'Russian Tsar Nicholas II riding amongst his troops, First World War', courtesy of Wikipedia

Professor Evgeny Sergeev interview on Russia and the Centenary

Posted on centenarynews.com on 01 August 2013
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Centenary News' Tanja Bonny speaks to Professor Evgeny Sergeev, Head of the Research Centre "The Twentieth Century: socio-politic and economic problems", Institute of World History at the Russian Academy of Sciences about Russia's plans to mark the First World War Centenary.

Are the Russian people interested in the Centenary of the First World War?

In general, people in Russia are not as enthusiastic about World War One as about World War Two, because, as you know, Russia was not among the winners of the conflict.

But we, by which I mean Russian historians, are doing our best to encourage public interest in the celebration of the Centenary.

And I must add that this year the governmental structures, i.e. the Russian Parliament (our State Duma) and President Putin's Administration, have recognised the importance of joining other European countries, the USA and Japan in the commemoration of the First World War’s beginning in 2014.

What plans are there to mark the 100 year anniversary of the conflict so far?

Evidence of Russia’s efforts so far includes the establishment in April 2013 of a special commission to celebrate the Centenary. It includes representatives from both state and public organisations, i.e. the members of the Russian Historical and Russian Military Historical Societies. As I am also a member of this commission, I am taking part in the arrangement of a draft commemorative programme for the Centenary.

The programme is to be completed in September - October 2013 and, as far as I know, will envisage various conferences, seminars and public activities, including a film festival, the opening of a special World War One museum, and exhibitions in different Russian cities.

There are plans to publish a number of Centenary anniversary editions of books relating to the First World War, such as the Encyclopedia Russia and the Great War and the Encyclopedic Dictionary The First World War. Copies of these publications will be dispatched to all the big public libraries throughout Russia, free of charge.

The Russian authorities are also going to erect and renovate monuments to the heroes of World War One, including chapels at the cemeteries where rest both Russian and foreign combatants are buried.

Are there any specific plans to inform and educate young people about the First World War during the Centenary period?

Members of the Russian Association of World War I Historians will be organising a number of meetings with students and other young people in order to educate them about - and to familiarise them with - the conflict and the Centenary. 

The government has decided to deliver a commemorative lecture on the history of the conflict in all Russian schools on 1 September 2014, when students traditionally begin a new academic year.

Our most important task is to maintain, or even renovate, the historical memory of the First World War in modern Russian society. It is important for us to cultivate national pride in recognition of the efforts that Russia made as a member of Entente to achieve peace in 1918.

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