Materials of the fourth film-webinar "Heroes of (Not) Our Time”
On March 20, 2019 the fourth film-webinar was held where the mini-series "Our mothers, our fathers" dedicated to the events of the Second World War was watched and discussed. The film-webinar was organized with the support of the Center for Biographical Research "AITIA".
The undergraduate and graduate students of the major “Cultural Studies” ("Culture of Germany", "Russian culture") at the Institute of Philosophy of the Saint-Petersburg State University, as well as students of other faculties took part in the discussion.
The text below is a full transcript of the discussion at the fourth film-webinar. This is the final part of the materials concerning film-webinar.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: There is an idea to expand our research project - with the involvement of organizations dealing with German culture and language in St. Petersburg and Russia, as well as Latvian colleagues from the University of Riga. They sent me a link to a film about the World War II that is currently being broadcasted in Latvia - "Red forest". And the idea of the new film seminar is to attract three parties, representatives of three countries; the viewing of the series itself will be conducted independently, at the meetings should be only analytics and discussions.
Today I would like to start with a video broadcasted on one of our TV channels. I am interested in your reaction and your analysis.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: So that is the beginning of a conversation. We, as intellectuals, should be among the first to deal with such topics. Colleagues from Latvia also feel the need for this conversation. Let's see how we can organize our meeting – geographically, technically. The link to the "Red forest" I will share if it will be possible.
I don't know, and if you do, please recommend – whether there are German films about the Second World War, which are dealing with the Russians in this war and the Russians were shown as protagonists. In the series "Our mothers, our fathers," the Germans first of all talk about themselves.
Valery Belyaev: There is a film "Hunting for Hares" (dir. A. Gruber, 1994), about the escape of Soviet soldiers from a concentration camp. I did not watch the film, but regarding the plot the Russian soldiers are the main characters, so I assume that they are shown positively.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: So we should to watch it. And now I would like to hear your comments, questions to each other, both regarding the TV story we saw, and the series itself.
Regarding the video – this comment is very indicative. The very beginning, where the film is retold, is already suspicious. Obviously, this is designed for viewers who have not watched the film yet. On the other hand, the emphasis put at the end - yes, indeed it is so. The Soviet army is the army that saved the world and Europe from Nazism.
Valeria Dudinets: Regarding the video. Channel "Сenter", and especially this journalist consider as their main goal to make a sensation, in a sense of provocation. On the other hand, it shows that the film was slightly misunderstood, and how that can be used for manipulations. It is shown completely from the wrong side, twisting the idea that the Germans put in it. For example, again appears a topic that has been actively raised in historical studies: the Soviet soldier as a liberator or a rapist. In the series, the situation is presented so that really, there was a soldier who tried to rape one of the main characters. But the video cuts out the part where the crime is stopped by the commander. The series shows that such actions, which really took place, were still punishable. It was only slightly mentioned, because the whole film is a cautious glide through topics which are very painful for the society (both German and Russian). And this reportage is similar in tone to the offense that we were shown somehow incorrectly. Although, in my opinion, the series was intended to show the Germans, and the Russians there are only minor characters.
Valery Belyaev: The video does not allow to understand the meaning of the film. It is designed only to ensure that people who did not see the series began to quarrel. Scenes from the series are also cut specifically in a way to bring a negative attention.
Valeria Dudinets: And I don't understand why we as the Russian society should be afraid that the Germans are trying to rethink their attitude to the war. On the contrary, as an expert for German culture, I am pleased with such attempts, because Germany is trying to get out of the crisis, society itself understands the need to rethink this events. And not from the point of view of justification, but in a try to understand, as far as I understood it from Lars speech, how it happened (although it is very difficult to understand) – not to accept it, but to learn to live with it. Such an event in German history, and not the first, must now undergo a long period of reflection, in order to cause a change in experience.
Why we should be afraid of this, I do not understand. Russian society has its own range of problems, which we should emphasize. And only after that look at the German perception.
