Baltic Identities in Quest between the Competing Memory Discourses

  • Abstract:

    Groups are integrated on the basis of their collective memory (Halbwachs 1992/1925), and collective identities are constructed through strategic use of historic narratives and memory discourses. In my research I am taking identity formation process in conjunction with social memory. Approaches to memory are seeking an agency behind the practice of remembering and representation of the past. While individuals ‘do remembering’ the content of memory comes from outside the individual, and rests on different collectives (Olick 1999). The collectivity like a nation and its identity is constructed and redefined by employing different meanings because it is “contained in stories that are told about the nation, in memories which link it’s present to its past and in the perceptions of it that are constructed” (Hall 1994). Referring to the conception of ‘discursive construction of national identity’ (Wodak et al. 1999) it can be found that in general there are two main discursive strategies – constructive and transformative ‘macro-strategies’ which operates to maintain or to undermine the conventional meanings. These arguments are vital in analyzing emerging and conflicting identities in the space left by Soviet empire. The decades were passed, however, in many countries the national identity is constantly challenged because of instability of memory discourse which is shaken by entering into public discourse various contesting topics. This is endemic feature of the Baltic states, the Ukraine, and other post-socialist republics. In Latvia with considerable amount of settlers from former Soviet countries both the politics and the civic sphere are generating conflicts on citizenship issues due controversial historic understandings. Here we turn to the assumption that nations cannot be described just as political constructs, but also as systems of cultural representations (Bhabha1990, Hall 1994). What is a main frontline between conflicting “grand narratives” which splits society into communities of memory; and what kind of politicized identities it produces? Politics of memory may escalate contradictions among different linguistic (connected with ethnicity) and mnemonic (related to commemoration) communities. The current issue for researchers and experts in the field of social integration is a question of how to draw together distinctive communities of memory in spite of conflicting historical representations.