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The Winter War – The view of non-combatants
(based on the personal interviews)

The history of the Soviet-Finnish 1939-1940 War has got rather thorough and diversified analysis in the research literature. Different narrative sources were used, but mainly official. But the reconstruction of historical event, it's scale and significance propose also the maximal possible use of unofficial information, which is held by the people, contemporary to the event. Retrospective of any war, including the Winter War, are the facts of the historical memory of the nation. The "folk" representation of the wartime life if most fully presented in "verbal" history. With a time, of cause, the eventual and emotional memory weakens, yet the use of several methodological approaches shows broad possibilities to gather valuable individual information.

We have studied the verbal stories of the inhabitants of Karelia who was born in 20s and early 30s of XX century about the live of the civilians during the "Winter War". Those were mostly undocumented events of private lives.

The use of such unofficial informational sources about the war winter of 1939-1940 will allow us to compare individual reminiscences of the alive participants of the events of the time and official memories, produced by the society and the state and reproduce the integral picture of the life of the frontier region, to understand the influence of the war on the everyday life of civilian population, on it's destiny and to measure the dept of the influence of that events on the human memory. Still it should be noted that the living witnesses of the "Winter War" were at their teens in the end of the 30's. That means that we have to do with the individual and collective memory of the youth of the Soviet Karelia. During the interviews we get accordingly modified history of the Soviet-Finnish war – we get the reminiscences of the teens age with all the advantages of the purely emotional reactions on the events and all the drawbacks of the lack of the knowledge of life necessary to judge the events. The responders can be divided into three main groups: town inhabitants, villagers and Finnish youth. Such a division is based on the difference of the wartime information gathered by them, though the reminiscences have also much in common.

The differences and alikeness found in the reminiscences are based on the differences in the culture-historical basis of that period – the differences in the life in the cities and villages, differences in the range from the region of war theatre, social environment and the historical experience of the interaction with the ruling structures. It is necessary to note that the 1930's were the time of mass repression and created a specific public atmosphere that was rather traumatic to the bigger part of responders.

In this work we did not set the aim of full reconstruction of the events of the 1939-1940 winter trough their reflection in the private life of civilians. Our interests were focused on the finding and systematization of the associative images of the historical memory that spontaneously define the vector of human reminiscences. We tried to define, what was first noticed by the eyes on contemporary people that became the road-signs of that time and is still kept in the historical memory of respondents after over half of the century.

Thematically formalized approach during the interviewing allowed to define the brightest reminiscences about the "Winter War" period. They became a kind of a reference system that allowed to remember the episodes seemed to be forgotten due to the age of the respondents and different life circumstances.


Attachment 1. Interview of Spyaschiy Sergey Petrovitch, born 1926 in Povenets settelment, Medvazhyegorsk region
Attachment 2. Interview of Chekalova Anna Petrovna, born 1928 in Ladva Village of Prionezhsky region, during the war lived in Petrozavodsk
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