Contemporary Germany and the Nazi Legacy: Remembrance, Politics and the Dialectic of Normality

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But if, as the German debates have shown us, history is a continuation of politics by other means and all the more so during systemic transitions , or if, as Pokrovsky claimed more subtly, it is "politics projected onto the past", then with no consensus on the nature of contemporary Russia, how will it be feasible to adopt a normative approach to its history?

Of course, the present crisis in which Russia finds itself is essentially different from the post German experience. In Germany, debate on a new nationalism centres on the responsibilities of perceived power, in Russia it is complicated by the apprehension of relative impotence and a loss of ostensive purpose. In Germany, the nature and scope of most historical debate, both professional and popular, testifies to the maturity and resilience of democracy and to the existence of national traditions of civil society.

Russia's very nationhood is contested and contestable , and the success of its first experiment with democracy and civil society is by no means a foregone conclusion. If, as some sociological work proposes, nation-building is incompatible with simultaneous democratisation see Section II above , then Russia, still trapped in the violent process of defining a post-imperial identity, is caught in a vicious circle.

So long as Russia's project of mastering the Soviet past remains uncertain and open, so must the enterprise of predicting the future of Soviet history. It is to be hoped that the present paper will stimulate further, more empirical, research into the problems of contemporary Russian historiography. Rees and R.

Davies eds. He is owner of an internet discussion list on historical aspects of forced migration and population displacement. I should like to thank Professor Davies, Dr. Arfon Rees University of Birmingham and Dr. Peter Davies University of Manchester for useful comments on the draft of this paper. Where possible, I have provided references to English texts or translations of German material. This has been noted in Richard J. Moscow, , p. See the literature on nationalism, national identity and nation-building, especially, E.

Outrage across Germany as a village elected a neo-Nazi as mayor

Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since Programme, Myth, Reality Cambridge, , p. Hobsbawm and T. Tonkin, M.

Contemporary Germany and the Nazi Legacy: Remembrance, Politics and the Dialectic of Normality

McDonald, M. Chapman eds , History and Ethnicity London, ; J. Fentress, C. Wickam, Social Memory Oxford, ; K. There is an extensive politological and historical literature on history under authoritarian regimes, for example, K. Baron, N. Kaye, The Power of the Past. Literature on discourse theory is diverse and often abstruse. For application of this concept to Soviet history, see especially the entertainingly bewildering S. Segbers, S.


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De Speigeleire eds , Post-Soviet Puzzles. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice Cambridge, For more accessible considerations of the problem and his response, see, for example, P. Bourdieu, L. Jenkins , Pierre Bourdieu London, Pravda , 14 February , cited in R. Davies, Soviet History , pp. See S. Kurginyan , Goncharov, Gromiko eds , Postperestroika. Agafonov , V. Rokityansky eds , Rossiya v Poiskakh Budushchego Moscow, , p. Mikhael Berg, in Moscow News , 18 February James L.

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Gibson, Raymond M. Duch, Kent L. See , for example, Gabriel Almond, G. This assumption underlies most of the political culture literature, see note 12 above. But note also the alternative literature on institutional and rational choice models of change: for bibliographies see Archie Brown, Soviet Politics and Political Science London, , pp. Cited in Agafonov, Rokityansky, Rossiya , p. Miller, W. Reisinger, V. The literature on political culture has all too often assumed continuity and overlooked the mechanisms of cultural transmission.


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An emphasis on history broadly understood as a mediation between past and present has been more noticeable in the historical literature on nation-building, see note 8. The literature on this is almost exclusively in German.


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  • Note , for example, that Jasper remarks that free public opinion and a relatively reconstructed judiciary are basic preconditions for overcoming the past. For a survey of persisting controls in Russia on media of communication and information, see Lester, Modern Tsars , pp. Other aspects of continuity that stymie a coming to terms with the past in contemporary Russia are briefly considered in the conclusion below.

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    See , for example, John A. Moses, The Politics of Illusion. Iggers, The German Conception of History. On the attempts of German historians to relativise the monstrosity of NS crimes] in Historikerstreit, p. The British historian A. Taylor had earlier employed a geopolitical approach not to exculpate but to indict Germany in his notorious post-war work, The Course of German History. Nach Hitler. The Difficult Treatment of our History] Munich, , p. Problems and Perspectives of Interpretation London, , p.

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    Detlev Peukert, Volksgenossen und Gemeinschaftsfremde Cologne, , p. The English translation is published as Inside Nazi Germany. Conformity and Opposition in Everyday Life London, Hitler p. Charles S. Andreas Hillgruber, Zweierlei Untergang. Nazism and the "Final Solution" Cambridge, Mass. History, Theory, Trauma Ithaca, See , for example, the discussion between Henry L. But see also, accounts which underline the commonalities of western and Russian history, for example, S. See , for example, A. Baron, Nancy W.