Valery Belyaev: For us the Great Patriotic War is not even the most important of these problems.
Valeria Dudinets: Yes. Rather, what followed after – the Gulag system. This problem should be more acute for the Russian society, it should took one of the most important places in the memory on the same level as the Great Patriotic War, which is indisputable considered as primarily a Liberation War, a War for defense.
Anna Rezvukhina: Continuing the topic raised by Lera, about the Gulag: I believe that for us in this series the story of the singer Greta should be of great interest. And most of all at the moment when she is associated with the power structure, when she started to be involved in this mostly for her own benefits – and then how this same structure literally grinds her, how she finds herself in a prison and how she behaves in this prison. I think that this story line does not get enough attention in our discussion, because among the female figures I am most interested in her history and what we can learn from this history for ourselves. I would like to see a similar story, but about our situation. It would help us to work out our problems, to realize and to accept something.
Valeria Dudinets: Considering the female characters, the question that arose in my mind is why there are five main characters in the film. After all, in fact, the whole story turns around two brothers. It is clear why Victor is present, the representation of Jews was necessary. But the question remains in relation to female characters, what function do they perform? I agree with Anya about Greta – her story shows us how terrible the power machine is even from the inside. But also there is a story of Charlie, whose role for me until now is unclear. She is for me the most incomprehensible character, unsolved puzzle.
Valery Belyaev: I think Charlie shows women at the front. Greta did not get to the front – or rather, she did, but not for a long time. And considering the title: "Our mothers, our fathers" - by the end of the series remained, can be said, only one "mother" and one "father." Regarding Victor we can logically conclude that he will not stay in Germany.
Valeria Dudinets: So the goal was to show the image of the "mother"? Perhaps... Although, through her eyes is also shown the hospital. One of the worst sides of the war. Hospital in the series is shown as the place worse than the battlefield. Perhaps the character of Charlotte is introduced as a tool showing how terrible the war is, and therefore she gets exactly to the hospital, where every day people suffer and die because of war and weapons.
Valery Belyaev: As well she is in contact with Wilhelm. And with the Soviet population, in different situations. If the hospital were in France, it would be strange to introduce such a storyline.
Researchers of the narrative of the Nico Hoffman's series "Unsere Mütter, unsere Väter" notices that in this film a new emphasis on the experience of "victimhood" is present, which sociologist Harad Welzer calls the emotional core of modern family memory. The significant shift in the memory landscape of modern Germany is stressed, namely the increasing focus on "feminization of the narrative". In one of her works devoted to the study of the phenomenon of "postmemory" (postmemory), Katherine Stone writes that women with artistically attributed similar features act as "avatars of innocent feelings" in films exploring the Nazi past of the XXI century. As an example she mentions following films: Rosenstrasse (dir. Margarethe von Trotta, 2003), Der Untergang (dir. Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004), Sophie Scholl — Die letzten Tage (dir. Marc Rothemund, 2005) and television broadcasts such as Dresden (dir. Roland Suso Richter, 2006) and Die Flucht (dir. Kai Wessel, 2007). Mix of victimhood and innocence allows us to consider these two categories as unchanging components of identity, rather than as evaluative elements of a particular action or experience. Perhaps the "feminization" of films about the past or post-memorial films can be considered as a part of the complex strategy of such films.
On the one hand, such "femine lens" allow us to look retrospectively at the horrors of history, the events that led to the chosen policy and ideological line, from a safe position of innocence. However, this strategy does not allow to remain at the level of condemning emotionality or rightful sympathy, because the "innocent" medium is not a child (for this would be too obvious, besides the cruel actions of children are always justified by their immaturity, ideological greed and desire to imitate adults), but rather the figure of a woman (mother, beloved, sister), a mature person who is aware of her responsibility when she is making certain decisions, understands the price of this or that act, and is able to sacrifice and survive at any cost for the sake of the other.
