Fragmented histories and belonging: Intergenerational memories and experiences of Germans from the former Soviet Union in contemporary Germany

Eist, Katharina. 2018. Fragmented histories and belonging: Intergenerational memories and experiences of Germans from the former Soviet Union in contemporary Germany. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This empirical study is based on qualitative interviews with three generations of ethnic German families, who migrated to Germany after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The grandparents in these families lived in German settlements until their expulsion to the far East of the SU. Their children grew up in these places of exile in the shadow of their parents' histories, striving to become model Soviet citizens in an effort to escape the stigma associated with their parents' fate. The grandchildren in these families were youngsters at the time of migration to Germany. This thesis explores experiences around migration, post-migration life and integration. It examines these experiences through a framework of (post)- Soviet and German cultural memory, investigating, on the one hand, how in both societies public memory (or the lack thereof), along with social discourses and state policies, have shaped, framed and homogenised this group; and, on the other hand, how memory and the forgetting of the repression of the grandparents shape identity, belonging and intergenerational dynamics today. The memory of the persecution leads people to frame their migration to Germany in terms of homecoming. This homecoming narrative is, however, extremely contentious. Not only has the adoption of this narrative created a hierarchy of migrants, leading to an unequal immigrant society, the idea also exerts social and self-imposed pressures to be perceived as ‘authentically German’. Especially younger interviewees often conceal their background by ‘passing’ for ‘real Germans’. These young people appear to follow in the footsteps of the ‘generation of parents’ who concealed their German backgrounds in the SU. This cross-generational concealing and the underlying shame are often unaddressed. There are still many silences, and very little dialogue across the generations about their traumatic history. All of these aspects make it difficult, particularly for the young, to recognise their complex and diasporic identity.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):

https://doi.org/10.25602/GOLD.00024706

Keywords:

Ethnic German repatriates, Aussiedler, Soviet legacy, collective memory, family memory, identity, assimilation

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Sociology

Date:

30 September 2018

Item ID:

24706

Date Deposited:

18 Oct 2018 14:57

Last Modified:

13 Jun 2021 05:13

URI:

https://research.gold.ac.uk/id/eprint/24706

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