Accepted paper:

Trapped by choice: rural Estonians on the move


Aet Annist (University of Tartu and Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

Fragmentation,accompanied by the demand for social resourcefulness to get by,has led rural Estonians to migrate. Search for sociality in such contexts has clear methodological and theoretical reasons,yet provides a questionable focus through which to understand the outcomes of post-soviet changes.

Paper long abstract:

I will analyse the processes of change in mutualities and reciprocities based on my fieldwork in 2002-2004 and 2012 in rural Estonia and since 2012 amongst transnational Estonians. The post-soviet massive change in socio-economic arrangements led to fragmentation and loss of reciprocity amongst villagers who used to be strongly connected through various positive (e.g. work collectives) and negative networks (e.g. acquaintance networks for obtaining deficit goods). This dispersion and the resulting diminished capacity for subsistence has been intensified by the loss of relevance of such individuals in the new context of local livelihoods that depend on the funding for participatory civic engagement which tends to favour the active, resourceful groups chosen to represent the story of authentic success of the nation. Those processes have led, amongst others, to migratory responses, and have resulted in mass exodus from the countryside. I aim to connect these facts with newly emerging data from my current fieldwork amongst Estonians in the UK to explore whether migration has provided an escape from dispossession, and suggest that the nationalistic focus in migratory research provides a further myopic lens to concentrate on the social resources of well-placed elites and blur the view of those disconnected and trapped by such apparently free choice of migration.

panel IP03
The threadbare margins of revolutions: painful participation and failed mutualities