The Image Of The Urals In British Media Discourse
Efforts on preserving the memory about the Great Patriotic war (GP war) have become increasingly important as the history of World War II (WWII) and the GP war as the Eastern front of the former encounters new interpretations. “Memory wars” based on competing memories and myths and abounded with controversial judgments occur worldwide. To get a full understanding of any war, one has to learn not only about the major battles and key figures of the war, but also about the way the war impacted society. The home front in the Urals had a major impact on the outcome of the war as the Ural region was an especially important industrial center in the years of the GP war. The source of the material used for analyzing the image of the Ural region was British media discourse. The purpose of the present study was to show the way British media of the GP war period modeled the image of the home front in the Urals. The research data were drawn from the British Newspaper Archive. The corpus of texts containing the search terms ‘Ural / Urals’ within the publication date range from 21 June 1941 to 09 May 1945 comprised 5413 documents. The core components of the image of the Urals are the following: a safe place, a storehouse of natural resources, a Soviet arsenal, industrial strength, a defence line, and a German objective.
Keywords: Uralshome frontGreat Patriotic warWorld War IImedia discoursethe British Newspaper Archive
The history of the Great Patriotic war (GP war), one of the most titanic battles in the history of humanity, is special for the Russians; the memory of this war has always been particularly venerated in the country. In the Soviet Union, in the Era of Late Socialism there was a kind of tradition to perceive the history of the GP war as a sacred and untouchable event, unliable to doubt, attack, or question. However, there have been significant changes in the world since then: the disappearance of the Soviet Union and the socialist camp, the radical change of the existing social structure and political system in Russia, the rapid development of new media and dramatic advances in mass communication. These changes have created a new information space, which differs fundamentally from the societal orders of the past and offers a new narrative of the history of World War II (WWII) and the GP war, also known as the Eastern front of the former.
Efforts on preserving the memory about the GP war have become increasingly important as the history of WWII and the GP war encounters new interpretations, with different social groups pushing their alternatives through newspapers and other forms of media. “Memory wars” occur worldwide, especially in the Post-Soviet states and in the Western countries. They stir up arguments and emotions. They abound with controversial judgments, including provocative assertions about the true causes of the wars, their aftermath, and the contribution of the Allies. These judgments are based on competing memories and myths, on different sources of information, various scientific conceptions and cultural traditions. Thus, “the Second World War is still being fought” ( Krzeminski, 2005, p. 1).
WWII and the GP war as its Eastern front remain in the focus of attention in a range of disciplines across social and humanitarian sciences: history, sociology, political science, discourse studies ( Bernat, Chernysheva, Shatrovich, & Raevskaya, 2019; Chernysheva, Bernat, Raevskaya, & Shatrovich, 2019; Gubaydullina, 2019; Lightbody, 2004; Mawdsley, 2009; Mollin, 2018; Morgan, 2008; Solopova, 2019; Solopova & Saltykova, 2018, 2019; Solopova & Chudinov, 2018; Stout, 2011). The focus of the studies is the global nature of WWII; political, economic and social reasons of different countries for engaging in the war; the causes and effects of WWII; the language used to shape the images of the war and the images of the countries engaged in it, the reasons to use this language, etc. Thus, much of the current literature on WWII pays particular attention to its lasting impact on the countries around the world and the notable changes and trends brought about by the war. It was an event that affected the very fibers of societies all over the world.
The precise issue the present research addresses is the way British media of the GP war period modeled the images of the home front in the Ural region. To get a full understanding of the war, one has to learn not only about the major battles and key figures of the war, but also about the way the war impacted society. The home front was the region where the civilian population responded to the changes and challenges brought about by their nation at war. As the war impacted the whole society, life and hard work on the home front constituted an important component of the whole war effort. It was one of the most crucial issues with a considerable impact on the outcome of the war.
Hitler’s attack on the Soviet Union and the speed of the initial advance of the Axis powers brought about drastic changes within Soviet society. Many important military factories had to be evacuated to distant areas that offered both safety to their inhabitants due to their isolated location and a mass quantity of resources to Soviet industries. One of these areas was the Ural region that became an especially important industrial center during the GP war. It housed steel and heavy iron plants, chemical and agriculture factories. Though suffering unimaginable deprivations, those who worked behind the front lines produced all that was needed for the war effort.
The source of the material used for analyzing the image of the Ural region in the research is one of European discourses, namely, British media discourse. There are two extradiscursive reasons for the choice of the discourse; they refer both to (1) the past (the war) and to (2) the present (the modern world).
In 1941–1945 Great Britain and the Soviet Union had a common enemy and became allies in the fight against Nazism. Anglo-Soviet Treaty (signed in 1942) established a military and political alliance between the two countries during WWII, and for twenty years after it.
In 2015 a survey conducted by ICM Research, Populus, IFop for Sputnik revealed that 24 percent of EU citizens polled were unable to say who had played a leading role in shaping the course of WWII. Only 13 percent of respondents said they believed the Soviet Union shaped the outcome of the war. (The survey interviewed 3,036 EU adults, including 1,045 British adults) ( Russia to Challenge At…, 2015).
