Ilyukha Olga

Exploring forbidden and mysterious places by children in a new soviet town: the case of post-war Sortavala

Ilyukha Olga (2020) "Exploring forbidden and mysterious places by children in a new soviet town: the case of post-war Sortavala ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia IV : Pedagogika. Psihologiia, 2020, vol. 58, pp. 129-143 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturIV202058.129-143


This article demonstrates how children looked at and explored the landscape of a town ceded from Finland to the USSR during World War II. As opposed to their parents, the generation born after the war was exploring and assimilating the spaces of Sortavala as their own, natural, granted from the very beginning. Children did not have post-war fears of adults as to the possible return of the previous residents of the town, nor did they have doubts about becoming rooted in the land that only recently had become Soviet. The spatial organisation of the Soviet childhood was subject to unifi - cation and control by adults. But children created their own topography of the urban milieu which had its “locations of freedom”, feebly controlled or not controlled at all by adults. There were their own rules where their games and dreams could be made real. In the confi nes of these locations, children’s mythological ideas about the world found their expression most vividly. It is noteworthy that in Sortavala such places, among others, were Finnish cemeteries. These were zones of cultural alienation for adults. The article pays attention to the places of the town that were free from prohibitions and which due to children’s perception and fantasies acquired features of mystery and attraction. The practices of exploring the urban space by children became part of assimilating the cultural landscape “from below”. It existed contrary to the structured and standardised “exploration of the home land” that was forcibly introduced “from above”. The sources of the article are, primarily, documents in form of memoirs, i.e. memoir texts, including recorded interviews about the childhood, essays and poetry. Due to the fact that they are non-contradictory, accordant in their content and mutually supplementing, they are regarded as an integrated text about Sortavala post-war childhood.


history of childhood, childhood anthropology, urban landscape, territorial behaviour, Sortavala, Karelia, Soviet-Finnish borderlands


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Information about the author

Ilyukha Olga

Academic Degree: Doctor of Sciences* in History;
Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in History;
Academic Rank: Senior Research Fellow;
Place of work: Institute of Linguistics, Literature and History of Karelian Research Centre, Russian Academy of Sciences; 11 Pushkinskaya Str., Petrozavodsk 185910, Republic of Karelia, Russian Federation;
Post: Director of the Institute of Linguistics;
ORCID: 0000-0002-1672-5925;
Email: ilyukha.olga@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.


The article was prepared on the state task of the KarRC RAS.