Category Archives: Sociology, Psychology, Demography

Having a “Normal” Life in the ESSR: Biographical Experiences of Inter-Ethnic Marriage Situations

Uku Lember (Central European University)

My paper focuses on twenty life-story interviews with the members of inter-ethnic (Russian-Estonian) families from a particular age cohort: all men and women aged 50-75.  I ask how these people, all of whom share an experience of close contact with a contrasting cultural environment, construct and touch upon the notion of “normal” in their biographical narration. I pay attention to their struggles with present-day (rather Westernized) realities and past (rather socialist) notions of “normalcy” and to the (potential) will for liberating oneself from such socially constructed temporal imperatives. I also ask about the possible role that inter-ethnic family situations play in tackling the problem of social becoming, now and then.  First, my analysis deals with the emic definitions of “normal,” with the complexities that already lie in actors’ own narrations and conceptualizations. Second, I ask a more normative, etic question by measuring the interview material against the (Western?) idea of individualization process as normalcy in the late twentieth century.  How and in which frames do my informants construct themselves as actors?  As individualization is prevalent in contemporary Estonian society, this position should help clarify possible hesitations and tensions that my interviewees face while remembering, constructing, and narrating their socialist lives in contemporary Estonia.

Russians in Soviet Lithuania: Rethinking Stereotypes after Twenty Years of Independence

Andrius Marcinkevičius (Lithuanian Social Research Center)

An important task of the modern state is to ensure the integration of ethnic minorities, to enable them to maintain their ethnic and cultural identity. This is not always an easy task due to political, ideological, historical and other considerations. It is difficult for the ethnic majority to pursue a policy of integration for minorities without knowing their history, identity and expectations. This is particularly true as this identity is changing through various political, economic, and social processes.  In addition, long-held stereotypes remain. Soviet leaders tried to destroy the identity not only of Lithuanians but of Russians as well. Their declared intention was to create “Soviet society” on the base of Russian language and culture and that culture was to be purged of bourgeois elements. In fact, there was no place for variety of ethnic cultures in Soviet Lithuania, though ethnicity as form without content remained in the discourse until the collapse of the Soviet Empire. For this reason, Russians have had difficulties integrating into the society of independent Lithuania.  During the Soviet period negative images were formed of Russians both in Lithuania and in other Soviet Baltic republics. While these stereotypes were to some degree based on real facts, on the other hand they did not reflect the variation of identity, culture and expectations that were typical of Russians. Thus, in order to understand the identity of Russians and their future expectations it is very important to explore the ideological and historical basis on which their identity was built.

Keyword:  Marcinkevicius

Remembering and Forgetting in the Latvian Post-Communist Historical Narrative: The Case of Latvian Women Volunteers of the Red Army

Daina S. Eglitis (George Washington University)

This work examines the historical case of Latvian women in the Red Army in World War II, situating the case in the sociological literature on collective memory, gender, and power.  This work attempts to return a more nuanced, complex history to the Latvian women of the Red Army, a group whose pre-war and wartime experiences do not “make sense” in terms of either the dominant Soviet or post-Soviet narratives of history.  Their history has been largely silenced by the hegemonies of collective memory in both the Soviet and post-Soviet periods.  In the former, Marxist-Leninist historiography privileged the collective subject of the (usually Russian) Soviet patriot and, in particular, the heroic (male) soldier. In the latter, the dominant narrative of history is iterated through a historical lens that elevates the resistance of Latvian patriots and the victimhood of Latvian people and marginalizes that which is inconsistent with the history that was reclaimed after the end of communism. In examining the little-recognized case of women of independent interwar Latvia who volunteered for service in the Red Army, the paper highlights ways in which the nexus of ascribed characteristics like gender and ethnicity underpin marginality in the hegemonic historical narratives of two different eras. It introduces the concept of unruly actors, those whose social actions violate the roles and characteristics ascribed by the dominant culture to their gender, ethnicity, or other grouping and, in this way, undermine the unproblematized construction of the overarching historical narrative of a community, nation, or country.

Commemoration of the De Facto Restoration of the Independence of Latvia (1991–2011)

Laura Ardava (University of Latvia)

On August 21, 2011, the 20th anniversary of the de facto restoration of the independence of Latvia was commemorated. To celebrate the significant anniversary, several commemorative events took place in Riga, gaining considerable media attention. The events of August 1991 are considered to be the essential turning point in the last decades of 20th century history in Latvia. On August 21, 1991, the Supreme Council of the Republic of Latvia adopted the Constitutional Law on the Statehood of the Republic of Latvia.

