Re-adjusting to life after war: the demobilization of Red Army veterans in Leningrad and the Leningrad region 1944-1950
This dissertation explores the demobilization of veterans of the Great Patriotic War in Leningrad and the surrounding countryside between 1944 and 1950. This was a period of immense social and economic change, as late Stalinist society struggled with the aftermath of total war. Demobilization is examined here as the processes by which veterans returned home and readapted to peace. Throughout the twentieth century European and North American societies have faced difficulties reabsorbing veterans. In contrast Soviet propaganda heralded demobilisation as a success. Veterans were presented as exemplary citizens and beneficiaries of state support and upwards social mobility. Based on archival research, published sources and oral history interviews, this thesis peels back the multiple layers of propaganda woven around demobilization to reveal a compelling tale of war‟s aftermath. It examines how veterans readjusted to a civilian life after exposure to mass death and extreme violence, and the challenges faced in returning to a society devastated and traumatized by war. Veterans expected certain privileges in exchange for wartime service. Entitlement, however, rarely manifested itself in practical advantage. Veterans were not protected from the post-war scramble for jobs and housing. The failure to meet post-war expectations generated enormous resentment. State assistance could never adequately reward veterans. The physical costs and psychological trauma created by industrialized warfare were routinely ignored. Disabled veterans were particularly angered by inadequate state support. Many were marginalized by a society unable to provide adequate support. Not all veterans made the transition to mainstream civilian life; a minority became involved in crime. Violent criminality was not the result of brutalization, but rather the product of trauma and poverty. Although the state was unconcerned by ex-servicemen‟s criminality, it feared that veterans were a source of anti-Soviet opposition. War transformed veterans‟ mentalities, yet the majority of veterans were not interested in formal politics. .
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