In the Soviet Union, the ‘Great Patriotic War’ was both a uniquely traumatic ordeal that took the lives of approximately 30 million people, and the focus of a decades-long myth and cult that celebrated the most glorious achievement of the Soviet era. At the war’s end, Stalin, whose mistakes and brutality had greatly increased Soviet war losses, sought to obscure popular memories of the war experience, but the Brezhnev regime turned an idealized memory of the Great Patriotic War into the focus of an elaborate cult. As the Soviet Union declined and finally expired, the memory of the war became highly contested, as ugly truths about the war were made public. Today the war myth lives on as evidence of Stalin’s inhuman rule, and as a source of Russian national pride and patriotism.
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