2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the Revolutions of 1917 which permanently changed the face of Russia, and the 80th anniversary of the Great Terror (1937–38), a period of mass repressions. These 80–100 years constitute a floating gap, a period during which communicative memory is transformed into cultural memory based on certain memory carriers such as texts, monuments and museums. These anniversaries encourage reflection about how the Revolutions of 1917 and the Great Terror are commemorated in Russia. The problem is even more interesting because the memory of both of these events has undergone radical change in the last thirty years.
We are interested in the anniversary celebrations organized by the Russian Orthodox Church, which has been developing the New Russian Martyrdom discourse since late 1980s. In 2000, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized around 2000 victims of Soviet repressions – people persecuted and murdered by the Soviet regime – who have come to be known as the New Russian Martyrs. Since 2007, when Russian president Vladimir Putin appeared at the Church of the New Russian Martyrs and Confessors in Butovo to commemorate the victims of repressions, the New Russian Martyrdom discourse has been receiving noticeable support from the state. One of the objectives of the project is therefore to show what kind of transformations of meaning take place in the religious New Martyrdom discourse, turning it into a guideline for the official, state-endorsed interpretation of the past. A wider objective is to establish to what extent the New Russian Martyrdom is an element of wider ideological changes taking place in Russia.