Imagining Soviet Childhood through Estonian and Latvian Film

May 29, 2018

Liina-Ly Roos, recipient of a 2017 AABS Dissertation Grant Award, received her PhD this spring from the Department of Scandinavian Studies at the University of Washington.

The AABS Dissertation Grant allowed me to travel to Estonia and Latvia in the Fall 2017 to gather material for my dissertation chapter “The Temporal Child and Soviet Everyday in Baltic Imagination.” I was able to watch all the films at the Estonian Film Archive that I would not have been able to access in Seattle, and as I had recently established contacts with the Latvian Film Museum, I was very fortunate to be able to visit the museum and acquire several of the films to take with me. I was also able to purchase some films and books from the stores in Tallinn and Riga (recent publications connected to the topic of my research). I also made good use of the National Library of Estonia, the National Library of Latvia, the Academic Library and Art Academy Library in Estonia. it was crucial for me to see more Estonian and Latvian films that have focused on the child. I am now able to analyze the change from depicting children in films made during the Soviet period, to films such as the examples of my dissertation chapter, and to films that portray the problematics within the contemporary societies. While the depictions of children made in the Soviet era were supportive of the official ideology, the idea of the child as sincere and innocent, finding comfort in the domestic spaces (and even after leaving the home-space always returns) and being curious about the adult-world in these films (for example, Sprīdītis by Gunars Piesis, Saulessvece by Lūcija Ločmele, Tuli öös by Valdur Hindek or Ohtlikud mängud by Veljo Käsper) is similar to the literary depictions of the child during the period before the Second World War. Estonian film scholar Eva Näripea and Latvian film scholar Zane Balčus were helpful in making a selection of films, particularly from the Soviet period (as their specialties are in Soviet Estonian cinema and Soviet Latvian cinema, respectively) and providing some initial feedback. I am very grateful for this productive research travel that the AABS Dissertation Grant allowed me to conduct, and I look forward to continuing working with the material that I gathered there.