Riabov O. V. “Let us defend Mother Volga!”: the maternal symbol of the river in the discourse of the Stalingrad battle pp.11-27

The article deals with the analysis of employing the symbol of Mother Volga in the discourse of the battle of Stalingrad. The author points out that the battle was represented in the Soviet propaganda as defending Mother Volga which served as a substitute of the Motherland.
The article begins with a discussion of the theoretical aspects of the nationalism study exploiting the maternal symbol of rivers. It then proceeds to sketch out the role of the views on the Volga as mother in the Soviet culture of 1920—1930s. Next, the article examines forms and functions of the Soviet propaganda’s employing the image of Mother Volga in the time of the battle of Stalingrad. The author demonstrates that using this image contributed to strengthening the Soviet identity; war mobilization; substantiating the idea of the Red Army’s military and moral superiority; and creating the image of the Enemy.
Above all, employing the image helped to maintain the collective identity, participating in the drawing symbolic boundaries between “us” and “them”: the Volga received a special status as a hypostasis of the Soviet Motherland.
Then, the symbol was exploited by mobilization propaganda. The Volga was represented as a woman whose honour had to be protected by Soviet warriors. The motif of the foreign invasion of the USSR as desecration of the Volga and its pollution had the same connotation of meaning as a theme of dishonoring the native land. Meanwhile the call to protect the honour of the native land traditionally serves as one of the most important tool of war mobilization in Russia, appealing to male gender identity.
In addition, like Mother Russia, Volga was perceived as not only calling for help but also being an undefeatable force. It served as a factor of military superiority of the Soviet army, sending its sons, the Soviet warriors, into battle and participating in military operations.
Finally, the maternal symbol of Volga was employed in making the image of the Enemy, contributing to associating it with rape, aggression, treachery, danger, pollution, and weakness.
In conclusion the author summarizes the main results of the study and traces how the symbol of Mother Volga is employed in contemporary practices of commemoration. read in PDF>>>