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2014 | 56 | 127-154

Article title

Ule piiride liikuvad pered: lood mobiilsusest ja paigal pusimisest

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In the research into migration, push and pull factors have for a long time been in the foreground, in addition to integration and the acculturation of mobile people settling in receiving countries. The starting point for integration-centred research has been the fact that the new country of residence is, or should be, also a new home country for the migrants. In this context, the transnational networks of migrants have not received enough attention, multi-locality being regarded rather as an exception. However, during the last two decades researchers have started to stress the parallel relations that people have to two or more states, meaning that it is possible even to talk about a transnational turn in the interdisciplinary field of migration studies. Drawing on fieldwork material, this article explores the experiences of multi-local families, whose members live some or most of the time separated from each other, in the transnational social space in an Estonian–Finnish–northwest-Russian context. The main research material consists of forty interviews the author has made between the years 2001 and 2004. Interviewees are former Soviet immigrants living in Finland, on the one hand, and their family members living in the country of origin (Russian Karelia and Estonia), on the other. By using narrative research methods, the author explores narratives of migration and border crossing – the possibilities and difficulties related to going beyond them. The aim has been to study transnational family life and narrating mobility from the perspective of different family members, taking into account the experiences of relatives who stay behind as well as those of children, in addition to adult migrants. The author is especially interested in the changes in family (life) caused by migration and the role of family storytelling in coping with these challenges. Mobility is narrated differently depending on the situation and the position of the narrator. Even during the same interview the motivations for relocation are described in different ways, picturing both a spontaneous move and carefully thought out decision. Different aspects are stressed in the migration stories told by adult family members as compared to those of children, unexpectedness of migration being more important in the narratives of the younger generation. Family members staying in the country of origin are more willing to talk about the negative sides of transnational family life, as well as about the problems encountered when keeping in touch with relocated family members. When narrating migration and transnational family life, people have to take into consideration the standpoints, expectations and possible disapproval of their relatives, acquaintances and members of surrounding societies. People rarely talk about unsuccessful migration or about the negative sides of family life, although these aspects can also be moulded into a positive key narrative that helps a person continue with his/her life. With the help of stories, it can also be easier to put into words feelings and attitudes that would otherwise be difficult to express. Sometimes feelings are also described through the experiences of other family members, for example children. The migration stories told during the interviews concentrate on relocations that took place in the recent past. When talking about the forced relocations or other hardships in the family history, the stress is on survival, on coping with problems. The stories about the persistence and courage of previous generations can also help people to cope with the present-day difficulties. Interviewees are generally aware of the historical relocations of their family members, although forced migration has not always been openly talked about even in the family circle. Along with experiences, fears related to them are often passed to younger generations. Interviewees have, for example, mentioned their fears related to the possible closing of borders. A number of stories also describe people’s first visits to Finland, reflecting the dynamics between their ‘own’ and the ‘foreign’ worlds. When family members move to other countries, they can become foreigners in the eyes of the relatives who remain. This can be fostered by the problems related to keeping in touch, which have been touched upon especially by older family members who stay in the country of origin. Keeping up a cohesive family feeling across national borders brings its own challenges, with which transnational families must deal.



  • University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18, 50090 Tartu, ESTONIA


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