The Letters, Memories, and “Truths” of Finnish North Americans in Soviet Karelia
Abstract

The letters of seven Finnish North American immigrants in Soviet Karelia, written between 1931 and 1942, and those of two correspondents writing retrospectively about their experiences between 1972 and 1997 introduce readers to unique voices from inside Stalin’s Russia. The letters speak to both collective experiences and personal negotiations of place and self. They shed light on two aspects often overlooked by other sources: youth culture and the transnational flow of everyday items. The Finnish Canadian and American letter writers also offer historians an opportunity to explore individual responses to migration, political repression, and difficult pasts. Looking at the ways in which the writers invoked memories of North America, their experiences of the Great Terror and Finnish Continuation War, and freshly recollected memories of daily life provides glimpses of their fluid sense of self. Reading the letters in light of the silences – what is not said – begins to unravel the writers’ understanding of their “truths.”


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