This book brings together life stories from five generations of Balts, living through the diverse and recurring transformations of the twentieth century: occupations, war, independence, totalitarianism, and democratic rule and market economy. The twentieth century history of the Baltic countries has often been deeply tragic. Lying on the coastline of the Baltic Sea, these rather small but strategically well located territories have historically found themselves in the middle of many power struggles between larger states, empires and other power-holders: the Teutonic Knights, Swedish kings, Tsarist Russia, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union. Today, they are once again forced to stand up to the Russian Federation.
Biographical interviewing is a field focused on individuals, and on how those individuals choose to re-create and present their lived lives, make meaning of it through the narratives they tell. To interpret the biographical narrations of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians, shaped by complex and controversial historical background, the authors use Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of social and cultural capitals, the principles of Erving Goffman’s framing analysis and Alessandro Portelli’s distinction of private and public spheres, Anton Steen’s investigations of post-Socialist elites and Piotr Sztompka’s theory of cultural trauma, etc. Given analyses of particular biographical narrations are supplemented by brief historical and sociological overviews, which allow the reader to better understand the contexts of lived lives, and the mental atmosphere in which the interviews were conducted.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: on living through the Twentieth century in the Baltic States by Aili Aarelaid-Tart and Li Bennich-Björkman 2. Locating memory within history: Baltic lives in their context by Vieda Skultans 3. Everyday life, power and agency in Soviet Latvia by Baiba Bela 4. Before we return home: the collective strategies of Latvian World War II refugees adapting to Swedish Society by Maija Runcis 5. Working through mature Socialism: private and public in the Estonians' meaning-making of the Soviet past by Kirsti Jõesalu & Ene Kõresaar 6. Tell me Your story – Russians in Independent Estonia by Aili Aarelaid-Tart 7. Discussing ethnic identities with Russian-speakers in rural Estonia and Latvia by Laura Assmuth 8. Exit from communism: career decisions of the Lithuanian young Communist functionaries by Vaida Obelenė 9. Catching up with the West? An insider’s perspective from Lithuania by Herwig Reiter 10. Mobilizing capitals during transitions – the stories of Toomas and Nikolai by Raili Nugin and Aida Hachatyrian 11. Basic human values’ dynamics and biographical findings by Indrek Tart
Aili Aarelaid-Tart is Research Professor and head of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, Tallinn University, Estonia.
Li Bennich-Björkman is Skytte Professor of Political Science and Eloquence at Uppsala University, Sweden.