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In my story, there is a nation(lets say it's NA) that invades another nation(NB). This war is unsuccessful, however shortly afterwards NB ceases to exist. NA also avoids that region of space in general(It was more worthwhile to colonize other areas, and later it became a no-go zone for diplomatic reasons). What could possibly make the general populace of NA forget about the war? It was a major war. The leadership or such may still have their own records, but the general populace does not. It must be specifically that almost no one credible knows(people who are not credible are fine, it would likely be dismissed), it is not sufficient for it not to be common knowledge. The state is not quite a total dictatorship, but its leaders exert significantly more control than is typical(They would prefer to make the war go away). There was not some kind of cataclysm. It is a pretty large timescale, on the order of a few thousand years. These are aliens, so some things that might not work with human society may get a pass, but within reason. What could make something like a major war just not be known by the general populace?

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    $\begingroup$ "a few thousand years" isn't that enough by itself? that's more than enough time to go from "barely in the iron age" to "nuclear rocketry and space-based industry". A technological civilization seems like it would also change drastically over that timescale... there's a whole lot of history and even if the event were documented very thoroughly and cared about at the time, thousands of years of stuff have happened since and it was simply buried by the sheer amount of history piled on top of it. Only the academics would know and care. $\endgroup$ May 13 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime the academics might care, but even they might not know. If you count the Catholic Church as a continuation of the Roman Empire, we have a 2530-year-old nation on Earth right now, and per wikipedia "There does not exist, however, any concrete evidence for or against [the story of how the Kings of Rome were overthrown and the Republic was founded in 503BC]. Various scholars have dismissed aspects of the traditional story, from the historicity of almost all of its major characters to the overthrow's entire existence." $\endgroup$
    – g s
    May 13 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ "Officially the change of partners had never happened. Oceania was at war with Eurasia: therefore Oceania had always been at war with Eurasia." -- George Orwell, 1984 $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    May 13 at 17:07
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    $\begingroup$ Quick, name a war that happened 3000 years ago. $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    May 13 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Bubbles I would argue against the less loss, the nice thing about stone and clay tablets is they last forever since they are chemically stable. most of our storage media won;t last a hundred years. we have already most early movies and early digital media. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 13 at 23:49

19 Answers 19

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Do you remember that time Alexander the Great lost 30,000 men fighting monsters?

It must be specifically that almost no one credible knows(people who are not credible are fine, it would likely be dismissed), it is not sufficient for it not to be common knowledge.

Thousands of years is long enough for History to fade into Legend. For example, Alexander the Great's army was said to have once faced off against an army of fantastical beasts including manticores, unicorns, and dragons... sure, it's there in the written record for all to see, but very few people know about it, and nowadays no one of sound mind actually believes it.

Our history is full of legends of historical events that probably did not happen... but sometimes these legends turn out to be based in truth. For example, Jericho, Troy, Rungholt, Sodom, and Gomorrah were all believed to be fictional cities destroyed in fantastical ways until thier actual ruins were found. Inversely, some of history's largest and most famous wars like Boudica's rebellion are widely believed to be true, even though we have no archeological record of them. And now, many archaeologist are beginning to question if Boudica was even a real person or just a continuation of the Femme Fatale archetype as seen in Greco-Roman fiction.

Because NB's territory is in a no-go zone, it means that NA has no archeological record of NB. Since NA pushed NB out of the conflict zone, never to return, there are no ruins to study and no battlefields to examine. Modern digital records are also far less stable and verifiable than clay tablets or linen paper. So even if a 2000 year old digital document has been replicated from cloud server to cloud server and somehow miraculously never been deleted, it is impossible to verify since its timestamp and details could have been altered at any time. So, even if stories of the great war with the NB are remembered, they may not be remembered as a historical fact, but as a legend.

The best way to ensure that NB becomes a legend is to give them something that is very rarely seen in nature to make them sound like a mythological beast. Maybe they communicated by telepathy, or they were invisible, or thier ships were capable of instantaneous travel, or the historian(s) who recorded it simply attributed divine intervention to otherwise perfectly explainable, but improbable events... as long as there is something about them that you can apply Clark's Third Law to, records alone without physical evidence to study will make all reasonable people doubt that the war really happened.

