Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia

An Anthropology of Forgetting, Repair and Urban Traces

Francisco Martinez


ISBN: 9781787353541

Publication: July 05, 2018

Series: Fringe

*** Winner: EASA Early Career Award 2018 ***

What happens to legacies that do not find any continuation? In Estonia, a new generation that does not remember the socialist era and is open to global influences has grown up. As a result, the impact of the Soviet memory in people’s conventional values is losing its effective power, opening new opportunities for repair and revaluation of the past.

Francisco Martinez brings together a number of sites of interest to explore the vanquishing of the Soviet legacy in Estonia: the railway bazaar in Tallinn where concepts such as ‘market’ and ‘employment’ take on distinctly different meanings from their Western use; Linnahall, a grandiose venue, whose Soviet heritage now poses diffi cult questions of how to present the building’s history; Tallinn’s cityscape, where the social, spatial and temporal co-evolution of the city can be viewed and debated; Narva, a city that marks the border between the Russian Federation, NATO and the European Union, and represents a place of continual negotiation of belonging; and the new Estonian National Museum in Raadi, an area on the outskirts of Tartu, that has been turned into a memory field.

The anthropological study of all these places shows that national identity and historical representations can be constructed in relation to waste and disrepair too, also demonstrating how we can understand generational change in a material sense.

Praise for Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia

'By adopting the tropes of ‘repair’ and ‘waste’, this book innovatively manages to link various material registers from architecture, intergenerational relations, affect and museums with ways of making the past present. Through a rigorous yet transdisciplinary method, Martínez brings together different scales and contexts that would often be segregated out. In this respect, the ethnography unfolds a deep and nuanced analysis, providing a useful comparative and insightful account of the processes of repair and waste making in all their material, social and ontological dimensions.'
Victor Buchli, Professor of Material Culture at UCL

'This book comprises an endearingly transdisciplinary ethnography of postsocialist material culture and social change in Estonia. Martínez creatively draws on a number of critical and cultural theorists, together with additional research on memory and political studies scholarship and the classics of anthropology. Grappling concurrently with time and space, the book offers a delightfully thick description of the material effects generated by the accelerated post-Soviet transformation in Estonia, inquiring into the generational specificities in experiencing and relating to the postsocialist condition through the conceptual anchors of wasted legacies and repair. This book defies disciplinary boundaries and shows how an attention to material relations and affective infrastructures might reinvigorate political theory.'
Maria Mälksoo, Senior Lecturer, Brussels School of International Studies at the University of Kent

Francisco Martínez is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki and part of the editorial teams of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures and Suomen Antropologi: Journal of the Finnish Anthropological Society.

Introduction: The politics of the old
1 The past as a rotting place 
2 Reframing the Soviet inheritance through repair 
3 Anything works, one just needs the right adaptor 
4 Spending time with buildings 
5 Tallinn 2017 chronotope 
6 Narva, a centre out there 
7 A memory-constructing space in Tartu
8 Children of the New East 
Conclusion: The past is not what it used to be 
Epilogue: A global Subbotnik 

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

282 Pages

ISBN: 9781787353541

Publication: July 05, 2018

Series: Fringe

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