Abstract. In the article, the author examines the phenomenon of hero cities in the Soviet Union which appeared in 1941–1945 as a concept of promotion of wartime and then turned into one of the most significant institutes of the state policy of memory about the Great Patriotic War. Based on the archival and published documents, data of the Soviet press and ego-sources the author characterizes genesis and development of the unity of the Soviet hero cities which are always not only geographical but also symbolical objects. Besides discourse and legal legitimation of a concept “hero city” special attention is paid to the description of sacralization of hero cities’ space and also ritual mechanisms of producing their symbolical unity. As a conclusion insufficiently clear criteria of conditions for obtaining this status and the policy of expansion of the number of hero cities in the 1960–1980s, this process promoted increasing heterogeneity of this symbolical community which participants differed considerably in the political, administrative, social and economic opportunities and also specifics of mental images on the Soviet “memory map”. As the result, the symbolical unity of hero cities gradually turned into a hierarchical pantheon heading by Moscow, and nonpublic discussion of the subject of "unworthy" and "unrecognized" hero cities led to separate critical manifestations concerning this memorial institute.
Keywords: historical policy, memorial culture, “place of memory”, collective memory, Hero City, Great Patriotic War, USSR.