Politics of Death in Soviet Lithuania: Meaning, Rituals, Symbols, Emotions

01 June 2020 - 31 May 2023
Funded by

Project idea

The project Politics of Death in Soviet Lithuania: Meaning, Rituals, Symbols, Emotions aims to explore the extent and the ways in which death, one of the most personal experiences, was politically controlled and connected to the Soviet goals, as well as the extent and the ways in which death, its meanings and the attitudes towards it remained within the space of personal freedom. The Soviet regime is considered to have shaped a certain political religion of its own. The political effort was paid not only to shaping joyful rituals (such as mass celebrations, commemorations, and their aesthetics), but also to give Soviet meanings to a person’s death.

The project analyses the ideological and propaganda meanings of death and their political transformations in the Soviet Union; the hierarchy of deaths, their variety and meanings (heroic death, simple death, suicide, politically underappreciated death, etc.), its expression in the Lithuanian SSR; the shaping of the death-related rituals and the influence of institutions, the limits of the rituals (exemplary rituals, commemorations, founding of new cemeteries, aesthetics of the ritual, unwelcome rituals, political limits of tolerance for the various rituals); the public expressions of officially tolerated death-related emotions (in the public written condolences, inscriptions on the funeral wreaths, funeral speeches), the distinction between the personal experience of emotions and their political shaping.

The research will be based on the analyses of the archival and other materials regarding the ideology, propaganda transformations, its measures and the shaping of the rituals related to death. In order to reveal the symbolism and meanings of death, the Lithuanian-produced works of film and literature featuring rituals of death will be analysed, as well as official and other press containing obituaries and condolences. The research will use the methods of history of concepts, history of emotions, and discourse analysis.