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Kikimora Publications Series A 15

Aili Aarelaid-Tart
Cultural Trauma and Life Stories

Kikimora Publications Series A: 15
ISBN 952-10-3416-5.

15 EUR + VAT 10 %

Contents (pdf)



Aili Aarelaid-Tart works as a senior researcher and head at the Tallinn University, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Her main fields of research include national identities in Estonia, theoretical problems of bi ographical methods [ , and theories of culture. Aarelaid-Tart has been awarded multiple grants for her work .

The cultural trauma under consideration was caused by the occupations of Estonia in 1940-45. After half a century of suppression the memories of these events resurfaced as different public discourses. The author has recorded 148 life stories for the purposes of the thesis, describing the long-term, often inter-generational strategies of coping with the value collapse. Examining these life stories, three trauma discourses could be reconstructed:

  • the forced adaptation to Soviet order of the homeland Estonians;
  • the difficulty of preserving Estonian identity in exile (Sweden);
  • the identity crisis of the Russian population of Estonia.

Analysing the discourses shows that opposing experiences and worldviews cause conflicting interpretations of the past. Different social and ethnic groups consider coping with cultural trauma as a matter of self-defence and create appropriate usable pasts to identify with.