While World War I didn’t have the same devastating impact on Russia that World War II had its successor state, the Soviet Union, the fact that some 2 million Russians died and another 5 million suffered as prisoners of war during the 1914-18 conflagration ought to give an indication of the conflict’s impact.
However, tangible proof of Russian memories of the Great War haven’t been easy to come by, obscured by the miseries of the Second World War, the Soviet Revolution, the Russian Civil War and attempts by the victorious Soviets to obliterate positive recollections of Czarist Russia.
Despite all that, the memory of World War I was “hidden in plain sight,” said University of Kentucky College of Arts & Sciences history Professor and department Chair Karen Petrone.
Petrone searched WorldCat, the world’s largest library catalog, for terms like “Russia,” “personal narratives,” “World War I,” and “1914-1918,” according to the University of Kentucky. “Remarkably, Petrone found quite a few narratives, military histories, novels, and memoirs – most of which she had never heard of.”
Petrone has compiled her evidence proving the existence of World War I memory in Russia in the book, The Great War in Russian Memory, released in July by Indiana University Press.