Public Monuments, Commemoration and the Renegotiation of Collective Identities: Estonia, Sweden and the ‘Baltic World’

2 year collaborative project (2005-07) with art historian Dr Stuart Burch (Nottingham Trent University), funded by the British Academy.

'The core meaning of any collective and individual identity - is sustained by remembering' (John Gillis 1994, p.3) and monuments have a crucial role to play in this. As became abundantly clear during and after the collapse of Communism, they act as a 'catalyst' eliciting a variety of individual and group responses and actions, both official and unsanctioned.

The aim of this project is to illuminate key issues of collective identity and identity politics in post-Communist Estonia and the wider Baltic Sea Region through the study of public monuments and practices of commemoration. The project focuses especially upon the city of Narva and the restoration in 2000 of a 'Swedish Lion' monument to mark the 300th anniversary of Sweden's victory over Russia at the first Battle of Narva.

  • Who decided to restore the lion and why?
  • What meanings have been attached to the monument, both in official discourse and amongst local people?

These are the key questions addressed by our detailed interdisciplinary case study, which draws upon perspectives from politics, sociology, heritage studies and art history.