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Talk by Jeremy Hicks on his book "The Victory Banner over the Reichstag"

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The story of the Soviet Victory Banner - which featured in one of the 20th century's most iconic images - from 1945 to its symbolism today

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The Victory Banner over the Reichstag: Film, Document and Ritual in Russia’s Contested Memory of World War Two

The red Soviet flag raised by the Red Army over Berlin’s Reichstag building on the evening of 30 April 1945 has become a key symbol of the Soviet and more recently Russian defeat of Nazis Germany in World War Two. Known as “the Victory Banner,” it has been celebrated in photography, documentary and feature film, in memoirs and video games, but is also a physical artefact: the actual flag is revered in a museum, but an exact copy of it is paraded on Red Square in Moscow’s annual 9 May Victory Parade, and facsimiles are now used in local parades, demonstrations and reconstructions in Russia and beyond, to symbolize Russia’s memory of World War Two, conceived as “Victory,” as glorious and ritualized.

The Victory Banner over the Reichstag examines why and how this symbol was created, the changing media of its expression, and the evolution of its message, from association with the Stalin cult and Communism, through attempts to de-stalinize it, to its acquisition of Russian nationalist meaning.

The talk takes place on the Defender of the Fatherland Day, a Russian national holiday. The day is also marked in several other parts of the former USSR and commemorates the founding of the Red Army. It is, along with 9 May, one of the official occasions when The Victory Banner is publicly displayed in Russia.

Prof. Jeremy Hicks is Professor of Russian Culture and Film at Queen Mary University of London where he teaches courses on Russian film history and literature.

He is the author of three books and many articles on Russian and Soviet history, film, literature and journalism.

Prior to The Victory Banner over the Reichstag: Film, Document and Ritual in Russia’s Contested Memory of World War Two, his publications include: Dziga Vertov: Defining Documentary Film (London and New York, 2007) and First Films of the Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and the Genocide of the Jews, 1938-46 (Pittsburgh, 2012). This book won the 2013 US Slavists’ (ASEEES) Wayne Vucinich Prize ‘for the most important contribution to Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences,’ and has been consultant on a number of TV documentary films and the restoration of a film about the Holocaust.

Prof. Jeremy Hicks has also translated the Russian satirical writer, Mikhail Zoshchenko (The Galosh: Selected Short Stories, London: Angel Books, 2000; New York: Overlook Press, 2006, 2009). He is a member of ASEEES, British Association for Slavonic and European Studies, the Modern Humanities Research Association (UK), and a Trustee of the SCRSS.

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