ARCHIVES Danyliw Seminar 2018
University of Manchester (UK)
Anna Balázs is a Hungarian anthropologist whose research focuses on the changing meanings of architecture and urban space in the post-socialist region. Currently, she is completing her PhD at the University of Manchester, in the United Kingdom. Her PhD research examines urban transformation in Mariupol following the start of the Donbas war.
The Decommunization of Everyday Life:
Transforming Soviet Legacy in an East Ukrainian Frontline Town
Through a study of decommunization in the industrial town of Mariupol, this paper examines the social transformation of post-Maidan Ukraine in the context of the militarized eastern periphery. Due to Mariupol’s marginal economic and geopolitical position within independent Ukraine, the post-socialist changes of the 1990’s had a limited impact on Mariupol’s urban space. The outbreak of the Donbas conflict presented the citizens of Mariupol with a new imperative to reflect on both the lingering legacy of the Soviet period and the city’s future development. This paper presents ethnographic evidence about the subtle ways in which the legacy of the Soviet system was inscribed in the practical structures of everyday life in Mariupol. It then shows how the Ukrainian government’s 2015 de-communization laws challenged these structures. Indeed, decommunization laws are a symbolic attempt by the Ukrainian state to present an official narrative and a unified national policy regarding the Soviet past. Focusing on the experiences of retired steelworkers in Mariupol, the paper deconstructs notions of “Soviet” identity and legacy into more tangible concepts connected to workplace, labour and community.