Kaja Veddel (Estonian University of Life Sciences)
Martti Veldi (Estonian University of Life Sciences)
Avangard: a Forward-Looking Kolkhoz is Seen as Part of the Past
Äksi is a small settlement near Tartu in Estonia. The typical Soviet era blocks of flats overlook Lake Saadjärv and the view is met on the other side by large open fields. Back in the Soviet time it was a kolkhoz known as “Avangard” (or “avant-garde”). The name, of course, symbolised the forward-looking new Estonian Soviet state and its accompanying modernisation of the rural landscape. Today the layers of history in the settlement and the landscape around it are visible in the white brick houses built in the early days of the kolkhoz and in the favoured choice of trees planted in the same period but now all grown up. Some of those houses are not in such a great shape anymore, some continue to be used in a similar way they used to be, after the end of the kolkhoz. For example, the workshop building now hosts a company that makes dolls and the piggery has survived despite the change of owners. There are many stories to be shared by those who were part of it all. To gather those memories, and to understand how the starting of new lives for young adults of that time, interviews were carried out using the go-along technique, where the interviewed subject can recall the memories in greater detail, as they walk down the same streets as some decades ago. Although the landscape has visually changed and over two decades have passed since the ending of the Soviet regime, the mind map in peoples’ heads remains vivid. The interviews revealed particular places, views, activities and memories of young adults who came here to start their independent lives, to build a future for them and for the kolkhoz at the same time at the peak of the Soviet era.