Soldiers of Memory explores the complexities and ambiguities of World War II experience from the Estonian veterans’ point of view. Since the end of World War II, contesting veteran cultures have developed on the basis of different war experiences and search for recognition in the public arena of history. The book reflects on this process by combining witness accounts with their critical analysis from the aspect of post-Soviet remembrance culture and politics.
The first part of the book examines the persistent remembrance of World War II. Eight life stories of Estonian men are presented, revealing different war trajectories: mobilised between 1941 and 1944, the narrators served in the Red Army and its work battalions, fought against the Soviet Union in the Finnish Army, Waffen-SS, Luftwaffe, the German political police force and Wehrmacht, deserted from the Red Army, were held in German and Soviet prison and repatriation camps.
The second part of the book offers a critical analysis of the stories from a multidisciplinary point of view: what were the possible life trajectories for an Estonian soldier under Soviet and German occupations in the 1940s? How did the soldiers cope with the extreme conditions of the Soviet rear? How are the veterans’ memories situated in terms of different memory regimes and what is their position in the post-Soviet Estonian society? What role does ethnic and generational identity play in the formation of veterans’ war remembrance? How do individuals cope with war trauma and guilt in life stories?
Offering a wide range of empirical material and its critical analysis, Soldiers of Memory will be important for military, oral and cultural historians, sociologists, cultural psychologists, and anybody with an interest in the history of World War II, post/communism, and cultural construction of memory in contemporary Eastern European societies.
Ene Kõresaar: Introduction. Remembrance Cultures of World War II and the Politics of Recognition in Post-Soviet Estonia: Biographical Perspectives
Tiit Noormets: Estonians in World War II. A Chronology
‘Our Lives Would Soon Be Turned Upside Down’: Soldiers’ Wars, Veterans’ Memories
Aleksander Loog: My Biography: Memoirs of Childhood, Study Years, Territorial Defence Army and War, German Prison Camp and Time Spent in the Soviet Prison Camp
Heinrich Uustalu: Between the Cogweels: Victimized by the Course of History
Reinhold Mirk: My Life in the Twist of History
Boris Raag: Hope of Staying Alive
Ailo Ehamaa: Wonders of Living
Lembitu Varblane: Born Under a Lucky Star
Boris Takk: My Youth in the Turn of History
Ylo-Vesse Velvelt: An Islander’s Life Story, Along with Interesting Things that Happened to Him
Trajectories and Meanings: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Biographical War Experience
Aigi Rahi-Tamm: Aleksander Loog – Searching for One’s Way: The Opportunities and Choices of Estonian Men during the Political Changes of the 1940s
Olaf Mertelsmann: Boris Raag – Hope of Staying Alive: Survival Strategies of a Soviet Soldier
Aili Aarelaid-Tart: The Estonian-Minded Person in Soviet Reality: Double Mental Standards in Ailo Ehamaa’s Life History
Rutt Hinrikus: How to Remember? The Social Framework of Reinhold Mirk’s Reminiscences of War
Tiiu Jaago: The Lucky Star and Discernment: The Positioning of the Self and War in the Life Story of Lembitu Varblane
Ene Kõresaar: Boris Takk – The Ambiguity of War in a Post-Soviet Life Story
Tiina Ann Kirss: When is the War Over? Ylo-Vesse Velvelt’s Life Story and Surviving the ‘Czech Hell’
Terje Anepaio: Heinrich Uustalu – Between the Cogwheels: Stigmatised Family Relations in the Life Story of a Repressed Man
Notes on Contributors Authors Index Word Index