The theoretical ground of the intended research will be worked out on the basis of multilateral description of ‘commemoration’, ‘mediation’, ‘media event’, ‘ritual’ and ‘social memory’ concepts. Discourses produced by media concerning the commemoration of August 1991 in the last two decades will be analyzed using the discourse–historical method developed by Ruth Wodak. I intend to study the content of printed and broadcasting media in Latvian and Russian, as well as the content of website, which was especially devoted to the historical anniversary. The research results show the importance of the events of August 1991 in social memory, the layering of the actual social, political and economical situation on the collective sense the past, and the active role of the media in the functioning of those processes.


Is the State Like a Museum of Ethnography? A Critique of Latvian Programmes of Integration

Sergei Kruk (Rīga Stradiņš University)

Maintenance of social cohesion is a task of every state. In multi-ethnic Latvia, this problem is reduced to the integration of ethnic others into the society composed of ethnic Latvians.  By default, ethnicity is considered to be the key factor securing the social cohesion. Numerous policy documents on inter-ethnic integration adopted by the government since 1998 treat language proficiency and traditional culture as the main instruments of integration and indicators of social cohesion. This paper argues that current integration policy is grounded in the romantic concepts of language and culture developed by Young Latvians in the 19th century. Their task was to create a communicating community distinctive of Baltic Germans and Russians. Language and culture were treated as indicators of distinctiveness and instruments of homogenisation of individuals. Language and culture per se were conceived as structures organizing thinking and directing behaviour of individuals; inevitably, the shared language and culture produce similar modes of thinking and behaviour among the members of community. Adhering to structuralist determination, the programmes of integration lack reflection upon the practical experience of individuals and groups in given social setting, as well as their interaction producing social bonds.


Living as an Alien: Self-Exclusion of Ethnic Russian Stateless Persons in Estonia

Denis Gruber (St. Petersburg State University)

Citizenship in modern societies regulates the formal membership of an individual in a nation state and acts as a mechanism of inclusion and exclusion. Post-communist Estonian political leaders understood restitution as the best possibility to solve the minority question of ethnic Russians. Restitution meant that neither the ethnic population movements of WWII,  nor the ethnic structure influenced by the Soviet migration policy, were taken as “starting points” for citizenship regulations. The formula for citizenship rights was tradition instead of integration. The citizenship law did not only imply status differences between Estonian and Russian citizens, but also within the group of ethnic Russians (divided in non-homogeneous social groups as Russian and Estonian citizens and stateless persons). A specific issue of stateless persons who are living with alien passports lies in the fact that state welfare achievements can be received unproblematically (“compensatory inclusion”), but their “political inclusion” did not take place to a full extent. They can be defined as “denizens” (Hammar 1990) who have their own legal and long-term guaranteed residential status and are also members of the state community; nevertheless, they do not have full political rights.

One of my main questions, based on interviews with 45 Russians, was why ethnic Russians in Estonia opted for Estonian or Russian citizenship and why a large part of this group has remained stateless. It highlighted on one hand the “Fremdexklusion” (exclusion by the “other”) of the Estonian nation-state to exclude Russian minorities from citizenship; on the other hand, individual strategies of Russian minorities to circumvent the integration process (“self-exclusion”).

The Interplay of Life Styles and Culture: Lithuanian Migrants in the UK

Ausra Bremner (De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)

Since the opening of European borders to new EU member states, a large number of immigrants continue to arrive in the UK and specifically to the East Midlands and East Anglia. To date, little or no research has been conducted to understand their experience and adjustment in this part of the country. I am in the middle of my research and I am currently analysing data through grounded theory. From the data I have collected so far on how migration to the UK affects family relationships and looking at only one of its segments – that is, changes in lifestyles and the interplay with a culture – one can see the range of experiences both positive and negative. The data appears to be very complex and reveals that some people’s experiences in the UK are very complicated. For example, some individuals have a positive experience of their life in the UK: financial safety and security compared with just survival in Lithuania; new quality of life and happiness: family gain, improved relationships, acceptance for one’s sexuality, race, or nationality; boosting self esteem and confidence compared with moral degradation and suicidal thoughts back in Lithuania. Others have negative experience, including dissatisfaction of a low migrant/social status, humiliating low paid jobs opposed to a high professional achievement and recognition back in Lithuania.  In my work, I discuss preliminary findings of my research on the structure of the family relationships as a result of migration to the UK.

