Remember How: The Place of Visualization in Preserving the Memory of Repressions of the USSR Against the Volga Germans

paper, specified "short paper"
  1. 1. Iuliia Iashchenko

    Perm State National Research University

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The problem of political repression in the Soviet Union, despite the interest of a number of researchers, remains insufficiently studied. Some aspects of the implementation of repression or the life of the repressed were left outside of the research focus. For example, the problems of repression against the Volga Germans during the Second World War remain on the sidelines of research due to the following reasons. Firstly, these are not popular topics for modern Russia, and secondly, access to sources is rather difficult today. There are not so many documentary and oral sources, numerous of those people who were repressed left for Germany or stayed in endangered villages in the Urals and Siberia, so it is really difficult to gather materials for the research. At the same time, it is customary for the historical discourse of modern Russia to include the 1940s in the discourse of the Second World War winners (Golovashina, 2017). The great construction of unity among the winners leaves no place for dialogue on traumatic experiences, which includes repression on political and ethnic grounds.
As a result, the historiography of repressions against the Volga Germans is quite fragmentary. And today, scientist researcher should give an answer not only to the questions of the academic community but rather to the questions of the repressed and their descendants, who are asked in an interview the only question «For what?».
This project is particularly relevant in terms of preserving the memory of the repressed Germans. Most of the Germans were repressed between 1941 and 1946 when the USSR entered the war with Nazi Germany. There was virtually no real investigation or trial, in accordance with personal directive by I. Stalin (Merten, 2015). The only reason for deportation was the ethnicity of Germans.
The purpose of this study is to identify the characteristics of the repressive practices of the USSR government regarding the ethnic group Volga Germans, as well as the analysis of everyday life of repressed people in special settlements and concentration camps in the Molotov region (currently the territory of the Perm region). Also, the study analyses memories from the perspective of the trauma phenomenon and the role/ability of victims and witnesses. The chronological framework of the study covers mainly the period of the Second World War and the 1950s, when the liberalization of the regime in the USSR occurs.
The study is based on the approaches of historical anthropology, as well as methods of digital humanities and oral history. In addition, important aspects of the study are the consideration of these events, as well as the memories of the repressed adults and children in terms of the theory of historical memory and the phenomenon of historical trauma and secondary historical trauma.
The study uses the methods of descriptive statistics, information modelling, and content analysis. In addition, an electronic map is being developed, where German deportation routes, special settlements and concentration camps on the territory of Nyroblag will be visualized (the system of camps in the Molotov region, which contained political repressions of Russian, Ukrainian, Jewish, German origin, as well as representatives of other minorities). All objects of the electronic map were equipped with a historical information, which is compiled on the basis of archival documents and interviews.
In the process of the research, there was one ethnographic expedition to the north, to the old villages, where we managed to collect unique materials, interview the repressed, as well as the children and grandchildren of the repressed Germans.
The method of realization of the study comes, first of all, from the idea of synthesizing sources of various origins (such as official documents, diaries, correspondence, interviews, etc.). Initially, a dictionary with lemmatized word forms is created in several subject groups, all other words are entered into the stop list. Then analyze the statistics on the words count (by interviewing groups: victims and witnesses), this option can help to understand the overall context of the problem. Also, it could be helpful for the understanding the difference between victim’s and witness’s vocabulary that we use for describing of the repression’s experience. The information obtained is divided into four main blocks: events, place names, daily life, and political situation. For conducting content analysis, the software MAXQDA-12 is used.
The electronic map contains more than 150 objects, which are accompanied by historical information. In the future, the map will be further replenished. However, the main special settlements of the repressed and blocks of concentration camps have already been marked. Special settlements that have disappeared from the surface of the Earth are also partially introduced, they were found thanks to the help of local residents and children of the repressed. Also, the main routes of the repressed movement from the Volga region to the Molotov region are created. For maps creation we used the web-service The final point of the project will be the publication of maps, photo and video content in an open portal created on the basis of WordPress, which will partially solve the problem of commemorative practices in modern Russia about traumatic scenes in the history of the 20th century (Povroznik, 2015). Thus, an important step towards public rehabilitation of the repressed the Germans will be done. As mentioned above, self-awareness is still preserved as repressed, not only among those who went through it, but also their children and grandchildren (Assman, 2016).


Golovashina O.V. The victory of the image: identification risks of commemorative practices/ Головашина О.В. Победа образа: идентификационные риски коммеморативных практик// Studia Humanitatis. 2017. № 1. URL: (date of application: 06.03.2019).

Ulrich Merten. (2015)Voices from the Gulag: The Oppression of the German Minority in the Soviet Union, American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, Lincoln, Nebraska.

Povroznik N. (2015) Ideology of the Web 2.0 on service of the Historic Cultural Heritage Preservation // The Strategies of Modern Science Development: Proceedings of the IX International scientific–practical conference. North Charleston, USA, 16-17 October 2015. North Charleston: CreateSpace. Pp. 17-19.

Assman A. (2016) Shadows of Trauma: Memory and the Politics of Postwar Identity. Fordham University Press, New York.

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