Between Russia and Estonia: narratives of place in a new borderland

2015-10-23T13:23:40Z (GMT) by Alena Pfoser
The Russian-Estonian border has undergone radical changes in the past two decades - from an integrated borderland between two Soviet republics to a border between nation-states and the new EU external border. Until the present day, it is a discursive battlefield that reflects the difficult relations between Russia and Estonia after the restoration of Estonia's independence. While much research has concentrated on antagonistic projects of identity politics and state-building from a top-down perspective, this paper asks how people living in the borderland make sense of the place they live in and negotiate shifts in the symbolic landscapes. Based on life-story narratives of Russian-speakers, it analyzes different ways of narrating and framing place and argues for a consideration of the plurality and ambivalences of place-making projects on the ground. Furthermore, it argues for a more balanced account of continuity and discontinuity in memory narratives by taking into account how the socialist past continues to be meaningful in the present. As the interviews show, memories of the socialist past are used for constructing belonging in the present both by countering and by reproducing national narratives of boundedness.