The research quesions that the present study seeks to answer are ‘how often did British media of 1941–1945 depict the events in the Ural region?’, ‘what images of the home front in the Urals were dominant in British media discourse of the period?’; ‘did the alliance of the two countries in the war against Nazism influence the perception of the Soviet home front in British media discourse?’ (The years of WWII were deliberately narrowed to the years of the GP war when Great Britain and the Soviet Union were the Allies that promoted the alliance to control the Axis powers and their aggression.)
Purpose of the Study
The present paper is a piece of a larger project on the image of the Ural region in Soviet and European military media discourses of the GP war period. The purpose of the present study was to show the way British media of the GP war period modeled the image of the home front in the Urals and to single out core the components of the image.
The sample was collected from British media discourse using the methods of corpus linguistics. After being retrieved from the corpus the data analysis required the use of textual analysis techniques, componential analysis, contextual analysis, conceptual metaphor analysis, and discourse analysis.
The research data were drawn from the British Newspaper Archive ( 2020). The British Newspaper Archive is based on the physical archive of the British Library whose newspaper collections are the richest in the world as they contain most of the runs of newspapers published in Great Britain since 1800. The British Newspaper Archive is a commercial online collection of more than three million pages of newspaper content that can be effectively used in discourse studies ( Solopova, 2019; Solopova & Chudinov, 2018; Solopova & Saltykova, 2019; Vaguina, 2019; Vaguina & Solopova, 2019).
The search engine combines several powerful options: one may search the corpus using keyword(s), title, article type, specific date, region, etc. In the study the search terms included “Ural / Urals” in the ‘Exact Search’ checkbox, which excluded any related word variants from the search results. Other options that helped to refine the search and narrowed the selection included the publication date range (from 21 June 1941 to 09 May 1945), with ‘articles’ and ‘illustrated articles’ chosen among article types and with ‘results’ sorted by relevance.
The corpus of texts containing the search terms comprised 5413 documents (Figure
All documents matching the search query were shown in the results panel (Figure
The qualitative analysis in this paper centers around the key elements of the image of the Urals modeled in British media discourse in the years of the GP war. They are the following:
Arms supply of the Urals is collosal ( Derby Daily Telegraph, 27 October 1941, p. 3). A great effort is being made to convert the Urals and Siberia into an arsenal ( Birmingham Daily Post, 27 September 1941, p. 5). The miracle of the Urals. The present successes of the Red Army would have been impossible without the ceaseless flow of armaments from the industrial centres of the Urals and Siberia ( Birmingham Daily Post, 05 January 1943, p. 3). The Urals – the mountainous region in the extreme east of European Russia – has now become Russia’s defence arsenal ( Belfast Telegraph, 29 August 1941, p. 5).
The Ural power resources are now undergoing development for which the industrial history of the world has no parallel ( Liverpool Daily Post, 17 October 1941, p. 4). Urals Output Tripled. An industrial revolution, prompted by the war, has more than tripled production in the Urals, and made that region the largest centre of industry in the Soviet Union ( Belfast News-Letter, 23 November 1943, p. 3). Russia’s riches. Industrial Strength in Urals ( Falkirk Herald, 24 September 1941, p. 7).
Another key component of the Urals’ image, which was closely connected with the previous ones, was
Urals. A German Objective. The Urals are now being mentioned in Berlin German objective, according to reports from Berlin correspondents of Swedish newspapers. The Germans realise that the Soviet may conceal great surprises in this industrial area ( Liverpool Daily Post, 23 October 1941, p. 5). Berlin predicts drive for Ural industries. Berlin put out yesterday, through Swedish newspaper correspondents, hints that the Urals will be a future German objective ( Dundee Courier, 23 October 1941, p. 3).
On the whole, in British media discourse of the GP war period the Urals’ dominant image may be seen as that of the rigion that occupied a special place in the gigantic arsenal of the USSR and, in fact, of the entire anti-Fascist world coalition. The mountains, stretching parallel with the front but separated from it by 900 miles, formed a powerful line of economic defence, a line of tremendously rich deposits, mines, factories, plants and industries that were raised to their position of world importance. The Urals’ strength became especially emphasized and pronounced in view of rapid industrialization of the country.
Images of any state are self-centred, based upon the interests, priorities, objectives, intentions, prospects of those international actors whose discourse is analyzed. The major ‘dimensions’ of such images are those of hostility and friendliness, and of strength and weakness. These ‘dimensions’ are emphasized and even sharpened in media discourse about war because of black-and-white thinking that underlies this discourse type. In the war the USSR and Great Britain unified to defeat one common enemy and strove to achieve the common goal together. The understanding of the crucial role of the Soviet army in the war had an enormous impact on British perceptions of the USSR in general and of the Urals as its part in particular: the war effort on the Urals home front was a total effort, which made the region one of the deciding factors in forging victory in the war.
The study was funded by RFBR, research project № 19-012-00192.
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VolumeEpSBS / Volume 86 - WUT 2020