The seminar will focus on the different narrations of family and personal history in Estonia and Ukraine, touching upon oral histories of “Russian newcomer” and “Estonian local” families in Estonia and of marriages between people from different regions of Ukraine (living in Kyiv). First, an overview of the oral history research methodology and theoretical framework will be offered, and then main findings from both research projects will be discussed (with Ukraine interviews still ongoing).
Then, a general outline of the Estonian study and tentative answers from the Ukrainian study will be provided. Some of the posed questions in the Ukrainian case will be the following: How do the binary narratives of “East-West” and “Europe-Russia” fit with the identification patterns of people in geographically mixed marriages in Ukraine over their life-courses, when have such belongings gained significance? How do people relate to their own ancestral pasts vis-à-vis the politicized and conflictual historical interpretations (which family lineages and migrations would be stressed and which omitted)? In which conditions are the family members able to live aside the societal conflict and when is the conflict “activated” in family life (how have family connections to relatives living elsewhere changed)?
Uku Lember defended his PhD in 2014 at Central European University in Budapest. He is interested in the study of late Soviet Union, memory politics and ethnicities; he is also planning a study of queer history of Soviet Estonia. Uku’s dissertation was based on life-story interviews with inter-married families, titled “Silenced Ethnicity: Russian-Estonian Inter-marriages in Soviet Estonia (Oral History).” In 2015, he expanded a similar research agenda to Ukraine, asking how families with differing heritage have adjusted to conflicts in socio-cultural alignments and in which ways have their historical interpretations and imaginations of futures changed in the last years. Recently, he has spent much time in Kyiv, conducting life-story interviews with people from different regions of Ukraine. In the last years, Uku has received research grants for working at Cornell University (Telluride Association), UCL SSEES (Estonian Research Council), Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv (Erasmus Mundus) and New Europe College Institute for Advanced Study in Bucharest. His most recent publication is titled “Temporal horizons in two generations of Russian-Estonian families during late socialism” (in Generational Perspectives on Sociocultural Transformations, ed. by Nugin, Kannike, and Raudsepp, 2016). While at UCRS, Uku works on the project titled “Conflict and conviviality in Ukrainian and Estonian culturally mixed marriages.” Uku Lember’s stay at the UCRS is sponsored by Visby Fellowship of the Swedish Institute.