Cinema allows building an alienation distance from the events, to take on the role of an outsider who is in a safe place; this is connected with the danger of an emotional burnout in a negative connotation. From the oversaturation of the observed and their own passive position to the observed, emotion and thought become stale, lose their polyvalence. One of the important elements for the history “reviving” history is the process of "assimilation" of one's own personal history in the narrative of the past, in the past itself. A kind of "cross-linking" space should be formed for both thought and deep emotional impulses in analytical reference to the past. The deepest emotions of a representative of any generation are associated in many ways, of course, with the image of the mother, an idealized image. As a result, on the one hand, the strategy of "feminization" allows you to avoid emotional alienation from the events of the stories such as in series "Our mothers, our fathers", which tell about military events in their ambivalence. On the other hand, this strategy simultaneously allows you to perform a kind of necessary internal act of escapism, a step from "victimhood" to "innocence", thereby making this plot free for intergenerational dialogue and creating a field of discussion between nominal "enemies" and "victims", negating the status of both. In addition, binary gender constructs reinforce the acceptance of the unity of seemingly mutually exclusive concepts of good and evil. Thus, the naked aversion to fascism moves aside, prompting the viewer to truly understand the meaning of the historical context, political culture and ideological text embodied by certain mechanisms, and, consequently, to learn the moral lessons of history, moving away from the attempt to protect their innocence and searching for a way to acquire and understand the integrity of themselves.
We can also pay attention to the fact how distinctive films like "Our mothers, our fathers" are in their interaction with the past — they held the line that the past should be recreated in its aesthetically and emotionally-ethically complexity. This suggests that "post-memorial" films have different function than earlier cinematic works about events of "ultimate experience". Early films were primarily interested in witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust, in disturbing, melancholy fixations of the past, in persuading the viewer that he still has ability to grieve, or in refuting the positions of those who deny the facts concerning the Nazi policy of genocide. "Post-memorial" films, on the other hand, contribute to the psychological and emotional connection with the distant past through family and maternal paths, thus they seem to follow the strategy of reviving the public past through the private. And the multi-level type of identification with the characters, which can be observed in the film "Our mothers, our fathers", provides a way to reconcile, so to speak, “not-me” with “me” without interiorizing the image and moral attitudes of the other ("not-me"), but allowing me to understand at a deep emotional and cognitive level the difficulties of this other. The desire to bridge the gap between oneself and others without mindlessly appropriating the experience of the latter, as well as the desire to establish emotional and moral ties with the past can be seen as one of the goals of "post-memorial" cinema. (content editor’s note)
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: If we recall our previous discussions, one of the guests said that the series shows Russians as slaves, because, reading Turgenev, the Russian girl Sonia tells Charlie that there was a time in Russia when there were serfs. And on discussion there was a comment that even in such small moment Germans emphasize that in Russia there was slavery and therefore they are treated as slaves.
Anna Rezvukhina: It was a replica of our guest from the Faculty of History. The general idea was still not so accusing as in the video we saw, but also regarding the problem that in such accents, from his position, the Russians are shown incorrectly.
Valeria Dudinets: I think Sonia was introduced to show that the Soviet Union was also a totalitarian regime.
Daria Yumatova: In this scene Charlie echoes Sonya that Germany also mistreated its own citizens.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: There is also an American movie "The Reader" (dir. C. Daldry, 2008). There is a female theme too. And for some reason, exactly German students recommended to watch this film.
Anna Rezvukhina: I don't like this movie. The main character is a former concentration camp warden who allegedly did not understand what was happening. I personally can't believe that a person who just can't read couldn't understand what was going on and that she was killing people. To me, it looks like a ridiculous attempt at justification. She couldn’t read, you see.
Valeria Dudinets: This is the most popular excuse: "I just didn't know what I was doing." At the Nuremberg trials as well to the very end the often excuse was unawareness. But it is necessary to raise a question: can it be denied that the person has done something? Consciously or unconsciously, something was done. And people must bear responsibility for their actions. The woman who is the chief of a concentration camp, she is already, most likely, the person understanding a situation.
