SEALED IN BLOOD: MEMORY WEAPONIZED

Vasily Vereschagin. The Apotheosis of War.
Left: General Prosecutor of Crimea with the icon of Tsar Nicolas II, executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918 and with no visible connection to WWII or her family. Right: A young boy in military uniform putting a gun to a young girl’s temple, “playing war.”

POLITICIZATION OF HISTORY

“May 9 serves as the basis for the collective mind militarization, with its endless slogans “We Can Repeat”, “Charge on Berlin — Get the German Women,” crazy experts constantly screaming on TV “We will now take Washington” (a statement by a night show host Vladimir Soloviev),” said Igor Yakovenko, the ex-General Secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia. “It is a politicization of history. Historical documents are used as bombs in the information war.”

“THE IMMORTAL REGIMENT:” SUMMARY

Portrait of Stalin and slogans “For Stalin” around the world. Left: Rome, 2018. Center: Byelorussia. Right: Boston. Right: Canada.

HISTORY LAUNDERING

Ohio: Men in Soviet military uniform participate in the action and later speak to people in the street. Many are wearing medals with depictions of Josef Stalin, a Russian dictator responsible for over twenty million deaths. Americans participating in the action speak about “the strong will of Stalin.”

FLIPPING NARRATIVES, 1939–2015

Left: Vyacheslav Nikonov, Molotov’s grandson and the richest State Duma Deputy in Russia close to Putin, with the portrait of Vyacheslav Molotov at the Immortal Regiment March, 2016. Right: Newspaper headlines, 1939: Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

A side note on pseudonyms: “Stalin” means “Made of Steel” and “Molotov” means “Of a hammer.” Molotov idolized the tyrant who imprisoned and exiled his beloved wife, another Bolshevik politician, Polina Zhemchuzhina (“Of a Pearl.”) After returning to Molotov after ten years in exile on Stalin’s death in 1953, Zhemchuzina stayed a convinced Stalinist. Perhaps, the most terrifying trait of a cult is the perfect symbiosis between the victims and executioners. As if the boundaries are permeable and the offender and the abused fuse in a bloody embrace — for generations.

“We now have at our disposal materials, facts, terrible things. Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov sent people to death by lists. It was just the destruction of people…” wrote Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR and the initiator of “perestroyka.” “Molotov always added [to the resolution] “change ten years of prison for execution.”

Left: Hitler’s greetings to Stalin on Stalin’s 60th birthday. “…The most sincere congratulations. I connect with it my best wishes, wishes of good health to your personally, as well as a happy future to the people of the USSR, our friend.” Right: Stalin thanks Hitler and Ribbentrop.
Right: Molotov and Hitler. Right: Stalin’s resolution: “To Comrade Merkulov.: You can send your “source: from German aviation HQ to go f*ck himself. He is not a source; he is a misinformer. I.S.”

In 2015, following the Russian annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, Putin defended Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact at a meeting with Angela Merkel.

Left: Alexander Kibovsky, former Deputy Director of the Department of Mass Communications, Culture and Education of the Government of the Russian Federation and Putin’s close ally, and the leader of the patriotic movement of bikers “Night Wolves,” Aleksander Zaldostanov, nicknamed “Surgeon,” appeared at the march with Lavrenty Beria’s portrait, 2015. The photograph was shared by the Department of Culture of Moscow. Right: Beria’s proposal of January 29, 1942, to execute 46 generals. Stalin’s resolution: “Shoot all named in the list. — J. St.”
Left: Netanyahu and Putin in the streets of Moscow. Center: Volfas Wilensky. Source: Alexey Kovalev’s reporting on Twitter.
Right: Putin (with a different design of the same photo, by the way.) Next to Putin is Nicolay Zemtsov, a State Duma Deputy, directly responsible for hijacking the movement.

COMMERCIALIZING THE MEMORIES: AN INSULT TO THE DEAD

Left: A pyramid in the shape of a tank made out of German beer. Center: Pre-fabricated portraits. Right: Discarded portraits.
Left: Invitation to “Siege bread tasting.” Center: A daily portion of the only food in Leningrad during the Seige. Right: A patriotic singer modeling in NY.

On a personal note, it is hard for me to imagine anything less sensitive than the above invitation to “Siege bread tasting” or fashion-show of military uniform. My family lost three people during the Seige of Leningrad due to starvation, three people who were shot in Baby Yar by the Nazis, and two grandfathers fought, with one surviving POW camp.

I brought to America a box of medals. I sometimes look at them and read the letters. I felt the silent presence of the dead in our life growing up, like most people from St. Petersburg. My surviving grandfather NEVER talked about it. I knew the story from my grandmother, who worked for the military academy and had to place my four-year-old mother in an orphanage. We all are scared by war. Turning grief into souvenirs and tragedy into a grotesque carnival is an insult.

INCITING PATRIOTIC HYSTERIA: ANOTHER TOOL OF MIND WAR

Photos from open Internet archives, 2018. Left: A request to find a Russian military uniform for a baby posted by a resident of New York in 2018.
Left: St. George “The Victorious” striking the hydra. Center: A poster in a provincial city Kaluga reads: “Today — Crimea, tomorrow — Rome. Happy Victory Day!” Right: Putin’s Address to the Federal Assembly, 2018.
In 2017 and 2018, a childcare center in Brooklyn distributed St. George’s ribbons to children and, reportedly, teachers read history from the USSR textbooks. Photos from Babmi Daycare Center public Facebook page.
Russian car stickers, 2014–2018.
Left: Lisbon, a banner with Lenin’s portrait. Right: Lison, a banner with hammer and sickle, the symbols of the USSR. 2018.
Paris, London. May 5–9, 2018.

VICTORY AS A BRAND

CONCLUSION

Left: “Patriotism is the national idea of Russia.” RIght: Memorial plate: Putin’s quote as of 2003: “Patriotism must become the uniting ideology of Russia.”
Russian car stickers, 2014–2018. Left: “America as Seen by Putin.” Right: “We Are the Most Powerful Nation in the World! We Are Russians!”

These articles are a part of CLUSTERCLICK, a photo novella documentary by Zarina Zabrisky. For the full adventure click here.

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Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at www.zarinazabrisky.com.

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