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Accepted Paper:

Memory, Don't Speak! Memorials without Memory in Estonia  


Francisco Martínez (Tallinn University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper discusses different modalities of inscribing forgetting in the Maarjamäe memorial complex in Tallinn. It addresses, specifically, the dynamic ways in which national identity and historical representations are constructed by neglecting inherited memorials, as a slow-motion sacrifice

Paper long abstract:

This paper puts the focus on the Maarjamäe memorial complex in Tallinn, which is composed of a Soviet monumental landscape design, a cemetery of German soldiers, a Russian palace currently hosting the Estonian History Museum, and the newly built memorial of Victims of Communism. Through descriptions and visual documentation of the site, literature review and informal conversations with other visitors, it investigates how the negligence of the Soviet land-scape memorial has been producing memory un-work, which takes form of material decay and preserved disrepair.

The ethnography foregrounds how forgetting is inscribed on historical landscapes and engendered through negative material performance. It argues that, in the case of Estonia, institutionalised forgetting led to the active negligence of Soviet legacies, which in turn contributed to rendering problematic the Communist past.

New developments in the site are changing its current situation of neglect, however, since the construction of a novel antagonist memorial element in the area is paradoxically producing a more attentive maintenance of the Soviet monumental design.

This paper explores, thus, the complex relation between the tangibility and intangibility of memorials, highlighting how the ruin and abandonment of monuments is a political and social performance. It does so through a contemporary archaeology of forgetting, using the trope of excavating to dig through layers of discourse and to gather fractured memorial traces.

Panel B10
Unearthing Memories: Remembering and Forgetting as Subterranean Practices