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Usable Past for a Transbaikalian Borderline Town

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‘Disarmament’ of Memory and Geographical Imagination in Priargunsk

image of Inner Asia

This paper aims at analysing the depoliticisation process of a border region’s past from the perspective of simultaneous changes in biographies of people, objects and forbidden places. Turning the closed Soviet-Chinese border into a relatively open Russian–Chinese border meant not only opening the socialist borderline areas to the world, but also confronting Russian society with an intensely mythologised area and people connected with it. The combination of the totally Soviet symbolic space of the of the border town of Priargunsk in Eastern Transbaikalia with extremely differing attitudes towards the socialist past enables us to show the influence of borderline location on post-communist struggles with the trauma of long-lasting political confrontation in a different light. This new version of the past not only offers the possibility of including former enemies in the new post-communist border community, but also of establishing a fresh connection with Soviet objects, now defined as historically specific signs of the long Russian presence in the area. We are dealing with a peculiar post-Soviet case of an epistemic advantage of border, according to which the borderline and peripheral location of extreme ideological and cultural attitudes encourages unexpected forms of time and space perception, regardless of the incomplete reconciliation process following the Civil War.

Affiliations: 1: Institute of Eastern Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznan)


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