A home at new home: decorative objects in everyday life of Russian Germans in Germany (Ethnographic study from 2008-2009, Bamberg)
(Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) Russian Academy of Sciences)
Paper short abstract:
The house is a symbol of intragroup consolidation among Russian Germans. To build and own a house means an obligation to be at home at a strange or a new place. Decorative objects in the living spaces serve as a tool both for actualization of memories about old home and of unsevered ties with it.
Paper long abstract:
One of the symbols of intragroup consolidation among Russian Germans is The House. German informants as well as immigrants note that many "Russians" own real estate and own houses. This seems to be a stumbling block in relations between immigrants and the surrounding local Germans: for the Russian Germans, when people are destined to exile, when they become wanderers, "building a house" means an obligation to make a strange place their new home. In this paper I will address home as a private sphere and a living space, and will try to compare the identity type of Russian immigrants, chosen by themselves, with the design of this space and with a set of significant objects and wall decorations in living rooms. Many decorative items in apartments of Russian Germans in Germany are transformed into special memory objects. Photos of grandmothers, speaking in the «old home», a German dialect that has disappeared, birches in white snow, Matrioshkas and Khokhloma souvenirs, as well as furnishings in living rooms, such as big wall cabinets and carpets, are constant elements of Russian immigrants' home design in their new homeland. The interpretations of the owners show that these objects serve as a link between them of today and the old home, they are projection of the past into the present. Matryoshka and Khokhloma belonging to the realm of persistent ethnic stereotypes appear in the living room as gifts from friends and acquaintances and signal hosts affinities with the Slavic world.
Images of home away from home (Migration and Mobility Working Group)