Anna Rezvukhina: She was a wardress, not a chief.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Yes, she was one of the small fries. But the question is how consciously or unconsciously a person is drawn into these processes. This is somewhat relevant to Charlie's line.
Valeria Dudinets: You mean the situation with the Jew Lilia, when she finally betrayed her secret?
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Yes. And it was odd how she did it – even not immediately.
Valery Belyaev: Yes. I was sure the second nurse would do it.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: And when Charlie did it – something just resonates in the head. How do you understand that? She was under constant pressure, including from a second nurse: "What are you doing, what are you doing?", in a variety of situations. For me, the figure of Charlie is the beginning of a new phase in the consideration of those events. In her psychology – she is ready to dialogue with Russians, she is one of those characters that are disposed to understand the other, there is no blindness or bitterness in her (it is worth remembering the episode when she did not leave with her colleagues from the hospital, because she was looking for a Russian girl Sonya to take her with). For me, she's a key female character, not even Greta.
Valeria Dudinets: She has a sense of guilt. She ran after the Russian girl partly because she was sorry, and on the other hand, she thought that she would thus atone for her act with Lilya.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: But I am interested in the motivation that is not given, is not shown in the series. What should Charlie have in mind, this sweet, beautiful, open-hearted Charlie, who helps the wounded rather to work in a concentration camp, and is ready to help even Russian soldiers – to denounce the Jewish Lilya?
Daria Yumatova: I think she realized that sooner or later the truth that Lilya was a Jew would be revealed; after all, drugs and morphine began to disappear. So she was afraid about herself because she interacted with her. And if someone had found out sooner or later about Lily's background, the contact with her could cause wrong to Charlie. She could also be sent to a concentration camp.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: So it was fear?
Daria Yumatova: It was the beginning of the war. When the Russian girl appeared in the hospital, it was already the end of the war, it was clear that there was nothing to fear from the German system itself.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: In any case, it was not what the people were mostly concerned about. You don't know what to be afraid of in this situation. Consciousness already works differently. From this point of view, it is again a problem of fear, rooted in consciousness, or spurred by ideology. And yet this moment for me remains unspoken. Here I see the most important topic of those aroused, especially since it has a reference to our problems, which we need to work through.
The person who sent to me a letter in response to the news about our film seminars and shared a link to the Latvian TV series, said that the "novel story" continues: they have opened archives that show at the level of private life, at the level of the family, who worked with the KGB. And so the story of the revelations is, of course, a long story. And the next step is the transfer of the memory from generation memory to family memory. The Germans did it in the film; it helps to speak for the first time at this level. It seems that with the "Dispute of Historians", programs to support Jewish immigration (many of them left for Germany in the 90s), so much has been done - and on the family ground it is still not worked out. This is the deepest level. So this is only the first step. And we need to work with our own stories.
Do you have any new questions for the German audience?
Valeria Dudinets: I'm interested, as I have already said, in the whole line with AfD. Concerning the dialogue between Lars and Sabine, this seems to me the most interesting. And I'd like to know more. Sabine and Lars are from different generations, and their opinions about AfD are radically different. And exactly these opinions of German society are interesting. Because if you look at this that way, the AfD is very radical in its advertising and in its slogans. For a modern tolerant society, this is going beyond a framework. But, on the other hand, their main line is "all for the Germans." Again, these stories are repeated, and I wonder how the Germans will react to them.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Sabina has always stressed that the treatment of refugees, the ways Germany should be governed – it divides society, literally, daily. Disagreements which could lead even to the loss of friendship.
Sabina's generation is used to a more "soft" reaction, because in everything else they see the continuation of Nazism. The danger of its rebirth. The danger of returning to the hard attitude to the Other. And they also look from within society: "What are we, the Germans? What is our future?"
Valery Belyaev: The Program of the CDU (the party of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany – editor's note) until 1968 was not particularly different from what the AfD has now. The subsequent student protests were directed against the fact that the leading positions in the party were held by people involved in the former regime.