While we think of Historical Legends as being a thing that only uneducated, primitive civilizations would mix up, they can still work well in SciFi as long as the thing seems magical or unexplainable to the people recording it. One of my favorite examples of this in SciFi is the Nietzschean Legend of the Angel of Death from Andromeda.

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    $\begingroup$ This is a little nitpicky, but Troy isn't an example of this. No historian ever considered Troy to be purely fictional. It was widely known in the field to have been a real city abandoned around 1300 CE, and most people outside academia simply didn't care about it either way before the late 19th century. There were tons of contemporary references that survived, plenty of artifacts, etc. Then Schliemann set off a bunch of dynamite at the site of Troy, "discovered" it, and when the contemporary media went with "he discovered Troy!" stories, he didn't bother to correct them. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    May 15 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ There's a fascinating article about all that here: kiwihellenist.blogspot.com/2020/06/truth-in-myth.html $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    May 15 at 18:35
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    $\begingroup$ @Idran Yes and No... While some historians agreed that Troy may have been a reference to a specific set of ruins, the Enlightenment changed most educated peoples' worldviews to specifically reject legends as false. Under enlightenment and post-enlightenment philosophes, many people read the Iliad, but they classified the whole thing as fiction because of its fantastical elements, and because they never heard of an actual city called Troy in any other context, so even though Troy was not purely "lost" it was not a commonly accepted true place either. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    May 16 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ Schliemann and his contemporaries faced a lot of public criticism trying to prove that Troy was real regardless of how much evidence there was to the contrary. The idea that most legendary places actually existed did not again become a popular view until the late 20th century after many of these ruins started to become common knowledge to contest the strict legends are not real mentality that dominated for over 200 years. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    May 16 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ The Hittites, too, had been forgotten everywhere except the Old Testament. Thus, since there were no obvious -- or not so obvious -- Hittite relics, cities, etc anymore, "critical scholars" from about 1880 to 1980 used it as just more proof that the Bible was made up from whole cloth. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    May 16 at 18:39
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Time and a little help

A few thousand years is a looong time. There are still a lot of people that lived through/in the second world war. Does it really live in the consciousness of people? We need constant reminders that it was a bad time. Events to remember the hardship and what we fought for. The result? It isn't exactly apathy, but we're more concerned with rising gas prices and the newest phones. Something that has slain millions, leveled cities, brought out the worst and best of men on both sides and caused economies to grind to a halt (ok there is war economy, but my opinion is that it isn't sustainable and thus useless). Now relegated to the same importance of a war a thousand years ago. We have neonazi's again, war deniers, and people who simply don't care in spades. All that in just a few decades. Now imagine that over yhe time scale over a few thousand of years.

Of course leaving the disappearance to chance woupd still be ridiculous. With the advent of the internet, together with something as simple as paper, the knowledge has a great persistence. But a government can help with that. The curriculum of history at schools is changed often, putting emphasis on one thing and losing it on others. This is a great starting point, where you focus more on other events. The formation of the country for example. The great war becomes a footnote, and then nothing at all.

Anything related to the war can be confiscated as things that belong in musea and the like. Do you know how much musea have and how little there is displayed? Even people in the field know that some things are only stored and never displayed. From there you can quietly 'misplace' items, making any physical evidence of the war smaller and smaller.

Especially at the start some people will demand more attention to the great war of that time. These people can be persuaded, removed or better yet, ignored. It is not that at the start you don't erect monuments, create musea and teach it at school. It is that over time you spent less and less on it.

There is always the internet, which can be a thorn in your side. Unlessbyou can discredit all the sources and people over time. That alienpedia article about the war? Highly contested. No more real evidence. Controversial. Better to be removed. An influencer you have no control over has a site? Block it, or simply wait until the fad with history blows over and then quietly remove it. Anything on the internet can disappear into obscurity in the sheer amount of information as well.

In the end you just need to slowly, quietly remove it from history, as if it never happened. What are they going to do? Go back in time to remember something from a thousand years ago?

