The USSR and World War II

The USSR and World War II

Blum, Alain; Beyrau, Dietrich, Graziosi, Andrea et al.; Ecole des Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Paris et al.
Vom - Bis
05.05.2011 - 07.05.2011
Blum, Alain; Beyrau, Dietrich; Graziosi, Andrea et al.

The USSR and World War II

Paris, 5-7 May 2011

Submission deadline 30 September 2010. The program will be finalized by the end of October 2010.
Centre d’études des mondes russe, caucasien et centre-européen (Cercec: EHESS; CNRS, Paris);
Centre de recherches historiques (EHESS; CNRS, Paris);
Centre franco-russe de recherche en sciences humaines et sociales (Moscou) ;
Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies (Harvard, États-Unis);
Institut d’histoire du temps présent (IHTP, CNRS, Paris)
Programme de recherche interdisciplinaire “Le fait guerrier et les violences armées – Politique, stratégie, sociétés” (EHESS, Paris);
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris);
Identités, relations internationales et civilisations de l’Europe (IRICE: Université de Paris 1; CNRS, Paris);
Institut de recherche stratégique de l’École militaire (Paris);
Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University (Hokkaido);
The Harvard Project on Cold War Studies (Harvard);
Editions Rosspen (Moscow).
International Scientific Committee: Alain Blum, Dietrich Beyrau, Catherine Gousseff, Andrea Graziosi, Oleg Khlevniuk, Mark Kramer, Nathalie Moine, Andrei Sorokin, Alexander Vatlin, David Wolff.
French scientific and organizing committee: Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, Alain Blum, Sabine Dullin, Christian Ingrao, Jean-Christophe Romer.
Proposals to be submitted to the following address: (please use subject line “Proposal for the USSR and WWII conference”).

All documents are available on the site of the conference:

1. Proposals should include a brief (one- or two-page) description of paper topic, including the sources to be used.

2. The organizers will be able to cover traveling and accommodation expenses for as many participants as possible. All selected contributors will be encouraged to pay at least part of the cost of their attendance if possible. The organizers will gladly provide them with formal invitation letters to be used when applying for support from universities and other institutions.

3. The conference will be in English, Russian, and French. Simultaneous Russian-French/French-Russian interpretation will be provided.

The conference is intended to discuss how the large volume of evidence now available, including archival documents and other primary sources that have emerged over the past 20 years, illuminates our understanding of the USSR’s role in the Second World War. Many studies show that considerable progress has been made in clarifying a range of fields such as civilians’ experience of the war, frontoviki profiles, popular and artistic representations of the conflict, ethnic and social developments, and the war’s impact on the Soviet system and the regime’s relationship with the population. However, these approaches, some highly specialized, have not been properly combined to achieve a new, more nuanced overall picture of the USSR and World War II.
This scholarly conference will explore the war as such and the consequences of the war for “Late Stalinism.”


Proposals expected from this call for papers will concern the following periods and topics:

1) 1939-1941: The German-Soviet Pact, Soviet Expansion to the West, and Soviet Preparations for War
How was the German-Soviet Pact of Non-Aggression, signed in August 1939, perceived in the USSR? What types of cooperation were undertaken between the two temporarily allied powers (for example, transfer of ethnic German communities from the USSR)? During this period of “non-aggression,” the USSR behaved as an occupying power, first in the Polish eastern territories, then the Baltic countries, Bessarabia, and northern Bukovina. To what extent were these various territorial annexations carried out in a common pattern, using well-tried repressive measures or more innovative techniques? What were internal Soviet developments during those crucial years? What was the impact of the war with Finland?

2) The War
The USSR’s entry into the war led to the mobilization of millions of men. As the war progressed, with huge losses of manpower and offensives requiring massed formations, the Soviet government called up younger cohorts of conscripts. What was the profile of this army? How did it develop, particularly in its command structure from Stalin and the Stavka and State Defense Committee (GKO) to the officers on the frontline? What resources were used in support of the war effort, and how did these help to define new patterns of hierarchy? The experience of the war itself (solidarity, patriotism, defeatism, etc.), which requires more detailed research, also includes the experience of captivity. What was the fate of Soviet POWs in various theaters and at various times during the war? Any examination of the progress of the war across the whole of Soviet territory requires a consideration of the diverse status of the combatants, not only as soldiers of the Red Army but also as groups of partisans fighting in German-occupied areas.

3) Authority and Control in Wartime
War over the centuries has been linked with the strengthening of state power, and at no time was this more true than during the Second World War. In the USSR the exigencies of war and the creation of new command organs accentuated the already high degree of centralization of political power. How did this alter the Soviet system of governance? What changes did the war produce in the way the Soviet system was run, and in the men running it? How was the Soviet war economy organized and how did it work?
Among the priorities imposed by the war, control over the population led to a return to repressive action, particularly against certain nationalities. Did the deportation of “punished peoples” (Soviet Germans, nationalities in the North Caucasus, Crimean Tatars) introduce a new concept of the internal enemy, or was it merely an intensification of pre-war practice? More generally, what role did the NKVD-NKGB play in the war? How did the repressive apparatus change over those years? How did it police the population?
The war was also a time of partial liberalization in some spheres (religion, culture) and the partial rehabilitation of some of the victims of the Stalinist terror. The category of victims became complicated as some moved back and forth between earlier and new stigmatization. Why was the severe repression of particular nationalities accompanied by a relaxation of political control in some areas?

