign policy. Not far distant from us example is the return to Russia of the Crimea and city of Sevastopol, which demonstrated a range of methods of domestic public diplomacy, requiring deep theoretical understanding.

In this study, the example of the Crimean crisis, will discuss the geopolitical application so atypical of the resource, as historical memory. Note that the use of images of the past in order to legitimise their power solutions, delegitimize opponents, mobilize supporters, etc. to have a stable and strong trend, but most of the "wars of memory" remains outside the framework of academic discourse. The relevance of the conducted research is that the "war memory":

  1. Was the first successful "war of memory" in the history of modern Russia;
  2. Demonstrated the enormous role of historical memory in the national security system;
  3. Was a unique example of a combination of economic, military and propaganda measures;
  4. Had a significant impact on the collective perception of Russians of their historical past.

Culturological paradigm of "memory studies", considering the socio-cultural space through the prism of collective memory that emerged in the early XX century in the works of M. Halbwachs, and A. Warburg.[2] half a century Later, their ideas were picked up by French historian P. Nora, who developed the fundamental theory of mnemonic places is artificially supported by characters of the past, embodying the memory of modern society. Today "memory studies" are among the leading trends in global human science, encompassing issues of identity in public policy, corporate management, online community, etc.

Philosophical base of "memory studies" is presentism, the essence of which was exactly expressed by the French philosopher P. Ricoeur: "the History of events changed the history of interpretations".[3] the waiver from the division of historical truth and fraud, allow them to focus on their unity, generated by the needs of the modern political process. In addition presentism, the key to understanding the mechanisms of collective memory was adaptive-adaptation theory proposed by Soviet-Armenian scientist E. S. Markaryanom.[4] According to its tenets, historical memory, as one of the manifestations of culture, community adapts to environmental conditions, resulting in incessant search of the most "comfortable" of the past, relevant to the needs of all elements of the social system.

With regard to theories of international relations, historical memory was essential to ensure national identity, without which it is inconceivable and preservation of territorial integrity. Sociologist E. Smith noted that: "the Nations should consult and myths of the past to justify the difference, to reaffirm their collective identity...",[5], which, in turn, demonstrated the dynamic of national identity, its dependence on the regular representations of the past. Continuing designated logic, the Ukrainian researcher G. Kasyanov said: "if you try to define a common reason why so intensified historical policy, I would have linked the General crisis of identity in the world."[6]

Before us "the Crimean precedent", namely the twenty years of defeat constructing memory, implemented by Ukraine on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and suddenly the rapid adoption of Russian historical and political myths, requires us to answer two key questions: why Ukrainian historical and political legitimization have proved to be ineffective and what is apparent, advantages of the Russian politics of memory? Answering the first question, we note that the main problem of the Ukrainian politics of memory was its inconsistency already formed collective memory of the Crimean people.

Firstly, in the period of the Ukrainian control over Crimea persisted disproportion of the dominant and the dominated memory locations with a clear preponderance in favor of the latter. Historical-cultural potential of the Peninsula includes over 11 500 architectural, historical and cultural monuments, of which the Ukrainian government was supported and controlled by only 20%[7]. It is important to note that the majority of the monuments were connected with the Russian (Soviet) historical identity, and include not only topographical names, monuments and mnemonic practices, but entire urban ensembles (eg. the city of Sevastopol).

Secondly, the emergence of the Crimean regional identity is connected with the events of the Russian-Turkish wars of the late eighteenth century and the annexation of Crimea to Russia. In this context it is not surprising the opposition of regional and national historical identities: "...the teachers never used textbooks that were sent from Kiev. The history books especially... were Preparing their manuals and materials".[8] against this background, "the Ukrainization of memory", in General, sought to build on the early history (before 1654), was alien and, therefore, ineffective.

Russia, in turn, was able to fully realize the historic offensive policy based on characters already entrenched in the collective memory of the residents of Crimea. The major advantage of domestic public diplomacy was the "basic plot"[9] is generally accepted mythologies, able to an instant consolidation of the community in the face of danger. In this capacity acted as the collective memories of the great Patriotic war of 1941-1945, which allowed delegitimising opponents by forming a negative image of "fascists". Note that the transition from the protection of the historical role of the USSR in the second World war to the logic of the eternal confrontation between Russia and the West, happened quite a while ago and observed, for example, even when analyzing filmed in 2012 the film by Karen Shakhnazarov "White Tiger". Therefore, when the geopolitical reality was to conform to historical consciousness, the Russians have opposed her European historical identity, "Bandera".