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    $\begingroup$ All of this. I even struggle with "the general populace of NA". Does "Nation A" meaningfully exist as a consistent entity across a few thousand years? 1000 years after Julius Caesar, there were two "Roman Empires", neither of which included Rome or spoke Latin. 1000 years after that Mussolini's attempt to restore/reclaim the Roman empire had... ended poorly. You can find governments and populations willing to claim continuity over millennia (eg China), but it tends to be a pretty loose and abstract claim when we dive into the details. $\endgroup$
    – Jay McEh
    May 14 at 16:56
  • $\begingroup$ If I could accept to answers, I would accept this as well, but I can't :(. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbles
    May 14 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Bubbles though accepting the answer is nice, I post answers to help. If it helped, the goal is met. Further points are not valuable to me. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    May 16 at 11:38
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Just time can do a lot, especially depending on quality of education. How many people do you think know every major war earth has had just in the last five hundred years? How many people in the united states, if questioned, could tell you about the war of 1812, a fairly major event at the time which even saw the capital burned. Hope this was helpful!

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    $\begingroup$ Indeed, the average people, especially those born in the 21st century, only know about the World Wars because they are so prevalent in the media, there are so many movies made about them, and it is discussed so often. Pick any big but less interesting war, it does not even have to be all too much further back in time, and only those who are interested in history will know about it, the general populace won't, unless there is a very famous movie about it. Go back even further and only professional historians will know about it, the rest won't, because they don't take the time to read up on it. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    May 14 at 4:20
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    $\begingroup$ Until I moved to Canada I thought the US had won the War of 1812. $\endgroup$
    – arp
    May 14 at 22:20
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    $\begingroup$ Googling something still requires a prompt. Only nerds will just, for no apparent reason, google "every war (insert nation here) fought in." No insult to nerds, I consider myself one, but most people don't do such things. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ @Bubbles : You can, but most won't. $\endgroup$
    – vsz
    May 15 at 4:10
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    $\begingroup$ @arp Ehhh...honestly neither side really lost the War of 1812 anyway, they both got what they wanted. The US stopped having their citizens impressed by the British Navy and got the UK to stop supporting Tecumseh's confederacy, the UK got the US to stop trying to annex Canada. Washington was burned and looted, yeah, but that was a response to the US burning and looting Toronto (then York) a year earlier, and the Battle of New Orleans was a huge success for the US. The only real losers were the Native Americans; loss of British support was a huge blow to their stand against US expansionism. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    May 16 at 13:54
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All the other answers are great are you're going to see a bit of them in my answer, but I'd like to share how I personally, in real life, not living under a totalitarian dictatorship (in France, actually), was largely unaware of a war my country lost less than 100 years ago.

During the colonization age of Europe, France colonized (among many other countries) Algeria. To keep details light (and because i'm very much not qualified to talk about them), in the aftermath of WWII, Algerians went to war against France to ultimately gain independance, sucessfully.

This is a shameful part of french history, due to the explicit racism of colonies, and the countless war crimes French agents commited before and during the war, and possibly also because France lost. Due to this, the French history curiculum does not inform students effectively about the history of the war, simply that it happened, despite the war leading directly to the creation of the Vth republic.

Most of my eductation on the subject when I was in school was through the more artistic subjects (for exemple, we did study some texts, poems, about the Algerian war in French class), and later through simply informing myself on the subject on the internet.

So to answer the question in a more direct way:

If your government controls the school curiculum, which surely they do, children coming out of school would not know much about the war less than 100 years after it happened, and if they control the public record, then it only would take a few generations for everyone to completely forget that it happened.

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    $\begingroup$ Ask Americans about whether or not in the 20th century we invaded mainland Russia on two separate fronts with over 10,000 troops and fought the Red Army in an effort to overthrow the communist government. Most will say it's wacky fiction, and yet... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Expeditionary_Force,_Siberia $\endgroup$
    – Jay McEh
    May 14 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ I've heard that even the Korean War was becoming a "forgotten war" just 30 years or so afterwards, until the MASH TV series reminded the general public of it. (I can't speak myself as to the accuracy of that claim, though.) $\endgroup$ May 14 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ in 1988, Algeran war was still teached and part of the Baccalaureat (end of high school exam). My teacher had us make a discussion with the son of an algerian immigrant speaking for France, and the son of a Pied Noir (French that had to leave Algeria) speaking for the Algerian rebels... But you're right, : my childs had only a few day on all the decolonisation $\endgroup$ yesterday
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Control of history and propaganda can make a population not remember a lot of things in a short time. Just look at how some people are trying to make the Jan. 6 events into a peaceful exercise. In Texas, most people don't know about attempts to "ethnically cleanse" Hispanic people from south Texas or other times of violence.

