Building That Bright Future: Soviet Karelia in the Life Writing of Finnish North Americans
Published: May 2022© 2022
Imprint: University of Toronto Press
Page Count: 278 Pages
Illustrations: 15 b&w illustrations & 1 b&w map
Dimensions: 6.00 x 9.00
278 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 15 b&w illustrations & 1 b&w map
Ebook - PDF
In the early 1930s, approximately 6,500 Finns from Canada and the United States moved to Soviet Karelia, on the border of Finland, to build a Finnish workers’ society. They were recruited by the Soviet leadership for their North American mechanical and lumber expertise, their familiarity with the socialist cause, and their Finnish language and ethnicity. By 1936, however, Finnish culture and language came under attack and ethnic Finns became the region’s primary targets in the Stalinist Great Terror.
Building That Bright Future relies on the personal letters and memoirs of these Finnish migrants to build a history of everyday life during a transitional period for both North American socialism and Soviet policy. Highlighting the voices of men, women, and children, the book follows the migrants from North America to the Soviet Union, providing vivid descriptions of daily life. Samira Saramo brings readers into personal contact with Finnish North Americans and their complex and intimate negotiations of self and belonging.
Through letters and memoirs, Building That Bright Future explores the multiple strategies these migrants used to make sense of their rapidly shifting positions in the Soviet hierarchy and the relationships that rooted them to multiple places and times.
Map of Karelia
1. The Question of Karjala: Contextualizing the Karelian “Fever”
2. Our Comrades Are Leaving Again: Moving to Soviet Karelia
3. ... Of Course Not Like There: Karelian Living Conditions as Experienced by Finnish North Americans
4. The Golden Fund of Karelia: Childhood in Finnish North American Karelia
5. Isn’t It a Different Land, This Sickle and Hammer Land?: Working in Soviet Karelia
6. All Kinds of Hustle and Bustle: Social Life, Community Involvement, and Leisure
7. Karelia Is Soaked in the Blood of Innocent People: Writing about the Great Terror
"Saramo’s scrupulous respect for these hitherto buried voices has real value."Charlotte Gray, Literary Review of Canada
"This excellent work of transnational history reveals how ethnic identities and socialist ideals were framed and reframed in the everyday experiences of people who followed their dreams of utopia. Samira Saramo skillfully utilizes a rich body of life writing by Finnish North American migrants to Soviet Karelia to illuminate the intimacies of daily life – at home, at work, at play – in the midst of momentous political events."Marlene Epp, Professor of History and Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Waterloo
"Samira Saramo's book is a touching account of the aspirations, dreams, intransigence, joys, and also successes of 6,500 Finns from Canada and the United States who moved to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s. She gives agency to migrants by bringing their different experiences and motives to the discussion, including a whole chapter devoted to children’s experiences and feelings through letters, memoirs, and life-story interviews. It is a beautiful and unique feature of this book as previous research has omitted children, almost without exception, from the picture."Markku Kangaspuro, Professor, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
"A moving story of hope, daily life, community, terror, and tragedy as narrated by the Finnish North American letter and memoir writers who sought and struggled to make sense of life in Soviet Karelia. Building That Bright Future is an interdisciplinary history that both enlightens and makes you weep."Franca Iacovetta, Professor Emerita of History, University of Toronto