No less important role played and the match between historical and "real" policy of Russia: financial investments in the Crimean economy and social support of the disabled population (677 thousand of Crimeans are retired)[10] coincided with the use of archetypes "Soviet". Welcomed was the appearance in the rhetoric of Vladimir Putin's idea fixes it "blatant historical injustice",[11] which, in turn, sent the further development of historical-political consciousness of Russians towards the positive perception of the "return" of the Crimea.

It is interesting to note not only the General growth of historical and political activity, but also its qualitatively new turn towards the Soviet period of history. Without going into detail, we emphasize that the annexation of Crimea has dramatically changed the domestic historical and political space. At first glance, it resulted in a global "Renaissance of the Soviet",[12] however, de facto, launched the other process is the completion of the split on "people" and "power" underlying Soviet society.[13] in Addition to the survey results, evidence of transition to a new historical stage is unfolded in the liberal club "United Russia" discussion about the legacy of the USSR, reflected the desire of elites to organically interweave the period of history in the national historical narrative.[14]

The above processes resulted in the inability of the opposition marginalizadas continuing to develop the mood of protest in 2011-2012, to help delegitimize the annexation of Crimea in the historical and political space. Typical in this context looks like an attempt to use against government ideologues referred to "the basic plot", calling the annexation of Crimea "Anschluss". In advance doomed to failure, it found support only among the European elite, which, probably, was arrested.[15]

Equally unsuccessful was the historical and political initiatives of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the day before the referendum (March 15) made an Appeal to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine "and the Ukrainian people". In the text cited historical and political myths as "the annexation of the Crimea in 1783," and the degree "of its centuries-old statehood" and "the genocide of may 18, 1944, when the Crimean Tatars were forcibly deported from their historic homeland".[16]

However, the passive stance taken by Turkey, which traditionally determines the ideological orientation of the Crimean Tatar population, timely concessions, as well as accelerated dialogue between Pro-Russian Islamic community and Crimean Tatar minority has been able to avoid the radicalization of the protest.
To sum up our appeal to the Crimean crisis, as for example the use of collective notions of the past in the geopolitical context, we denote the following determinants of the success of historical and political legitimacy in General:

  1. The presence of obviously generally accepted "frameworks of memory" (for Russia, such a framework was the "basic plot", while the Ukrainian side does not had similar);
  2. Control over "places of memory", their timely maintenance and update;
  3. The interaction between economic, social and historical policy;
  4. Conformity of the implemented myths have already formed the mnemonic landscape and view of trends in collective memory.


Beklemishev V. O.


The list of references

  1. Nai J. "Smart power" of Barack Obama [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (accessed on 03.08.2014);
  2. Vasiliev A. G. Vita memorie, casus Poloniae // Culturological journal. 2012. No. 9, P. 2. [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (date of access: 09.09.2014);
  3. Op. by: Y. Zaretsky History, memory, national identity // neprikosnovennyi zapas. 2008, № 3 [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (date of access: 09.09.2014);
  4. Cm. Markaryan E. S. Theory of culture and modern science. M.: Mysl', 1983;
  5. A. Smith National identitu and idea of European unity // International Affairs. Cambrige. 1992. Vol. 68. No. 1. P. 67
  6. Kasyanov G. Historic policy has been intensified by the crisis of identity in the world [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: =18971&Itemid=2 (accessed: 17.04.2014).
  7. Strategy of economic and social development of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea for 2011-2020 [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (accessed: 03.04.2014);
  8. A war that should win teacher [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (data obrashcheniya: 02.09.2014);
  9. Molodyakov Historical policies and politics of memory // Historical researches in Russia III. Fifteen years later / ed. by G. A. Bordukova. – M.: AYRO-XXI, 2011. P. 16
  10. First – pensions [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (data obrashcheniya: 02.09.2014);
  11. Message from the President of the Russian Federation [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (data obrashcheniya: 02.09.2014);
  12. Russia back: 20 signs of returning in the USSR [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (accessed: 04.05.2014);
  13. The protest mood among Russians fell to a record low level [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (date accessed: 30.07.2014);
  14. The liberal view of the past [Electronic resource]: the official website of the party "United Russia" — the Mode of access. — URL: (accessed: 21.04.2014);
  15. Britain's Prince Charles declared: "Putin is doing just about the same as Hitler" [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (data obrashcheniya: 02.09.2014);
  16. The Crimean Tatars have declared their right to self-determination within Ukraine [Electronic resource] — access Mode. — URL: (data obrashcheniya: 02.09.2014).

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