Friedrich Kuhlmann (Estonian University of Life Sciences);
Martti Veldi (Estonian University of Life Sciences)

“Life Was Not All That Bad”: Memories and Experiences of Kolkhoz Life in the Baltic States

The physical impact of modernism in the rural landscape and its remains are explored in order both to capture the results of past decisions and the current state of the rural landscapes and to connection these. But if we ask how have these landscapes evolved over time and what actually remains, we often only look on built remains, artefacts or plans forming the raw material. Instead, we put the focus on the actions of the people living and working there, with their memories, reflections, their past desires and their plans achieved or destroyed. Compared with the built remains of collectivization schemes, many of the actors of the Soviet collectivisation process in the Baltic States are still alive, having a voice and opinions. To capture this involves a survey of case study landscapes and settlements through fieldwork and comparative analysis in order to compare the initial plans with the actual experience of the collectivisation and to relate the built results and spatial patterns to people’s memories. The actions that formed and still form the landscape were identified and assessed by qualitative go-along interviews with current and former residents, workers or decision makers in the area to create a “thick description” through which we uncovered everyday life aspects of dwellers or workers. What we found is that far from being a completely negative period, life in the collective farm was not all bad – housing improved, people had guaranteed jobs, medical care and education were provided. Young people unaware of politics enjoyed their childhoods and there is some degree of nostalgia remaining, even while the new freedoms and independence of the countries are celebrated (with a centenary in 2018).

Full-text available here: DOI: 10.1051/SHSCONF/20196309004