Telling and retelling a historical event: the collapse of the Soviet Union in Finnish parliamentary talk

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This article studies the collapse of the Soviet Union as a historical event by investigating how it was perceived while it occurred and what subsequent interpretations have been provided of the event and its significance. The event is studied both as meaningful past experience and as a relevant part of the present argument, since retellings generate historical experience. Our digitized corpus includes parliamentary records of plenary sessions from 1980 and oral history interviews of former MPs cover the period between 1988 and 2018. The corpus is grammatically parsed, allowing us to locate mentions of the Soviet collapse. We combine analytical methods for the study of an event from conceptual history, with its emphasis on the recycling and reinterpretation of concepts, and narratology, with its emphasis on how happenings past and unfolding are narrated into meaningful events at the time of the telling. The abrupt changes in Finland's powerful neighbour caused both cautious predictions in a quest for stability as well as hypotheses of change and even rejoicing over an ideological victory early on. The significance of the event unfolding was quickly noticed, and our analysis reveals the many uses of the event in politics during the decades to come.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)106-127
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Event
  • epochal change
  • Cold War
  • Soviet Union
  • historical experience
  • Finland

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3


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