So, don't include it in history books. Have an alternative story to tell about that time and the human costs. Don't talk about it on public news or commentary. Anyone who publishes about it gets a visit from the authorities and the publications are withdrawn. Soon, only oral histories are left. Those can be dealt with by having the people who remember move to new locations. It can take one or two generations.

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    $\begingroup$ for real. Go ask a young person in China about Tiananmen $\endgroup$
    – Mike M
    May 14 at 0:57
  • $\begingroup$ NA bombed NJ with two nuclear bombs $\endgroup$ May 14 at 5:21
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Legal annihilation

Sometimes society officially decides to blot somebody out of history, typically as a punishment for very bad crimes. There's a Latin phrase for it, "damnatio memoriae," which means "condemnation of memory." According to that Wiki article, different cultures have been doing some form of it since at least 3000 BC.

It can be as far-reaching as society chooses: they can just stop talking about you, but more commonly they destroy all references to you in official documents, destroy any statues there may be of you, and remove your name from buildings.

Yeah, "buildings and statues" maybe seems like a weird place to hit a guy, but bear in mind that this kind of punishment is not typically meted out to the crimes of everyday people. It's employed against people like enemy kings, or heretical monarchs who forced everybody to worship the wrong gods, or treasonous generals, or other examples I'm too lazy to crib from Wikipedia. For some of these people, damnatio memoriae was less a punishment and more a remedy, cast in the same mold as Son-of-Sam laws: confiscation of social capital.

NA collectively chose to forget about NB because NA was always jealous of NB, and the war was a selfish war of choice waged by NA against NB, trying to take the things it envied, and to humble NB a bit so NA won't feel so inferior. And to add insult to injury, NB had very little difficulty repelling NA's aggression, and was then pretty gracious about the whole thing. Petty bullies hate a good winner, so NA went into a good national sulk.

NA failed to humble NB, which is a big wound to the national ego. To heal the psychic breach, NA has got to find or invent a way to "take back" something from NB. NB is living rent-free in NA's head, and NA needs to take that power back.


Maybe at first it was just that the leader of NA started to avoid saying the name of NB's leader. The people read or hear this in their news, and before you know it, it has become the fashion to not say the names of NB's leader, or the country itself. By the next season, it's the fashion to invent euphemisms for the war period that avoid mentioning the actual war or who it was fought with: I didn't lose my uncle in the NB War, my uncle "succumbed to The Madness" i.e. of the war years, but this would usually be implied, it generally being considered improper to over-identify a subject.

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  • $\begingroup$ Sounds similar to what Christianity did(tried to do) to 'heretical faiths'. $\endgroup$
    – vinzzz001
    May 15 at 12:57
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Slowly change the events

A war produces an absolutely enormous amount of documents. There's so much evidence that it would be near impossible for a government without absolute control to cover it up.

However, they can change the perception of evidence. Long effort and careful editing of documents and erasure of evidence could slowly change the perception of events.

Over hundreds or thousands of years, they could shift it from "We invaded NB" to "NB imploded under a plague and invaded us." any survivors could be burdened with guilt over NB's evil actions and the chaos of their society that caused them to do terrible experiments with biotechnology.

And of course, any new archeological findings they get from that era could be carefully quarantined by the government in case some old plague leaks, allowing them to destroy any new evidence that breaks the story. National security and preventing bio terrorism is important.

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    $\begingroup$ The phrase "history is written by the victors" springs to mind here... $\endgroup$
    – Bladeski
    May 14 at 8:52
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Don't mention the war

If you just don't talk about it, the details will be unknown in a generation or two and the fact of the war will be largely forgotten in three or four generations. I'm not talking about deliberate censorship here (although that will make it happen faster), I'm just talking about a general forgetting. Some historians in some university know what happened, but the general population forgets.

For example, the USA has fought 108 wars since 1776 - how many can you name? Of those, how much detail do you know?

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This all depends on how stupid your almost-dictatorship is

There are people in western culture today who actually think the world is flat. There is a growing number of people who believe the moon landing was faked. And both of those exist without the help of a government trying to get people to believe that way.

There are people who ardently believe the 2020 U.S. presidential election was manipulated despite not one shred of credible evidence supporting it. People freaked out over the January 6, 2001 invasion of the U.S. Capitol building despite it having happened before with a successful bombing by far-left radicals in 1983.

