Memory Wars on the Silver Screen: Ukraine and Russia Look Back at the Second World War
In post-communist Russia the state has been supporting the production of historical films reflecting the official politics of memory, in which primacy is given to the victory in World War II. Often filmed in Ukraine, where the national cinema industry was nearly extinct until recently, these films project an imperial stereotype of modern Ukrainian identity as a fake and Ukrainian patriots as traitors. In contrast, the Ukrainian patriotic war narrative has only been reflected in straight-to-DVD films celebrating the nationalist insurgency. This article focuses on three recent films: two Russian films set in Ukraine during the war, which caused protests in Ukraine, and the first full-length Ukrainian war film to receive mass distribution, Mykhailo Illienko’s Firecrosser (2012), interpreted here as an attempt to merge Soviet historical mythology with the Ukrainian one.