International Conference
07 Nov 2019 – 09 Nov 2019

The Stalingrad Myth. Russian-German Comparative Perspectives

Venue: German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, Zwieseler Str. 4, 10318 Berlin
Research project(s): Historicizing today (2019/20)

Organized by Claude Haas, Matthias Schwartz, in cooperation with the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst and the German War Graves Commission

With the capitulation of the 6th Army in Stalingrad in February 1943, the German war of aggression and annihilation in Eastern Europe took a decisive turn. While in German cultural memory the defeat at Stalingrad is thought of to this day as »synonym for apocalypse« (Jens Ebert), in post-soviet Russia their victory in this »battle of the century« (Vassili Chuikov) is still seen as a prime example of heroic fortitude in the ›Great Patriotic War‹. No other battle, no other locus for collective memory, has been charged with such contrasting meaning throughout subsequent decades as ‹Stalingrad›. In West Germany, ‹Stalingrad› served as the epitome of German victimhood in the collective imagination of the 1950s and 60s, excluding as far as possible the guilt of war crimes and genocide. In the USSR, by contrast, the cultural commemoration of the victims and heroes of World War II gradually became more important and even partially replaced the October Revolution as the founding myth of the socialist state, especially from the 1960s onwards.

Against this backdrop, the conference will pursue two goals. Firstly, we will examine how the Stalingrad myth itself has evolved in both countries and how it has shaped competing views of World War II, and possibly of war as a whole. Secondly, we will look at the social politics that initiated and benefitted from such a culture of remembrance. The conference, thus, seeks to erode the borders between the national interpretations of the Stalingrad myth by systematically confronting different literary, cinematic, and cultural representations of the battle with one another.

The keynote will be delivered by Nina Tumarkin (Wellesley College).

The conference language will be English.


Fig. above: German-Russian Museum Berlin- Karlshorst, main hall of the Officers' Casino of the Wehrmacht School for Pioneers. Here, on 8 May 1945, the High Command of the German Wehrmacht signed the document of unconditional surrender in the presence of the representatives of the four Allied powers. Source: German-Russian Museum


Please register by email: Claude Haas

Event flyer

Thursday, 07 Nov 2019



  • Claude Haas/Matthias Schwartz (ZfL)
  • Jörg Morré (Director German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst)

Panel I – Cold War Mythologies of the Battle


  • Elena V. Baraban (University of Manitoba, Winnipeg): Heroes and Foes: The Politics of Characterization in Soviet Films about the Battle of Stalingrad


  • Philip Decker (Oxford University): The Battle of Stalingrad in Newspapers of the Late GDR
  • Benjamin Hemmerle (Grenoble Alpes University): Stalingrad – A French Myth


Panel Discussion – Exhibiting War: Stalingrad in European Museum

  • Jörg Echternkamp (Director, Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr, Potsdam)
  • Sergei Ivaniuk (Deputy Director, Panorama Museum "Battle of Stalingrad", Volgograd)
  • Sarah Kleinmann (Cultural anthropologist, Berlin)
  • chaired by Jörg Morré

in Russian/German


Friday, 08 Nov 2019

Panel II – Witnessing the Battle: Perspectives from Near and Far


  • Dmitry Belov (Central Museum of the Armed Forces, Moscow): Live Stories. The Battle of Stalingrad from the Perspective of Participants and Eyewitnesses
  • Eugen Wenzel (Berlin): The Demythologization of Stalingrad in a Gestapo Prison in the Year 1945

Panel III – Fictionalizing the Victory: Early Literary Narrations


  • Franziska Thun-Hohenstein (ZfL): The Lieutenants' Perspective. On Viktor Nekrasov's "In the Trenches of Stalingrad"


  • Sibylle Mohrmann (Berlin): Myths of Love and Death: The First Novels on the Battle of Stalingrad

Panel IV – Remembering the Triumph: Early Ambivalent Representations


  • Robert Chandler (London): Vasily Grossman. Remembering Stalingrad
  • Dirk Rochtus (KU Leuven): Stalingrad: A Myth Hiding the Ideological Doubts of East German Poets Johannes R. Becher and Franz Fühmann?


Keynote Lecture

  • Nina Tumarkin (Wellesley College): What Has Happened to Russian War Memory and the Myth of Iconic Stalingrad?


Saturday, 09 Nov 2019

Panel V – Work on Myth: Literary Reconstructions and Transcriptions


  • Ian Garner (Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario): Writing the Past, the Future, and the Self: Post-War Reconstruction and the Stalingrad Myth
  • Daniel Weidner (ZfL): "30 days or 300 years.". Myth and Montage in Alexander Kluge’s "Description of the Battle"


  • Michael E. Auer (LMU Munich): Encirclement and Teichoscopy. Heiner Müller’s Stalingrad Tragedy

Panel VI – Post-Socialist Revivals: Political und Public Reinterpretations


  • Egor Lykov (ETH Zurich): The Stalingrad Myth in the Digitalized Space. Memory, Conventions, and Controversies
  • Alexander Chertenko (FU Berlin): Nationalizing the Soviet Past. Donbass as a New Stalingrad in Russian Literature and Publicism after 2014


  • Ivan Kurilla (European University, St. Petersburg): The Battle of Stalingrad in the Contemporary Political Landscape of Russia


Concluding Discussion

Media Response

24 Feb 2020
The Stalingrad Myth. Russian-German Comparative Perspectives, 07.11.2019 – 09.11.2019 Berlin

Conference review by Valerie Brosch, Dmitrij Herrmann, Diana Minaeva, Arthur Molt, Elizaveta Mukhina, Ruth Rist, Vaclav Sevcik (Freie Universität Berlin), in: H-Soz-Kult, 24 Feb 2020


Matthias Schwartz

Die Schlacht von Stalingrad
23. August 1942 – 2. Februar 1943

Die Geschichte hinter dem Bild
Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Erfurt 2021, 40 pages
ISBN 978-3-948643-29-4