Assuming we're talking about humanity, world history is replete with examples of people believing what they want to believe despite existing (or the lack) of evidence, documentation, and testimony.

There are still people who deny the Jewish Holocaust. Six million people whose histories stopped in the mid 1940s, testimony, documentation, evidence.... All you really need is a way to convince a couple of generations that they don't want to remember and they'll forget all by themselves.

  • I know you say a couple of thousand years, but to make a point, you need at least 75 years past the last surviving memory of the events so that there are no more living testimonies people can hold onto.

  • Paper documents are hard to hide, but our world today is shifting to digital documents. Your world is advanced enough to have interstellar combat (if I didn't misread your qeustion), so it's hard to believe paper documents exist at all. Digital documents are ridiculously easy to scrub from the population's notice.

  • But it's not enough to scrub the real documents. Your government needs to supplant those documents with evidence of a preferred history. Nothing really interesting happens during peacetime (said another way, the density of news is much, much lower), so it wouldn't be hard to begin substituting war documents with logistics documents, mining analyses... redated (or manufactured) scientific papers about the contents of the target area of space. "Normal" things that nobody would really care about.

  • If anybody digs too deeply into the actual history, bring pressure to bear. You have an almost-dictatorship. Do you have almost-disappearances? Convince enough of the media and academia to stop digging and history will just fade away.

  • Finally, your government adds a little effort to highlighting a period of warfare considered patriotic. Something the population can be proud of! A period that has a low incidence of scandal and shame such that it becomes the only thing the population does remember.

And then wait! You'll always have a few nutcases who claim the government is covering up something, but we still have UFO fanatics today despite no hard evidence at all that the government has covered up anything. In fact, if the government could be proven to have participated in the coverup, I'd start asking what they were trying to distract the population away from! Your nutcases would be perceived on the same level of today's UFO adherents — as completely ignorable nuts.

All due respect to those of you who ardently believe in UFOs. But if you're being honest, you'll agree with my basic portrayal in the context of my answer.

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  • $\begingroup$ What's funny is, I'm pretty sure I remember it coming out some point in the last few years that the CIA was actually ginning up the UFO movement and "leaking" fake info to them specifically because they made for a good distraction from the actual now-documented stealth plane test flights going on at Groom Lake. Made people reluctant to report any weird sightings in the area for fear that they'd get branded a UFO loonie. I know the USAF admitted back in 1994 that the Roswell crash "weather balloon" story was just cover for a Project Mogul crash. $\endgroup$
    – Idran
    May 16 at 14:04
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There are, unfortunately, many real-world examples of strong governments influencing the media to rewrite or even erase history as known or perceived by their citizens. We currently see this in Russia, where the invasion of Ukraine is being reported by Russian state-controlled media as an operation to liberate the suffering Ukrainian people from a fascist totalitarian state and establish democracy and the rule of law. Most of the rest of the world sees exactly the opposite, a fascist totalitarian state invading a sovereign democratic nation as part of a plan to establish itself as a world superpower.

Other examples, perhaps more germane to the OP, include Turkey. As of this writing, Turkey has never officially, publicly acknowledged that the Armenian Genocide ever happened, much less its role in that genocide. Quite the contrary, it pointedly censors any mention of the genocide in broadcast and print media, with the obvious goal of eventually being able to plausibly pretend, at least to its own citizens, that it never happened.

Your fictional nation, tightly controlled by a near-autocratic ruling party, would have little trouble, over a generation or two, of literally censoring any mention of the war out of the common knowledge. Any superminority who know the real truth can be trivially dismissed as your fictional culture's equivalent of tinfoil-hat conspiracy theorists, with any individual or small group who manages to accumulate enough of the remaining evidence in their possession making themselves a prime target to be "disappeared" by the government alongside all their physical evidence, keeping the narrative about the narrative as a ghost story told by eccentric extremists.

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Rising sea levels wiped out a lot of our early history.

A lot of early civilisation happened along the coast. Travel by boat was easy. Fish were an alternative food source. Rising sea levels removed all that. If you don't have visible ruins, then people don't think "Who lived here? What happened to them?" We have only recently started to look for evidence of settlements on Dogger Bank below the North Sea, or at the bottom of the Black Sea.

