Estonia 1850-2010: Texts, Agents, Institutions and Practices

Daniele Monticelli held two lectures at the University of Bologna

On 27th April Prof. Daniele Monticelli presented two lectures at the University of Bologna. First one The «Sovietization» of post-war Eastern Europe was aimed at students and the second one Translation as a source of historical knowledge The Soviet ‘Thaw’ and Loomingu Raamatukogu was aimed at researchers and staff of the University. The following presents a brief summary of these lectures.

After the end of the Second World War, the institutions, societies and cultures of the Baltic Republics annexed by the Soviet Union and the socialist countries of Eastern Europe were radically transformed by a process that historians have called ‘Sovietisation’. If this primarily meant forced uniformity to the Soviet model, it is on the other hand clear that such a model could not fail to come to terms with the specificities of local histories and cultures. The imitation of the Soviet model therefore entailed its ‘translation’ and adaptation in the specific local context of each country.

Through a series of examples of translation institutions and practices, the public discourse on translation, and the reception of translations in Soviet Estonia from the post-war period to the end of the 1960s, the lectures aim to analyse the tension between the automatisms of Sovietisation and the complexity that this process assumed when encountering the pre-existing local reality with all its specificity. A mixed method involving reconstruction of the institutional context of the translations, data and statistics, work on the archives, and analysis of the translations proves to be a very effective tool for better understanding the subtleties and even contradictions of Soviet culture and society. A more nuanced image emerges, which questions the radical binary oppositions (repression VS freedom, collaboration VS resistance, ideology VS truth, etc.) through which we are accustomed to conceiving the phenomenon of so-called “totalitarianism”.