Everything is Wonderful: Memories of a Collective Farm in Estonia
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In 1993-94 Sigrid Rausing completed her anthropological fieldwork on the peninsula of Noarootsi, a former Soviet border protection zone in Estonia. Abandoned watch towers dotted the coast line, and the huge fields of the Lenin collective farm were lying fallow, waiting for claims from former owners, fleeing war and Soviet and Nazi occupation. Rausing’s conversations with the local people touched on many subjects: the economic privations of post-Soviet existence, the bewildering influx of western products, and the Swedish background of many of them. In Everything Is Wonderful Rausing reflects on history, political repression, and the story of the minority Swedes in the area. She lived and worked amongst the villagers, witnessing their transition from repression to freedom, and from Soviet neglect to post-Soviet austerity.
brother, weaker than him, starved to death in that camp, officially described as an “orphanage.” He showed me a photograph of himself taken by the town photographer just before he was freed in 1946. He was twelve then, a thin boy with a shaved head, dressed in an old uniform, much too big for him. His mother was liberated in the same year, and the two of them returned to Estonia. He hadn’t been allowed to speak Estonian in the orphanage, so he could hardly remember his own language. In 1950 his
there sent more books, journals, and financial assistance, in solidarity with their compatriots across the Baltic Sea. Finally, of course, there was a crack down: in 1904 Nymann was called in and questioned at the police headquarters in Haapsalu, accused of hiding and lending revolutionary books. By 1905 the controversy of the library reached St. Petersburg, and the decision was taken higher up to ban all Swedish books in Estonia. That year, however, was also the beginning of the end of this
the same issue of Kustbon also carried a short article entitled “No Cause for Nervousness,” about the movements of Russian troops in Estonia. It ended, memorably: “In the areas where Russian troops will be stationed it is rumoured that local people may be forced to evacuate their farms, leave their belongings, or even have their property confiscated. No one needs to fear anything like that.” Less than a year later, in June 1940, the people of the islands of Odensholm, Rågö, and Nargö, most of
visited the new restaurant, Rootsi Kohvik (Swedish Café), with Katarina. A fragile crescent moon hung above the surreal miniature high-rise outside, almost square in shape, built as a training ground for firefighters. Afterwards we went to the cinema and saw Accidental Hero, starring Dustin Hoffman. The auditorium was cold, with wooden seats, and the sound of the projector was very loud. The film, with Russian and Estonian subtitles, was not dubbed. There were about twelve people there, more than
I had bought was probably not going to be very good, and that the shop where I had found it was not good either. It was what it was: an impulse buy. We had coffee, and he opened it and, to my relief, pronounced it to be “quite normal.” Marika, the vet, came, and brought some buns. Marika, their old friend, was in her mid-thirties, with long brown hair and a sensible face. Was she a single mother? I remember her that way, though I never saw her with her child, and she may not have been, but so