Valeria Dudinets: But now the AfD party appeared, and it splits the society again. A problem has not been solved, and the series we have watched reflects this situation.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Yes, the show touches as well contemporary issues, as shown by this argument. But do you think what can this series give to us, how it can help our studies of memory?
I have already spoken about my position. It's a family story. And I'm sure we haven't done anything about it yet because the roots of the problem are in the very heart of the family. In this sense, we were more deeply split from within than the Germans. Unity in enthusiasm for ideology at the level of everyday life has reduced this situation of division for them. Starting with the revolution and ending with the concentration camps and those who got there and who put the people there – this problem is psychologically more painful, deeper, because this problem concerns the split within the most intimate relationships.
There was a film in 90's which has passed unnoticed: "Censorship to Memory Not Admit" (dir. A. Porokhovschikov, 1991). The film is based on personal memories. And in this film the line concerning the split within the family is connected with 1937, with Stalin's repressions. Intellectuals do not want to work with this at different levels (there are not so many analytical publications that would correspond to what is happening in Europe regarding memory studies). Historically, this plot comes from the revolution. Dasha is now finishing work with letters of the First World War (publication on our website: "Petrograd intellectuals of the beginning of the XX century "Letters of the Alajalov family". From the archives of J. R. Cansky" – editor's note) and there you can see how people of the same upbringing within the same family are experiencing division: someone becomes a Bolshevik. Why? On the same subject you can read "Don stories" of Sholokhov.
A simple question reflects how much the society rejects to work with these topics: what day is associated with the memory of the repressed? I asked this question to an audience of 50 to 80 people. And only 3-4 people answered. Although we have this date. And there are even two places in St. Petersburg dedicated to this memory. And then I wondered why this is so. After all, this is not even an active rejection of these plots. It's something that’s deep in everybody.
In this connection the book of H. Arendt "Responsibility and Judgment” should be mentioned. After you have read this book, you can start the reflection concerning the act of Charlie, which we have not been able to explain. Hannah Arendt among Germans wonders how it was even possible that everyone accepted Nazism. How it gradually happened.
And with us there is a similar situation. The last seminar was very hard for me – I will explain. I'm sure it's something we should work with. This is what now defines our daily life, our strategy. But the society does not want to work with memory. Not once did any lecturer from the Faculty of Philosophy come to our seminar. And this is not a personal accusation, no, it just shows that the Germans are working with their memory, and we are not.
Our center, of course, will continue to develop these topics. But some result of the work of intellectuals will be visible only when at least one third of the large audience will be able to answer the question, when is the day of remembrance of the repressed. But now we are not doing work that is directly related to our future. That is the reason why it is time to read Hannah Arendt.
And the reason why at the beginning the video was showed: if we are not working on these topics, we give such a space for manipulation! If the subject is not examined deeply, analytically, you can convince a person of anything. Especially people, who do not speak foreign languages, do not watch such series and so on. And this manipulative space is expanding more and more.
In Skolkovo, a center was established to collect of family histories, it is called either "Live" or "Life". There is a possibility to work. To give consultations, to make a genealogical history. It turns out that some projects are realized at the, let's say, "managerial" level, but not at the intellectual level. So everything we do now is important.
Are there any more questions?
Daria Yumatova: I have a question about the film. I did not understand the behavior of the younger brother, Friedhelm, when he went under the bullets. Did he do it out of generosity, because he had to do it as an officer, or did he really not want to return?
Valery Belyaev: We can say that this is a kind of German version of the Afghan syndrome, when veterans can not normally settle in civilian life.
Valeria Dudinets: The problem of the life after the war is very important for the Germans, it was already raised in the literature after the First World War. One of the most popular authors who reflected this theme was Remarque, he has a whole cycle of works that is dealing with the theme of the postwar generation.
Valery Belyaev: In the last discussion we speak about the possibility that he (Friedhelm) could also be inspired by Junger's idea that he (Friedhelm) "cannot return alive from the war, must fall."
