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Visualizing the Red Army's Demobilization: Photography, Reconstructing Community and Creating Post-War Memory

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Robert DaleORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


In the summer of 1945, carefully choreographed celebrations marked the departure of Soviet soldiers from Berlin and their arrival in Soviet cities. As veterans crossed international borders and the boundaries between military and civilian life, some of the most celebrated Soviet photojournalists were present to capture this symbolic moment. Their photographs circulated widely in the Soviet press and were instrumental in establishing new visual languages. This articulated official messages about homecoming and post-war reconstruction. Photography was harnessed in this difficult moment of transition as a means of communicating messages about the successful reconstruction of families and communities in war’s aftermath. This article analyses the visual languages communicated in the photographs taken in the first weeks of mass demobilization, examining the rhetorical purposes which they served at the time and subsequently. These were carefully constructed images; highly politicised attempts to visualise the successful reintegration of veterans and the reconstruction of communities amidst war’s social and material wreckage. They enforced gender boundaries and assigned post-war roles to veterans and their families. Photography established the visual frameworks and cultural paradigms through which demobilization and homecoming have been understood ever since. Despite conflicting with most people’s experiences, these photographs had a long afterlife; they shaped and structured the memory of post-war transition. This article also examines how these photographs informed representations of demobilization and homecoming in the cinema of Khrushchev’s cultural Thaw, late Soviet painting, as well as post-Soviet commemorative activity. The visual languages of demobilization photography have been reproduced and recycled in a variety of spaces and contexts, but whereas Khrushchev-era cinema utilised images with a knowing eye, demonstrating an awareness of their constructed nature, their post-Soviet usage has reshaped their original meaning, distorting memories of post-war reconstruction.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Dale R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of War and Culture Studies

Year: 2022

Volume: 15

Issue: 2

Pages: 157-182

Online publication date: 15/05/2022

Acceptance date: 06/04/2022

Date deposited: 11/02/2022

ISSN (print): 1752-6272

ISSN (electronic): 1752-6280

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/17526272.2022.2065118

Notes: This is intended for a special issue entitled: "Photography and Cultures of Reconstruction in the Aftermath of War: 1944-1950".


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