Accepted Paper:

Moral trajectories: continuity and change in Crimea  
Ina Vogelsang (Manchester University)

Paper short abstract:

Radical change affected representations of the past. Disengagement and selectivity of narratives enabled the management of conflicting memories and rapid change. An approach to memory needs to integrate disconnection to analyse the interdependent influences of change, moral ideas and identity.

Paper long abstract:

My research in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, concentrated on the every day representations of the past. Participants' identities as 'Russian' and 'Soviet' were questioned in a dramatic way with the break up of the Soviet Union and the creation of a Ukrainian nation. Not only did they loose their status as citizens of a world power but Ukrainian nationalist rhetoric also depicted 'Russians' as oppressors. They also found themselves confronted with the realities of an economic system that had been vilified by socialist rhetoric. One of the most striking features was the contradictory nature of memory narratives. On the one hand, the Soviet Union was depicted as a nation in which people worked hard, and cared for each other. Participants spoke of 'true communists' and 'the good that socialism brought'. On the other, they talked about corruption, mercenary relationships, senseless slogans and state oppression. Analysis of memory narratives revealed that although socialist rhetoric influenced memories, participants also appropriated socialist notions to uphold values that were important to them. Divergent narratives made it possible to manage conflicting representations of the past and the force of change. Socialist values were related to a 'Slavic' identity that was perceived as continuous and mostly unchanged since before the revolution. I argue that an approach to memory should not only examine cultural connections but also needs to investigate disconnection and selectivity as an integral part of the constructions of the past. This in turn makes it possible to analyse conflicting narratives as an expression of the interdependent influences of change, moral projects and identity.

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Transitions: movements in space and time