9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS07 Memory, Culture and Public Discourse

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Displacement, Diaspora, and Cultural Disjuncture Building I, 1E6

Negotiated memory of Second World War in the border city of Narva

In light of the Tallinn events in April of 2007 known as the Bronze Night, transformation of the commemorative landscape in the city of Narva, the border city in Estonia with predominantly non-Estonian population, is of particular interest. The Second World War when the city was destroyed and its population relocated marked a great rupture of Narva's timespace and signaled a construction of the new, Soviet Narva which for the next few decades developed as an industrial centre of proletarian internationalism and a home for in-migrating workers from all over the Soviet Union. The heroism of Soviet soldiers-liberators of Narva was fixed in place in a dense network of cemeteries and commemorative sites and transmitted through a set of commemorative events, and became one of the central grounds of Narvan local identity and pride.

In 1991 Estonia's regaining of independence launched a new era of place and identity transformations for Narva's inhabitants. In the course of state nationalizing policies non-Estonians living in Narva were excluded from citizenship and redefined as exterior to the Estonian nation-state, while the town itself became an object of renarration works aimed at the desovietization of Narva and creation of a new public narrative of Narva as an Estonian and European town. In the process of renarration, Narva's memoryscape has become one of the main grounds for contestation.

In this paper I explore the politics of memory in Narva with the emphasis on the analysis of transformation of the commemorative landscape of WW II. More specifically, I investigate the way that liberation and occupation narratives have been deployed and negotiated in Narva, the role of states, local elites and local publics in these negotiations, and the impact of these narratives on how place and identity are practiced in this setting. The study is based on several years of fieldwork in Narva.