Daria Yumatova: Maybe he did not want to return because of the death of his brother?
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: At that time he already knew that his brother survived.
Guest: I think he did it for the children. Because there was a situation that they did not understand what to do and so he went – and was killed, so that they can see death from the outside and came to the decision to surrender themselves. He stopped them that way. If he'd just told them not to attack, they wouldn't have listened.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: They would call him a coward.
Valery Belyaev: He saw that they are just children that they are the same as he was five years ago. So, it was a sacrifice for redemption.
Guest: A truly human deed.
Also important is the fact that he asks to send a photo to a certain address - clearly not in hope that others will run after him. He understood that he was the only one who would be in bullet’s path.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Children saw how he was shot, and it was this stupor that prevented them from rushing to the attack. Remember the scene in the forest where he and nature are shown, he and the wolf? How did you understand this scene, why it was introduced?
Daria Yumatova: I think the idea here is that they are very similar to animals. The wolf considered him as one of his own kind. He didn't attack him.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: I also see the scene this way. That after all during these five years something was grown in him, a different characteristic, and a characteristic different from the human being. And he felt it inside. That he is, relatively speaking, already an "under" person, that something in him is now irrevocable, that he can never return to something of his previous self, that he now has something inhuman inside. The wolf came up to him, sniffed at him, and seemed to find something inhuman in Friedhelm.
And I also remember the moment in the development of the plot, when he was in Germany on leave. What persuaded him to return to the war?
Guest: I think there are hidden family motives behind the scenes, because from the very beginning of the film it was clear who was more and who less loved by the father, and that the family itself rejects him. It is clear that this hides much deeper problems.
Valery Belyaev: The boys in the bar who approached him are also important. Perhaps he was hoping that he would return to a more or less peaceful place, but it turned out that everybody around were talking about the war and were eager to take part in it.
Guest: And generally they have very bad idea of what is happening there.
Valeria Dudinets: Actually, they do not have access to correct information from the front. The newspapers “Wochenschau” and “Tagesschau” did not show the whole truth about the events at the front. And because of that those young boys, inspired by the regime, who are eager to fight, reproached Friedhelm that he could not achieve the goal. And, this way, he is also rejected by the society.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: And this combat fatigue is well-acted. We can read in his eyes deadly fatigue as he is surrunded by restless life. It's like he's already dead. And then another question is aroused: What will happen after the war? It is emphasized in the scene when they gather in this bar after the war.
Daria Yumatova: Friedhelm also turns out to be a lone hero. Everyone else, roughly speaking, has a pair. And he was alone.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: From my side there is also a somehow "childish" question concerning the cruelty. I can't understand what should happen to a person, or to a culture, if they on one hand create Bach's music and, on the other hand, experiment on the people who are the same as they are.
It's hard to read about it. But you need to support your view with other literature: I strongly advise you to read Sebastian Haffner's book. “The Story of a German: A Private Man against the Millennial Reich”. First of all, from a historical point of view, it shows very accurately the transformation, the shift from the Weimar Republic to Nazism. In a very accurate, precise way is described how it all intertwines with revolution ideas which came from Russia and related to the soldiers of the First World War, why clashes between members of “Freikorps” (“Freikorps” — free corps, volunteer corps, approx. – editor's note) and the Communists began, why the Communists, who already had a certain support, were absolutely ousted, and the “Freikorps” were transformed into future Nazis. Moreover, the book was written by a man who had already graduated from the university, and started working at the same time – in 1933 the book ends, at the same time he emigrates. The book was written in 1939.
The author graduated from the University in 1933 and passed the traditional exams that gave him the right to work in court. And he would already see the first dismissals, how Jewish lawyers are mocked, in the beginning in the form of teasing, and he was still in court only as a trainee. I am also very happy that the book has been very good translated. The author does not understand politics, but shows what happened at that time. This is a diary, a book that started as a diary. After emigrating he came to England, without knowledge of English, just simply a German lawyer. He emigrated with his lover, a Jewish girl. And the autobiographical plot in this book is also present, although the author writes that all the names are fictitious. And some of his acquaintances there, in England, who knew his background, told him to write about the events in Germany. And then, allegedly, this book can be published and he can get money for it. So the book came to the word. But it was not published at the time, for various reasons.
