Noukogude aeg elulugudes – ‘katkestus’ või ‘jarjepidevus’
THE SOVIET PERIOD IN LIFE NARRATIVES: ‘RUPTURE’ OR ‘CONTINUITY’
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The article springs from the discussion on the depiction of Estonian history in autobiographical writing, in which researchers have pointed out either the cultural continuity or cultural rupture. The author deals with ‘rupture’ and ‘continuity’ as interrelated, mutually conditioning phenomena, asking how this relation is disclosed in life writing. For research the author selected autobiographies narrated in the period from 1989 to 1998 from the life writing collection of the Estonian Cultural History Archives. The 18 analysed stories depict life in Stalinist prison camps. It is assumed that in the life narratives that are concerned with prison experiences, the cultural, everyday and political disruptions are particularly clearly outlined. The thematic analysis of the stories reveals that narrators concentrate on prison experiences related to food, work and death. The axis supporting the narratives comes to the fore through linguistic images: the narrators, former prisoners of the Stalinist camps, perceive themselves as being outside the borders of civilisation, deprived of human treatment. It is significant that the stories do not present much information about the development of the authors’ relationships with their families after the prison camp. How the prison camp period influenced later personal lives was told by only one of the authors of the studied narratives. The stories were narrated at the end of the Soviet period (during Perestroika), or in Estonia after the restitution of independence. By that time, approximately 40 years had passed since the events, and aspects of personal life had been solved and discussed. On the public level, an open discussion on these topics started namely at the end of the 1980s. Then, at the end of the Soviet period, also the rehabilitation of the repressed people started, opening a dialogue between the individual and the state institutions on the topic of repression. The studied life stories also belong to this period: it was the period when my story became our nation’s story. Ruptures in these stories are primarily associated with political upheavals, which also broke the expected sequence of personal life events. Yet, at the same time, the rupture did not interrupt the historical or cultural process, but rather, by describing self-image and situations, brought out the aspect more meaningfully. As a result of the analysis of the texts, the author came to the conclusion that in these stories the topic of humanity rather than the problem of political and cultural rupture and continuity is in the foreground.
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