4) The New Geography of the USSR at War
German occupation of the western territories shifted the country’s center of gravity. The evacuation of part of the population and the massive transfer of the Soviet Union’s industrial and economic resources marked this shift. The new position of Central Asia as a refuge for evacuees, the transfer of administrations and foreign diplomatic missions from Moscow to Kuybyshev (Samara), and the transfer of industries to the Urals and Siberia established a new geography for the USSR that has been relatively little researched, whether in terms of communications, economic effects or social and cultural repercussions.
What changes did the War bring to these internal regions?

5) Civilian Experience of the War
Civilian experience of the War was diverse. In addition to the occupied territories, a distinction must be made between front/near-front areas, such as the besieged region of Leningrad, and rear areas (from the Urals to Central Asia). How did people survive in these different areas, what constraints did they face, how were they mobilized by propaganda for the front? How did the economy’s private and black-market sectors ensure the population’s survival? Looking back, is it possible to apprehend “states of mind”, rumors, hopes and fears about the outcome of the war? With total mobilization, what was the impact of the war on the redefinition of women’s economic and social roles and the fate of children? Did the introduction of welfare policies after the war cause new priority categories to emerge, such as soldiers’ families and war invalids? What happened to the families of war prisoners?

6) Life and Death in the Occupied Territories
This aspect of World War II in the USSR is one that has been most substantially revised, mainly because of ongoing work on the history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. This central topic will be specifically addressed in a conference following on from our scholarly meetings. The progress of knowledge about the history of the occupied territories largely depends on a comparison that is now possible between German and Soviet sources to examine anew the patterns of resistance, collaboration, and accommodation in the occupied areas. An examination of these sources reveals the diversity of types of occupation from one area to another. For example, scholars can now more clearly assess the type and degree of violence exerted, which varied in intensity from one place to another, with some areas particularly mistreated by the German occupiers, as in Belarus.

7) Re-Sovietization of the Western Territories
The return of Soviet forces to the territories first annexed in 1939 and 1940 often was met with strong national resistance by armed guerrillas. The history of these regions is dominated by intense campaigns by Soviet organs, aggravated after 1949 by collectivization. How are the various scenarios in different places of this new “war after the war” to be described, ending in the deportation of large numbers of locals? How did these purges, in their turn, alter the population of the Gulag with the massive arrival of Baltic and Ukrainian nationalists?

8) The Consequences of the War for the Soviet Union: Internal Repercussions
8a) The Ravages of War
Although the Soviet Union emerged from the war as a great power second only to the United States, the country had paid an onerous price. Figures such as 25 million homeless and 27 million dead hint at the extent of the disaster and raise the question of how society rose to its feet again, the new sacrifices it had to make, and the trials it had to endure, such as the 1946 famine in the newly annexed western territories. Proposals on wartime losses and the demographic, social, and gender consequences are welcome.
8b) A Confiscated Victory?
After years of violent upheaval and privation, and also of relaxed political and social control, what were the society’s expectations as the war drew to a close? How were these expectations affected by the return of authority and the restoration of Stalinist economic institutions? How did the Soviet regime reassert tight control? What did the population’s different strata and groups expect from victory? What were the characteristics of the new Soviet elites? How can we analyze the war’s impact on gender relations in the USSR?
Did a new Soviet social stratification emerge with two poles—“traitors and heroes”—and the bulk of the population in between? What were the various forms of political purge, from “wildcat” purges to trials for collaboration, over time? How effective was the recognition given to war medal recipients and, more generally, all the types of award for human sacrifice that were given to regular soldiers and partisans in symbolic and material ways during the ups and downs of the postwar decade?
At the end of the War, the Soviet Union experienced unprecedented population movements from east and west, including re-evacuations from the rear areas; mass repatriation toward the western borders of the Ostarbeiter forced laborers, POWs, and demobilized troops; transfers of ethnic communities under border changes; the return of surviving Jewish escapees; and the settlement of refugees. This gigantic shift of people was often chaotic and was spurred by violent repression, particularly for the population transfers and mass repatriations in the west: How did the process differ from region to region? How were they received upon their arrival back in the Soviet Union? How were they reintegrated, political and socially, how did they compete for resources at a time of severe shortages? How, if at all, did the war and victory transform the Gulag and, more generally, the Soviet “concentration camp world”?

9) Soviet Power outside the USSR
The Soviet Union’s contribution to the liberation of Europe gave it a new presence at the heart of the Old Continent. Although the Red Army was clearly an occupying power in Germany, what role did it play elsewhere in Eastern Europe? How important were Soviet troops in converting the East European countries into Soviet satellites? How important was Soviet control in Eastern Europe in gaining economic resources to rebuild the USSR?

10) Did the Great Patriotic War Establish Soviet Legitimacy?
Patriotic wartime propaganda confirmed the rehabilitation of the heroes of the former Russian Empire, preparing for the postwar enthronement of Russia as the guide of the Soviet peoples, with the support of the restored Orthodox Church. How was this new ideological reality connected to the heritage of the war—with the exaltation of sacrifice and the combatants—to reshape the Soviet postwar project? What was the role of commemorations and the cult of war memory as encouraged from the top? How did Soviet and post-Soviet historiography enter the picture? What role did historians play? What were the main stages in the Soviet and post-Soviet reading of the war? How are we to analyze Leonid Brezhnev’s new policies in the 1960s? What were their long-term consequences and their impact on the legitimization effort
of Boris Yeltsin’s and Vladimir Putin’s Russia? What have been the main lines of research, public debate, and official policy in other former Soviet republics since 1991?


Dietrich Beyrau
Institut f. Osteuropäische Geschichte und Landeskunde
Universität Tübingen
72074 Tübingen
Veröffentlicht am
Weitere Informationen
Land Veranstaltung
Sprach(en) der Veranstaltung
Englisch, Französisch, Russisch
Sprache der Ankündigung