His son found the writing and after some time it was published in German, and now it has been translated by us. And these mechanisms, which Hannah Arendt also writes about, bring me closer to the answer to the question: How it was possible? How did these people turn out to be Nazis? Because along with those who really wanted to get profit from Russian lands, there were also other people. These psychological plots are very important.
Another book I have already told you about is the book “Voice”, written by female prisoners of concentration camps and translated from French. There are small stories on this topic, but this is enough. How can one of the finest scientific minds in German science and medicine make experiments on Polish students? And this is something that the Germans still have to work with. I don't even know to which sphere this question belongs – philosophical, anthropological, or something else? The question is how it was even possible? How could this be born in the culture itself?
No book has given me an answer to this question yet.
One of the German generals who passed through Stalingrad left his notes, a diary, where the meeting with another culture is shown through military life. For example, it is curious how he writes about winter in a letter to his wife, how he describes an amazing hat that has a special device that if tied closes the ears – called “ushanka” (cap with earflaps, approx. – note of the translator)! Or how he writes about “valenki” (warm felt boots, approx. – note of the translator): "I don't wear anything else, the Russians have such wonderful shoes, and foot is dry and warm" and so on.
And finally, have you ever seen the work of a cultural historian Hans Ulrich Humbrecht? You should know it professionally, colleagues, this is your duty. Many refer to his approach. His first book is simply called "1926". And what the idea was about – through Haffner, it is clearly understood – he shows only one year, gives a slice as a historian, providing threads to see the logic of the shift to the war, to Nazism. Although only one year is given in the book. And now the book "1945" has been published, and it is also interesting because of these tools. And archive materials allow making such moves.
Thanks to Lubava, we will have on our website stories related to Pinega. There the history is told through the story of one person. A man who writes a poetic chronicle. And in one moment the revolution and the Great Patriotic War are linked. You see, history interlaces with private life. I think this is now very important When we can, having found some such nerves, these connections, turn to work, first of all, in our own space. I rate this series this way: let them work with their memory. It's good. But we need it to see that it can be done not only by professionals.
Because of that some people start writing their family history. And this is very rightful thing. Someone is collecting letters that have been lying around for a long time. You see, this is something that can still be saved. The fabric of life, in its totality is the life itself. And if it is tore to peaces, then it disappears.
Today, we with the graduate students commented the movie "Mirror" (dir. Tarkovsky, 1975). Heidegger has a simple little work called "The Thing". The poetics of Tarkovsky is a continuation of Heidegger's strategy. He writes about the cup. And this move is used by Tarkovsky – to argue with Heidegger. By this move he refutes the exact issues that – excuse me, I cannot say it in any other way – I can't accept and understand in Heidegger's "Black notebooks" with their anti-Semitism. Tarkovsky shows a lot through the concept of things. Everything is significant for him. An ear through which a sun ray goes through, an old table, some newspaper page... The way he works with the world is an answer to Heidegger.
Anna Rezvukhina: You have just spoken about the importance of things, and I should say, that during the discussion about the move, I came up with the idea that all the characters return in the same bar in such a way as they are returning home. And that's where they encounter reality: both Greta and Friedhelm. After returning from the war, they do not understand what is happening in their home space. And the remaining three characters – Wilhelm, Charlotte, and Victor – return to this bar after it is ruined and the issues Greta and Friedhelm encountered are no longer present. There are only ruins. Not only things, but also space plays a role.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Yes, the movie really works with the space. And these spaces of houses have their own meaning. And which of the spaces you are looking forward to remember most? Like something significant?
