Valaam Memory Breaks: Valaam’s Memorial Community in Search of the Lost Island
[Razlomy valaamskoi pamiati: memorial’noe soobshchestvo Valaama v poiskakh utrachennogo ostrova]
Type of publication: Research Article
heritage, anthropology of memory, displacement, oral history, traumatic past
The article is focused on the memorial community of Valaam, which evolved after the buildings of Valaam Monastery were handed over to the Russian Orthodox Church and the locals were forced to leave the island. I turn to an analysis of a variety of recollections and different forms of incorporating the history of the archipelago into the personal biographies of its recent inhabitants. Considering Valaam as an essential place of memory in the biographies of its former inhabitants, I try to answer the question of why, unlike other migrants who return to their homeland in search of traces of their past, the resettlers from Valaam refuse to come back, preferring to speak of the island as lost and inaccessible. The article gives a brief history of the post-war development of the archipelago, the emergence of a community of “keepers” in the 1970s and 1980s, and traces several biographies of local residents whose youth was linked to life and work on the island. Drawing on research on the memories of migrants, I argue that the contemporary memory of the archipelago is a territory of phantom pain caused not only by forced displacement, but also by the loss of the former locals’ status as experts and defenders of the historical and cultural heritage of Valaam. The article draws on field material from the years of 2020–2021.
Melnikova, Е.A. 2023. Razlomy valaamskoi pamiati: memorial’noe soobshchestvo Valaama v poiskakh utrachennogo ostrova [Valaam Memory Breaks: Valaam’s Memorial Community in Search of the Lost Island]. Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 1: 45–66. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541523010049 EDN: PMJKFG
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