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Paper short abstract:
Drawing on fieldwork in Tallinn, this paper asks how the war in Ukraine, Russian propaganda, and the arrival of thousands of refugees from Ukraine are affecting the delicate coexistence between Estonians and Russophones and, moreover, challenging folkloristic thinking about community and folk.
Paper long abstract:
Combining Facebook observations with long-term ethnographic fieldwork in the Estonian capital of Tallinn, this presentation asks how the war in Ukraine, Russian propaganda, and the arrival of thousands of refugees from Ukraine are affecting the always already delicate coexistence between Estonians and Russophones and, and, moreover, challenging folkloristic thinking about community and folk.
On the one hand, Russian aggression in Ukraine has prompted Estonia to speed up the transition of Russian-language schools to Estonian-language instruction and to remove from the public space any remaining “red monuments” commemorating World War II and the Soviet regime. On the other hand, the lingua franca between Estonians and refugees from Ukraine is Russian, turning language into a less reliable touchstone of one’s identity and habitus. These centripetal and centrifugal processes meet in Tallinn, a bilingual city with its own ingrained and embodied practices and patterns of coexistence. One can no longer take for granted these prior modes of coexistence, which have aimed at accommodation and avoidance of conflicts springing from ethnicity and must learn to cope with new kinds of uncertainties.
Ethnic interactions in places like Tallinn provide opportunities for rethinking central concepts of folklore studies. While there must be shared, common conceptions of what it means to coexist in an urban space, these do not amount to a community. Aimed at intervening in these fragile, yet tangible shared understandings is heavy Russian propaganda. Parading as vernacular communication, it fuses boundaries between here and there, between those who do and do not belong.
Cultural, linguistic, and political divides in a time of crisis: examining the use of everyday folklore in the rhetoric of racial and state boundaries
Session 1 Friday 9 June, 2023, -