International Journal of
Sociology and Anthropology

  • Abbreviation: Int. J. Sociol. Anthropol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2006-988X
  • DOI: 10.5897/IJSA
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 311


Self-awareness and the quest for belonging in Russian life stories in Latvia

Dagmara Beitnere-Le Galla
  • Dagmara Beitnere-Le Galla
  • Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia, Riga, Latvia.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 02 January 2021
  •  Published: 31 March 2021


In the 20th century, Latvia has experienced the proclamation of the state, then the loss of independence and the restoration of independence. At such a difficult time in history, the country has changed in terms of demography, ethnicity and linguistic culture. The article features interviews from the National Oral History Project “Ethnic and Narrative Diversity in Life Story Constructions in Latvia” to summarize the self-understanding of the Russian-speaking minority. National identity research has acknowledged that the concept of 'identity' has become too vague, so the analysis of life stories focuses on people's self-understanding of who they feel they belong to while living in Latvia. This is the specificity of the interviews to get the process of self-reflection, how people encounter the history of their family, gain a framework for self-understanding. Respondents talk about the experiences and attitudes of previous generations towards the imprints of history in a totalitarian system on human destinies, up to emotional self-reflection as a healing of injuries. The Russian-speaking minority in Latvia is heterogeneous, with different political experiences and, consequently, attitudes towards the independent state of Latvia. Life story research is a method of initiating a dialogue between two linguistic groups. Listening to and understanding diversity is one way to reduce tensions and avoid ethnic conflicts. The life stories analyzed in the article revealed the so-called ‘Zones of silence’, the defaults of family stories, which only in a democratic society allow them to be told in public.


Key words: Life story, cultural memory, self-awareness, belonging to.