The Ordinary Rural Worlds: German Minorities and their Lives in the late Soviet Union

A research project by Dr. Alina Jašina-Schaefer (Advised by Prof. Dr. Hans-Christian Petersen)

Life in Soviet villages transformed drastically after Stalin’s death. The changes occurred, among others, under the weight of mutating communist ideals, standards, and objectives, the emergence of new consumption culture, agrarian reforms, technological advances, urbanisation and migration, bringing many challenges but also opportunities and promises to the local populations.

This research explores how these new realities were reflected in the intimate life-worlds of the rural dwellers, while focusing in particular on the lives of Soviet Germans in the northern Kazakh SSR. Being subjected to severe repressions and deportations during Stalin’s rule, from 1955 onwards local Germans were given a chance at a social integration, social advancement as well as certain ‘normalisation’ of their lives. Collecting fragments of their ordinary life accumulated in mundane spaces of existence, in material things or in personal stories, the research raises following questions: How was Soviet everydayness experienced in the rural settings? What modes of self-perception, practices and actions emerged in those settings? What did normality come to connote? How has its meanings changed across late Soviet period?

Picture: From the family archive of Lidia Schulz. 1962, school trip to selo Burkai, Baumanskii sovhos, Kostanaiskaja oblast, Kazakh SSR.

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