Being Russian in Finland: the role of material objects in linguistic biographies
(University of Helsinki)
Paper short abstract:
The Russian-speaking minority is present in the Finnish community; 'Old Russians' are the oldest part of it. The material culture of their multilingual homes provides memories of what does it mean to be Russian in the Finnish society. Interiors and narratives are compared to those of the newcomers.
Paper long abstract:
Finland's geographical location as Russia's neighbour and the resultant historical, economic and cultural ties have meant that the Russian language and the Russian-speaking minority occupy an exceptional and complex position in Finland, difficult to compare with other countries. For centuries, immigrants from the East have been coming to do business or to settle down here. The Russian army, which dwelt on the territory of Finland during the time when it was an autonomous Duchy of the Russian Empire, contributed to a growth in the number of Russian-speaking migrants. The group of the so-called 'Old Russians' (e.g., Baschmakoff, Leinonen 2001; Protassova 2004; Schenschin 2008) immigrated from the neighbouring country, which often waged wars with Sweden and Finland; at the same time, the common border served for the transit of goods and tourists, and thus contributed to economic growth. The 'Old Russians' kept memories of Russianness in their homes and transmitted them to their children. The Russian-speakers are the largest linguistic minority in Finland, and their number is expected to increase in the near future. The status of the Russian language has become more visible in the discourses on language policy. The paper will present photos of the Old Russians' homes, their cherished artefacts and documents from their personal archives, accompanied by narratives of their 'Russian' life in Finland. Telling us what it meant at different epochs to be a Russian in Finland participants showed their belongings and shared their memories. We will compare different waves of migration in their attitudes towards material culture of the homeland.
Images of home away from home (Migration and Mobility Working Group)