On the other, resistance groups played an integral role in the liberation of , and, ultimately, France emerged from the war as a victorious power . In light of this ambiguous and controversial historical heritage, it is perhaps no surprise that collective memory of the war in France has been defined by the existence of competing and contested narratives . As the Fourth Republic dissolved into the Fifth, a narrow Gaullist interpretation of the war came to dominate national remembering .
The author suggests that, over the past six decades, collective memory of the Second World War in France has been centrally implicated in, and influenced by, wider socio-political debates relating to the nature of French national identity. The first section will examine the importance of the resistance to post-war identity in France.
Section two will focus on the impact of wartime collaboration on the French psyche. Since the French Revolution of there has been a marked tendency, amongst scholars and policymakers alike, to conceptualise French history in terms of stages of decline, fall and renewal. This cyclical narrative, which enjoyed unprecedented historiographical and cultural pre-eminence up until the s, is fundamental to understanding the different contours of French national memory pertaining to the Second World War .
In a post-war Gaullist context, although not necessarily exclusively so, the fall of was seen to be indicative of the decadence and decline of the Third Republic, whereas the heroic exploits of the resistance and eventual liberation represented a phoenix moment of national revival . Indeed, the largely consensual collective memory of the war which materialised after was intrinsically linked to attempts by certain sections of the French elite — most conspicuously De Gaulle and his followers — to establish internal political legitimacy, whilst simultaneously restoring French Grandeur.
Successive post-war French leaders, mindful of the often brutally nihilistic acts of retribution carried out against alleged collaborators throughout , were acutely sensitive to the potential for the division of the occupation years to create a barrier to national renewal . The Gaullist myth, with its inclusive notion of the entire French nation pitted in a noble struggle against the German invader, certainly fulfilled this criterion. Rather than being a uniquely Gallic phenomenon, Vichy was cast as a temporary and foreign aberration, and collaboration as the retreat of a few reactionaries and undesirables .
The primary appeal of such a depiction of the war, on both a political and socio-psychological level, lay in its externalisation of responsibility for the injustices perpetrated during the occupation solely onto the Germans. This account explicitly sought to downplay the participation of Allied nations in the liberation of France, presenting the victory of as an almost exclusively home-grown salvation .
The self-liberation myth, however, was not just a Gaullist project.
Is the invention of memories necessary to identities?
A climate of anti-Americanism, which was symptomatic of post-war European leftist groups, was a key facilitator of its perpetuation . In addition to promoting national reconciliation and independence there was a desire on the part of the Gaullist establishment to appropriate the mantle of resistance and disassociate the Fourth and Fifth Republic from the Third , thereby substantiating its own authority .
The challenges posed by decolonisation in Indochina and Algeria, together with the difficulties involved in adjusting to the new international political dynamics of the Cold War, relegated the conflicts of to the margins of national consciousness . That is not to say that the political utility of these myths has diminished in a contemporary setting.
On the contrary, the tensions caused by the fragmentation of French society along ethnic, religious, and political lines over the past three decades have led to their ongoing inclusion in debates concerning French national identity . They reflect long-standing traditions in French historical thinking and self referential notions of French identity. Over the past six decades, the relationship between collaboration and French collective memory has been tumultuous. The hegemony of the Gaullist myth in the immediate post-war period ensured that memory of Vichy remained peripheral and, as a result of the ensuing intellectual vacuum this left, largely sanitised .
A Case for an Ontological Security Perspective
For instance, the liberalisation of French state television, which occurred after, and possibly as a result of, his death, was pivotal in exposing the public to a more nuanced view of the war years . As Silja Veerma from Tallinn Tourist Information told me, the main objective is that tourists have a good time, are provided with the information and services that they need, and that they get a positive, friendly impression of the city so that they possibly come back. In this context, Russian tourists are seen as welcome visitors to the city, providing an important source of revenue.
Tourism professionals have developed a careful marketing strategy aimed at creating a welcoming and diverse image of the city. When Russians visit Tallinn, they come to visit friends, go shopping, or enjoy the picturesque facades, winding streets and European outlook of the center.
Those who visited the Kadriorg palace, the palace built Peter the Great also mentioned the pleasure of seeing something familiar in Tallinn. However, tourism is not unaffected by the present political climate as anxieties of Russians expressed in blogs, negative reviews on Tripadvisor demonstrate. To better understand the dynamics and potentials of the touristic encounters, we participated in guided tours and undertook interviews with guides.
We found that within these transnational encounters between guides and tourists, tour guides are regularly confronted with the question if and how to remember the shared historical experiences, which have become the subject of memory conflicts. As most of the tour guides in Tallinn offering tours for Russian tourists belong to the local Russian-speaking minority, they are themselves uniquely positioned to navigate the contested terrain of the past and mediate between guests and hosts.
These people came — and they did this. Another lot came — and they did that.
A third lot — and this is what they did. Times are different nowadays — I also tell them that. Whereas the notion of occupation that Estonians use to describe the Soviet period emphasizes the illegality of the Soviet regime and the suffering experienced by the Estonian population, the Russian narrative sees Russians as good colonizers in the region, bringing economic progress and Soviet modernity after World War II.
Russian tourists coming to Tallinn used the guided tour to ask questions and also instances of conflict that occurred despite the adjustments made by tour guides created the possibility of a dialogue about the past. For example, I explained to the last couple I worked with that we were part of different countries, and of course they know that in Estonia we call it occupation even though I personally did not use the word. Something like this requires a lot of effort.
Such moments of confrontation are difficult for tour guides to navigate, however they create the possibility to explaining Estonian narratives and thus present unfamiliar points of views to tourists. In other instances, tour guides try to detach the present day identities and relations between Russians and Estonians from the past. Although tour guides largely try to avoid such confrontations, these encounters signal the possibility for a limited dialogue about the past within tourism.
The headlines on Russian-Estonian relation have been dominated by conflict and an increasing securitization, reflected in the recent arrival of new NATO battalions in Estonia in mid-March. Our findings show that despite the political conflicts and the falling value of the ruble, Russians continue to travel to Estonia as tourists, seeking pleasure, possibilities for consumption, entertainment, and even knowledge about the other. In the tourism industry, Russians, Estonians, and the local Russian minority can encounter each other as guests and hosts.
Alena has a long standing interest in the post-Soviet space. Berlin: de Gruyter, , Overview of Tourism Trends in Tallinn in Tallinn, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. Reburial and Post-Socialist Change. NY: Columbia University,
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