Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Corinne Geering (University of Giessen, Germany)

Disenchanted 'Entuziasty'? Social Movements for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Post-Soviet Russian Identity Formation

The preservation of cultural heritage forms an integral part of modern identity formation. Architecture, artefacts and artistic practices have served as markers of identification in newly constituted nation-states. Consent on what is worth being protected fosters social cohesion and the commonly constituted cultural heritage presents a desirable collective identity both to the citizens of the nation-state as well as to the outside world. These processes also play a crucial role in post-Soviet Russia. Discourses of cultural heritage have proven to be a key factor in constituting the official Russian identity after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Given the highly official character of these discourses, however, cultural heritage has also become a contested field of what society at large considers part of their identity in contrast to state and corporate interests. By looking at recently founded social movements for the preservation of cultural heritage, this paper will analyse how these movements work with differing notions of Russian identity and how they seek to diversify the official heritage discourse. In these social movements, non-experts or so-called 'entuziasty' already assumed a central role in the care for their past in late Soviet times when the "All-Russian Volunteer Society for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments" (VOOPIK) had hundred thousands of members. In course of perestroika, however, the organisation of these movements changed from one centralised voluntary society supported by the state to seemingly scattered initiatives that rely on regional and local conditions. This paper will trace the transformation of societal involvement in the preservation of cultural heritage from the Soviet system until today and thereby show the conceptual shifts in what constitutes Russian heritage. It will pay particular attention to the overlaps and conflicts of the notions of Russian identity in light of contemporary Russian cultural policy.