Valeria Dudinets: I was deeply impressed by Victor's house, which is changing so dramatically. And at the same time – this photo frame that he breaks, and under it a photo of his parents. I liked how in this move the transition was shown, how all this changed, was displaced.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: Is is very similar to our stories. Perhaps some of you lived in the old houses of St. Petersburg. You find yourself in a communal apartment, where remained stucco molding, a piece of tile stove, and at some point you realize that this was one apartment, that there was some other life here, before many, many other people moved in. And this is the story of occupied spaces, and occupied not by force, but under the excuse that "the life has turned this way, we were settled here." But what do you think – the existentialists have trained us to ask this question – What can a man do when he can't do anything?
As the situation from the series: my house is bombed, I have nowhere to go with my children. Here she came to that apartment. Well, there lived someone before, but what to do whith it now. What strategy is possible here? If it seems so that is nothing we can change?
Guest: Perhaps preserving the memory of the presence of others, rather than erasing traces. But from a psychological point of view, it is easier to adapt the space to you, because in such a way it is easier to proclaim it yours, to make it more comfortable for you. But as one of the possible strategies: just try to preserve the characteristics of this space, not erase them.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: In any case, let them appear, let them reveal itself. Even at the level of storytelling. It is not necessary to save a half-ruined fireplace which is reason why you cannot put there a baby cot. Better to say, that if you erase something, let remain some traces that it was there.
Guest: Yes. After all, this woman in the first minutes fell into such a sharp denial, in response to a very clear question, implying that Victor knows that the apartment does not initially belong to her; she continues to repeat that she does not understand what he is talking about. Although she could have just said that she was resettled here.
Valeria Dudinets: But she considers this space to be her own. She changed the space for herself. What refers to the past is a photograph.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: By this question I am driven to think about the nature of the Germans. And about our nature. You remember how these young boys were driven in the car to the war, and this is very accurately shown: "How great it will be to live here! We will raise cattle here, plant everything, and get married" - the same strategy. The space of others is easily perceived as something that can be yours. And there is nothing special about it, and there is no question that this is still someone's space, that there was something before you, that there was some life here. And with the apartment the same thing happens.
Valeria Dudinets: The young soldiers did not think about this, because this space was already promised to them.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: It doesn't work like this. Because in the situation with that woman nothing was promised.
Valery Belyaev: This is in principle typical for ideologies, the idea about conquering something – for example, how during our revolution the proletarians resettled into the houses of the former nobles.
Lyudmila Artamoshkina: This is a very difficult question. Because sometimes you read how Russian writers did described former slums and you understand where this desire for revolution came from. But we are not even talking about equality, but about the problem how a person, having moved somewhere, treats this place. Not everyone came with whips to settle in the houses of the bourgeoisie. Rather, it is this creeping everyday life that resists analytics – «life is simply turned that way", "it just happened".
And as far as I am in dialogue with the Germans, there is this trait in the character – they need to settle really convenient and in a practical way.
I would like us to notice our characteristics and themes. I have already recommended several films to you, and from resent, difficult for interpretation I would tell you about the movie "The Priest" (dir. Vl. Khotinenko, 2010), also about the Second World War. There are great actors. And it's about a situation that is now being reinterpreted. A Pskov provincial priest in a situation when the Germans came and allowed to build churches – and priests began to serve in these churches, and it is clear that after the war they automatically fell into the category of collaborators with the Germans. And this story is shown through the life of a priest from the province. Here are these Germans, here is this concentration camp for Soviet prisoners of war, which was immediately formed – and how the priest manages with all this.
To make a conclusion, there are some thoughts on the development of our project. Maybe in Russia, we need the analogue of the MSA? It also started with three researchers. Apply to the MSA itself, too, for grants, for a conference. But in order to engage in dialogue with our colleagues from Europe, we need to work on our topics inside Russia, and we need support. There are, of course, the organizations "History without borders" or "Memorial". But we are all far away from each other, and the entire Russian field is not covered.
Transcript of video recording of the seminar: Anna Rezvukhina