The GULAG experience in cultural narratives and collective identity of post-Soviet Lithuania 

Čepaitienė R.


Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnografii, 2021, 2 (53)


              page 166176




In this paper, the tendencies of rethinking the GULAG in the cultural memory of post-Soviet Lithuania (after 1990) are analyzed. The sources for the analysis were represented by ego-documents, literary works, and visual arts (movies and comics). The author draws attention to the specifics of female and, in part, childrens experience of the deportation, to the ways of perceiving, rethinking, and reproducing collective trauma in an ethno-historical context, to the role of post-memory in the formation and support of the national identity in the modern Lithuanian society. In recent years, in the field of perpetuating the memory of the Stalinist period in Lithuania, the public attention is increasingly shifted from the direct and authentic evidence to heterogeneous visually striking artistic representations. This shift in the focus of interest can be explained by the generational change, which warrants the search for a new stylistic language and message forms. As a result, works are created that belong to the field of post-memory, which are characterized by a higher degree of adaptability of the traumatic experience of previous generations to the knowledge and mentality of modern viewers / readers, as well as by attempt to increase their attractiveness through vivid and memorable characters and stories. The main difference between the most literarily valuable texts of the first and the second generation of the Lithuanian authors can basically be described as a different degree of ontological intensity. If the former authors seek to comprehend the experienced repressions within the framework of existentialism (Grinkevičiūtė and Kalvaitis) or Christian metaphysics (Dirsyte and Miškinis), then the latter authors, for obvious reasons, no longer achieve this level of reflection on the extremely traumatic experience, focusing on embedding their personal biographies into the great historical narrative about the struggle and sorrows of the nation, which has already become canonical.

Key words: Lithuania, Siberia, GULAG, deportations, national identity, collective trauma, post-memory.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 25.02.2020

Article is published: 28.05.2021


Čepaitienė R., Lithuanian Institute of History, Kražių, 5, Vilnius, Lithuania, E-mail:,