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Women Frying a Crocodile and Other Memorials: Reshaping Post-Soviet Cities
Paper short abstract:
Verbal interaction with monuments is an important feature of vernacular memory. In the paper I'll argue that it, among other functions, serves to overcome the emptiness of commemorative urban spaces and weaving them back to the city texture.
Paper long abstract:
In the last decades, memory has become a particularly competitive space in Russia. Both Soviet and post-Soviet memorials are generating conflicts and discussion. One of the problematic questions is the vernacular usage of the monuments. One of the very stable practices connected with memorials as urban anchor points, however, implies rather linguistic than physical interaction — production and transmission of vernacular toponymy. Its legitimacy and the right to exceed the borders of official interpretation is widely discussed. The paper dwells upon functions of vernacular toponymy in the narrative landscape of post-Soviet cities and in the memory of their citizens.
The author interprets a number of plots concerning how a monument transforms via verbal intervention and physical interaction with the memorial and the space surround- ing it, as exemplified by 546 cases of vernacular toponymy existing in Russian and other post-Soviet cities. The sacral nature of the relevant space leads to the transformation of the monument and the adjacent territory from a "place of memory" into a "place of oblivion", but the citizens resist this emptiness — by using informal toponyms, among other means. If we interpret vernacular toponymy not as some static object from an "in- formal lexicon" vocabulary but as a practice of verbal intervention, then said toponomy can highlight the complex relationship between the monument and the city — its inhab- itants, spaces and history.
Urban Experiments in Memory and Forgetting