In this article, I detail how archival finds helped me develop questions on World War II martyr heroes and their role in Soviet culture and Russian collective memory. I consider how one might approach silences, read discrepancies in archival holdings, and extrapolate meaning from various kinds of documents. Considering that the Russian State Archive of Sociopolitical History Komsomol archive allows one to study the evolution of gender via the continuous reshaping of feminine and masculine ideals for Soviet youth, I discuss how the archive might open up new research areas and prompt additional questions for gender historians, and lead one to reconsider power and authority in the Soviet past.
Adrienne Harris is an associate professor of Russian in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures at Baylor University. Her research interests include war and culture studies, memory studies, and gender studies. She has published articles on Stalinist myth creation, Russian collective memory, women soldiers’ memoirs and poetry, and masculinity in contemporary Czech film. She is drafting a monograph about World War II hero Zoia Kosmodemianskaia entitled Martyr, Myth, and Memory: The Dynamic Image of Zoia Kosmodemianskaia, a Soviet Saint. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org