Negotiating the Past: Some Issues of Transmission of Memories among Estonian Young People

Raili Nugin

Abstract


All across Europe, the past has always played a significant role in youth activism and continues to do so, though in different countries the extent of this role may vary. This particular article deals with the question of how the issues of the past resonate in the lives of young people in Estonia. During recent decades, the tensions between hegemonic and alternative pasts have been a source of discursive as well as physical combats among the different socio-cultural groups in Estonia and are often loaded with a political and ideological burden. In 2007, these different understandings peaked with street riots, mostly dominated by young people. Thus, understanding the mechanisms of how young people make sense of the complicated past can tell us also a lot about the reasons behind their political activism (or lack thereof). The article is especially keen on exploring the questions of mechanisms of transmission of memory — how the past is socialised in different contexts (schools, museums, home), and how difficult pasts are dealt with and negotiated in groups of different ethnic and cultural background. By doing so, it will contribute to the theoretical discussions on relations of hegemonic past and communicative memory, how in different cultural contexts the hegemonic past is moulded or contested. It will be argued that young people actively contextualise and rework the matters of the complicated past in their everyday contexts. Neither hegemonic discourse nor the communicative past is absorbed without questions but constantly negotiated.

The dataset of this article consists of in-depth individual (84) and group interviews (5) predominantly with young people, but also other meaningful adults in the youngsters’ lives: their parents and grandparents, teachers and the like. In addition, participant observations are used as background data. The sample involves both ethnic Estonians and Russian-speaking minorities.


Keywords


youth, transmission of memory, communicative memory, socialisation of the past, multi- cultural society.

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