You are here: Conferences International Conference "The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: Ethics of Oral History and Memory Studies" September 6-7, 2012, Vilnius

The Soviet Past in the Post-Soviet Present: the ethics of oral history and memory studies. The conference has its origins in a roundtable discussion at the ICCEES VIII World Congress in Stockholm in July 2010 on ‘Researching Women’s Lives: Official Perspectives and Lived Experience’. The roundtable touched on a number of as yet unexplored issues relating to the ethics of conducting oral history when researching women’s lives in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. 

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, historians and social investigators are making increasing use of oral history methods to explore the realities of everyday life in Eastern Europe under the Soviet regime and for analyzing present day memories of the Soviet past. The use of oral history helps researchers to identify a broad range of responses to life under the Soviet regime both in what is said during interview and what is not said. Oral history is a useful tool for exploring life history, but the interview may sometimes result in what appears to be a rather incoherent, inconsistent or illogical narrative of an individual’s life story. Thus, we aim to link our discussion of the ethics of oral history methods in the specific Eastern European context with the emerging area of memory studies.

Memories are shaped by a variety of factors and may be, simultaneously, both consecutive and disrupted. Post-Soviet and East European respondents may display a specific sense of nostalgia for the Soviet past, or, conversely, may seek to de-mythologize in their accounts of real life under Soviet rule. Interview subjects may consciously, sub-consciously or unconsciously seek to forget aspects of their past lives, including what may sometimes be read as traumatic experiences, to
engage in a process of selective amnesia or remain silent about the ‘blank pages’ in their own life stories.

Conference Programm