Sevastopol and Local Identity

In “Who Makes Local Memories?: The Case of Sevastopol After World War II”, Qualls asserts that various conflicts, most notably the Crimean War, have shaped the construction of the identity of the city of Sevastopol and it’s people in relation to Russia. He cites the example of the Crimean War in which Lev Tolstoy, a journalist, wrote of the Russian character of the city and necessity of fighting for it as one would do for Russia. At this stage the Russian identity of the city was reinforced through examples of military valor in the Crimean War and the loyalty of those who defended it. As Qualls points out these national myths serve to reinforce the identification of the city and it’s residents with the nation. Simultaneously Russia is able to generate a sense of belonging amongst the citizens and legitimize it’s claim to the region as a national power. This process of creating national myths continues into the 1930s when the Soviet government adapts the narrative once again to redirect loyalty towards the Party through the use of myths which center around the “ideal Soviet citizen,” who serves as an example of the importance of the Party in daily life and of what can be accomplished through allegiance to the Party.

With the onset of World War Two the narrative changes from loyalty to the Party or military valor to that of duty to citizens, soldiers, and Sevastopol. It is interesting to note the adaptability of the sense of identity and it’s importance to the citizen’s identification with Russia rather than Ukraine. Furthermore Qualls analyzes the myth creation blending the World War Two narrative with that of the Russian past and the Crimean War. It would be interesting to see on an individual level from the citizens of Sevastopol, how long it took for them to internalize this new myth and sense of identification and if there was any resistance. Also in if this identification with Russia, rather than Ukraine, extended to all citizens or if it was more prevalent amongst certain age groups? In the latter part of his article, Qualls did a good job demonstrating how the Soviets supported this new myth with propaganda. The Soviets utilized new media formats, such as film, to reach a broader audience and reinforce the new narrative. Finally I found it interesting to read about connection of the reconstruction of the city to the sense of identity, specifically how Trautmann campaigned for the renaming of streets and city areas for local heroes rather than Party heroes.