Zoya Kosmodemianskaya between Sacrifice and Extermination

Autumn/Winter 2016
DOI: 10.3898/NEWF:89/90.03.2016

The article considers the posthumous representation of an eighteen year-old Soviet partisan, captured and executed by German forces during the Battle of Moscow in 1941. As the first woman honoured with the Hero of the Soviet Union award during the war, Kosmodemianskaya’s story and image were deployed across the country as mobilisational propaganda, and she subsequently became a central figure in the pantheon of Soviet heroes, enduring in public consciousness to this day. My analysis focuses on moments of ambivalence in textual and visual representations of Kosmodemianskaya, specifically regarding the dialectic of gender and attitudes to the exterminatory violence of the war. I draw on psychoanalytical and anthropological models in my readings.

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New Formations 89/90: Death and the Contemporary