Yesterday’s Memories, Today’s Discourses: The Struggle of the Russian Sámi to Construct a Meaningful Past

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When new discourses appear, they can cause a certain pressure to search for new meaning of past actions and therefore even change recollection. During a period of discursive transition, these processes of memory evolution can cause serious social rifts. These insights from oral history theories are applied in this paper to the Sámi people in Russia, who all too often are seen by outsiders as a homogeneous community. I seek to correct this distorted image by analyzing the several interconnected rifts crisscrossing the Russian Sámi society. The following social fault lines are identified: the generational, the gender, the siyt, and the Lovozero- and-the-rest rifts, as well as a rift of worldviews, which I describe through two conceptual poles called “activists” and “sovkhoists.” Thus, the article contributes to raising awareness about the potentially differing interests of the individuals who constitute what is usually called the Russian Sámi “community” and increasing the critical distance of outsiders towards generalizing claims about “the” Russian Sámi.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
JournalArctic Anthropology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Sami people
  • Sami research
  • oral history
  • Soviet Union
  • Indigenous peoples of the Arctic

Field of science

  • Social anthropology
  • History and archaeology


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