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Even at the time of a lost war it's easy for a government that exercises enough control to paper it over. Split up all the returning units and be sure to tell the survivors that they better toe the official line (whatever it may be). Okay, so casualties were actually 250k instead of the claimed 250, they are all spread out enough that everyone in the larger populace simply believes their family member was one of the unlucky 250. Make the loss due to some reason other than the soldiers (even better if you can blame a few dead generals for being traitors).

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This particular war is boring, and doesn't fit into any grand narratives, so mention of it in schoolbooks gets terser and terser and is finally omitted.

Treasure hunters keep dying looking for artifacts so publishers are convinced to stop including details in books. Eventually it's only included on maps as a backwards area of Nation C and not worth the trouble to invade.

At human lifescales, a thousand years is a long time to forget even important wars. Boring inconclusive ones will be gone from the history books much faster. (Quick! Who fought the Crimean war, and why?)

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Aliens are more community oriented.

Your aliens do not need to be wasp-like or bee-like, but they lean that way. The subject is not conductive to harmonious life, and that information is enough to induce the aliens to not talk about it and not communicate it to their children.

One notes that you are already hypothesizing this with your observations about the state. No country that existed a few thousand years ago would recognize the government and nation that exist on its current territory. If there is a recognizable state that lasted that long among your aliens, they must have much stronger social structures than humans.

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What could make something like a major war just not be known by the general populace?

Somebody nuked Google's server farm?

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    $\begingroup$ I like this answer in concept, but unfortunately, this would not actually work. Google only stores an index of how to find a vast array of human knowledge, not the knowledge itself. Even if Google ceased to exists, other search engines could still be used to find everything. Destroying knowledge would mean attacking the server farms belonging to AWS, Azure, GoDaddy, etc... but not even a nuke could cause a meaningful loss of human knowledge because most webhosts store thier data on CDNs, or atleast perform offsite backups that replicate data across multiple servers 1000s of km apart. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    May 15 at 19:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Are you familiar with The Library of Babel? $\endgroup$ May 15 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ @SimonCrase Still no, since all the data is backed up over so many servers in so many places that you would have to essentially destroy almost every server we have to properly erase the knowledge. Even if that happens, experts in that area will still have the info in their heads. $\endgroup$
    – Bubbles
    May 17 at 14:34
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It's not quite a major war, but something similar has in fact happened, in the USA, within living (non-)memory.

Remember the massive wave of domestic terrorism throughout the 1970s, when far-left extremists set off thousands and thousands of bombs everywhere from banks and restaurants to the Pentagon and the US Capitol building? Remember how they assassinated police officers left and right? Remember in the 50s, how they attempted to kill President Truman in broad daylight, and the botched attempt turned into the biggest gunfight in Secret Service history, and then soon after, they broke into a session of Congress and shot five Congressmen?

No?

Well, neither do a whole lot of people, and it's kind of astounding given the sheer scale of the terrorism campaign. How can we not know about this?!?

The answer to the question is, because the people whose job it was to inform us about stuff like this tended to be sympathetic to the terrorists' views, and so they largely kept quiet about things that would make their allies look bad. And today, most people aren't even aware that it happened.

It would not be at all difficult to take a situation like this and adapt it into your fictional world. And in fact, because most people are completely unaware of these events, you wouldn't even be accused of ripping your story from the pages of a history book.

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Make talking about it a political crime.

Most people who lived in the Soviet Union never told their children the information that could get them in trouble: about famines, repressions, noble ancestry, relatives convicted for political views, relatives abroad, and so on.

Sealed, access-controlled archives also help.

In two generations, it will be forgotten. Or, at least, never spoken of.

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I generally agree with most of the response about people just forgetting with time, though I would hasten to add that they don't necessarily get completely forgotten. They tend to get mythologized, and people forget all the original context for the event. The Trojan War is a good example of that. I'd go look at Blue from Overly Sarcastic Productions' video on the subject. Heck, even the Minoan history is a good example of that (from the same source).

So, one thing you could do is think up all the complex "real world" stuff that happened (political situation of the time, stuff shifting in the natural world, etc), build up to the consequences (good or ill) from those events, then have that be what people remember, and all the stuff that led to it turns into melodrama about gods, monsters, devils and kings.

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Assuming there are no living witnesses (presumably soldiers) alive in NA, you can confront NA with another nation NC (maybe without actual combat), and some suddenly revealed evidence can appear, that convinces everyone that the past war was against NC, not NB

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