Keyword: Aušra

A House in the Post-Socialist Suburb as Consumption of Status at Heterotopias

Gunta Darbiņa (Rīga Stradiņš University)

Transformation of urban space due to suburbanization has been among the key processes marking the end of socialism. Suburban residential areas are a new phenomenon in most post-socialist countries. In Latvia, it is first of all Pierīga, the suburban zone surrounding the capital city of Riga, that corresponds to the concept of suburb as developed in classic theories of urban space. An active property development in Pierīga began at the turn of the new millennium when the real estate market was booming. Many local government authorities envisaged an unprecedented rise in the quantity of real property and hurried to plan the development of their territories accordingly. The outcome was dozens of scattered real property clusters, built with no overarching communal development plan and underdeveloped infrastructure. A folk term for such a type of settlement was soon coined – pļavu ciemi (“the meadow villages”).  New private housing in these areas in Pierīga can be compared to heterotopias [described by Foucault (1967)]. These are places that actually exist, are not utopic, but their contents are completely different from the surrounding environment. In many places in Pierīga the architectural styles of new houses are a stark contrast to the surrounding post-socialist infrastructure. The prices for these houses are high but Pierīga has become a desired place of residence. In summer 2011, the author visited households in Pierīga and conducted semi-structured interviews with their dwellers. The narratives reveal both advantageous and disadvantageous consequences that interviewees’ attribute to their decision made several years ago, to acquire real property in a suburb.

Keyword: Darbina

Enterprise Level Industrial Relations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania: An Empirical Analysis

Monika Gonser (University of Osnabrück, Germany)

The paper at hand presents the findings of a Ph.D. project.  First, it offers a structured comparison of framework conditions of enterprise level industrial relations in the countries observed.  Second, it explores the question in how far the results of this comparison can explain the specifically weak effect the collective representation of labor interests has on employee living conditions in these states when compared to other Central and Eastern European countries. Third, it discusses hypotheses that might explain specific Baltic labor weakness on the basis of expert interviews with employee and employer representatives in three sectors, energy and gas, transport and retail trade.  The interviews were conducted in 2009 and 2010 in each of the three countries. The paper concludes by giving an educated guess on the relevance of on-going processes like the financial crisis and the dominating ethnic cleavage in Estonia and Latvia for the future of collective interest representation in Baltic industrial relations. The discussed findings and hypotheses are of scientific relevance in so far as they cast light on specifically Baltic industrial relations conditions that are part of a greater debate on a number of Central and Eastern European countries. This debate includes the influence of MNC countries on industrial relations, the question of convergence or path dependency of industrial relations developments, and the impact of the economic and political integration of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Lithuanians’ Attitudes toward Internet Infidelity

Algė Šuliakaitė (Vytautas Magnus University)

This study explores Lithuanians’ attitudes and perceptions toward internet infidelity and investigates whether interpersonal and intrapersonal factors were associated with the attitudes toward online affairs. The researcher was unable to locate studies in Lithuania that made reference to internet infidelity. The study was exploratory in nature in order to draw public and researchers’ attention to the understudied internet infidelity phenomenon in Lithuania.

The participants for this study were recruited using a convenience sampling technique. A sample of 251 participants completed measures of attitudes toward Internet infidelity. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics.

The findings of this study indicated Lithuanians’ tendency to engage in different online behaviors. The exploration of the attitudes toward potentially unfaithful online activities suggested that Lithuanians consider internet infidelity to be a serious form of betrayal. The results showed that internet infidelity exists on a behavioral continuum where some online acts were considered more unfaithful than others based on the level of partners’ involvement in secretive online behaviors. Online behaviors that implied initiation of online relationships and engagement into intimate relationships were considered to be most unfaithful. Online acts that indicated superficial and non-intimate communication were considered as least unfaithful. Attitudes toward internet infidelity were related to several factors in this study, namely, gender, religiosity, and prior infidelity. The findings indicated that age and online relationship experiences were not related to the attitudes toward internet infidelity.

Keyword: Alge

Keyword: Suliakaite