Aliya Safina

Born 1987 in Kalininabad, Tajikistan
Student (Biochemistry; Kazan State University)

"Confrontations with yesterday and today: German and Japanese prisoners of war as seen by the people of Jelabuga" (2005)

What was the price of victory for the Soviet Army in World War II - or how humane can prisoner of war camps be? Aliya Safina asked these questions in her competition project, and focused on German and Japanese prisoners of war in the Jelabuga POW camp. The Russian student undertakes to illuminate a largely unexplored chapter of the history of her hometown, Jelabuga, a town with a population of 69,000 in the Russian federal republic of Tatarstan. In so doing, Aliya Safina runs into the challenge of finding reliable archival material in a post-communist country, in order to be able to examine an historical themes from all sides and not just accept the perspective of former Soviet propaganda: "The fate of prisoners of war was not a topic for historical research in Soviet times. Documents and information were secret, inaccessible to scientists. Some were made available in the 1990s, but that can't reveal all points of view."

Using memoirs and letters written by German prisoners of war and by residents of the city of Jelabuga who encountered the prisoners as doctors or translators, Aliya Safina tried to reconstruct living conditions in the camp, including provision of food and clothing, medical care and cultural life. With her project for the competition, this 20-year-old student provides an important contribution to Russian historiography in the post-communist era, by rejecting the earlier one-sided anti-fascist propaganda. Beyond reconstructing historical facts, Aliya Safina wanted to show "that no international conflict should be resolved using the tools of war."

Aliya won third prize for her competition entry in the Russian History Competition of 2005: "Russia in the 20th century - the price of victory."

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