Yesterday’s Memories, Today’s Discourses: The Struggle of the Russian Sámi to Construct a Meaningful Past

Lukas Allemann


When new discourses appear, they can cause a certain pressure to search for new meaning of past actions and therefore even change recollection. During a period of discursive transition, these processes of memory evolution can cause serious social rifts. These insights from oral history theories are applied in this paper to the Sámi people in Russia, who all too often are seen by outsiders as a homogeneous community. I seek to correct this distorted image by analyzing the several interconnected rifts crisscrossing the Russian Sámi society. The following social fault lines are identified: the generational, the gender, the siyt, and the Lovozero- and-the-rest rifts, as well as a rift of worldviews, which I describe through two conceptual poles called “activists” and “sovkhoists.” Thus, the article contributes to raising awareness about the potentially differing interests of the individuals who constitute what is usually called the Russian Sámi “community” and increasing the critical distance of outsiders towards generalizing claims about “the” Russian Sámi.

  • 1. This paper is part of a series of publications focusing on Arctic Oral History. The series is one outcome of the Finnish Academy Project ORHELIA (Oral History of Empires by Elders in the Arctic), decision number 251111. Papers in this series will be subsequently published in this journal.

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