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Accepted Paper:

Envisioning the futures and renegotiating home in the absence of good state and hope among Russian speakers in Narva, Estonia  
Jaanika Kingumets (Tampere University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the dramatic change in life-possibilities, hopes and futures from Soviet times to today among Soviet-era Russian speakers in Narva (Estonia) by approaching their relationship to Narva as a home and focusing on the intersection of locality, state and hope in home-discourses.

Paper long abstract:

The life of Russian speakers who came to Estonian-Russian border town Narva during the Soviet times, can be epitomized in their narratives as a shift from 'paradise' to struggle in the 'God's forgotten town'. The paper seeks to explain this transformation in life perspectives by approaching Narvans' relationship to Narva as a home-place and focusing on the intersection of locality, state and the element of hope in home-discourses. Empirically, the paper relies on ethnographic study undertaken in 2010-2011 in Narva among Russian speakers who moved to Soviet Narva after 1944 through various migration trajectories and became subjects of the Estonian state after the Soviet collapse. Those Narvans, instead of seeing themselves as active protagonists in their life-narratives connected to Narva, often picture themselves and their home-town as victims of larger national and global processes in which states, supranational organisations and other people play a leading role. While the relationship with Estonian state is tensed, Soviet Narva and accordingly Soviet state appear in retrospect in exceptionally positive tones - full of hope and possibilities for life improvement. I argue that the significant difference between the Estonian vs. Soviet state is not only a nostalgic longing for the lost, but an everyday life experience that has dramatically changed and diminished their life possibilities. Yet depicting their futures in Narva only in terms of hopelessness would be misleading since the landscapes of possibility are increasingly shifted away from Narva and reshaped through the mobile experience in the European West - through their children and grandchildren.

Panel P145
Hope, home and abroad
  Session 1