Revitalising Borders: Memory, Mobility and Materiality in a Latvian-Russian Border Region
Keywords:Revitalising borders, Soviet time, mobilities, Latvia, Russia
In this paper I investigate how an international border is ‘revitalised’ in political discourses as opposed to lived experiences. Based on narratives I have collected from border dwellers on both sides of the current border between Latvia and Russia and placing them into a broader context of current border debates, I analyse how geographical and social mobility is remembered from Soviet times and reworked in current contexts. I argue that while politically the border is revitalised through abandoning and forgetting the Soviet past and through the idea of constant threats in the future, locally it is revitalised through giving a life to the abandoned: memories of ‘vigorous times’ in life-courses and material things. People who dwell at the border did not move themselves: the international border moved several times in one century leaving border dwellers’ memories and significant places on the ‘other’ side. I focus on how these borders were crossed in the past, how they are (not) crossed now, and the social meanings assigned to these circumstances. In the current context I follow diverse paths of reasoning that describe how the uneven flow of goods and people through the Latvian-Russian border shapes the power dynamic against which the people living in the border area used to reconstruct imaginaries of ‘Soviet times’ versus ‘Europe’ and ‘vigorous times’ versus decline.
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