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Using the Russian experience in World War II as an illustration, this article explores some dynamics of collective memory, especially when state authorities seek to employ a particular usable past. Posters, films, and other forms of popular culture are analyzed in an attempt to account for a sudden switch in official Soviet memory during the early phases of World War II. In this context the Soviet leadership reverted to relying on old Russian national narratives after spending years forcibly promulgating an internationalist, anti-nationalist official story. Along with other post-Soviet experience, this suggests that national narratives can be quite conservative and resistant to change. The notion of “schematic narrative templates” is employed to provide insight into how this played out in Soviet and post-Soviet Russia in general, with specific attention given to the “expulsion of foreign enemies” narrative template.

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