Oleg Pachenkov, Liliya Voronkova. Flea Market as a Space of N/Ostalgia

The discourse of «trauma» is extremely intrinsic to Germany and to the situations where one discusses German history, especially in the 20th century. As a rule, it involves two kinds of (reasons for) trauma: a) the Holocaust and the traumatic experience of German Jews in their attitude to Germany; b) the trauma of the division of Germany and, what is considered especially traumatic, the socialist past of the GDR, the experience of Eastern Germans in connection with «Stasi» etc.     

In modern German society there is one more level of trauma which is usually not discussed in public in Germany and which, as a rule, is ignored by Western researchers who are open to the charm of releasing (deliberative) West German discourse on the unification: it is the traumatic experience of «rejected past» and  rejected identity that Eastern Germans are suffering from.   

After the unification of the country with West German standards taken as the basis of it in almost every respect, Eastern Germans cannot stop feeling that they were deprived of the past, that their past was erased and rejected and that they were enforced to be ashamed of their «GDR» past.          

The subject of our report is nostalgia for the socialist past (or how it is often referred to in Germany «ostalgia» (from the word «ost» – East)) and for the repressed identity as the way to overcome the trauma of the «unification of Germany» – which normally is not considered a trauma. 

In order to study this phenomenon we have chosen a non-trivial object - a flea market where the past is visually represented in the objects which mediate human relations, provoke certain emotions, reminiscences, experiences and, finally, actions. In the course of our study we extended its subject matter by means of introducing a comparative aspect:  comparing «nostalgia for socialism» as it is represented in flea markets in Germany and in Russia and, in particular, in Berlin and in St.Petersburg.

Although both countries, Germany and Russia, had socialist past, our surveys of Berlin and St. Petersburg markets showed that there are various types of nostalgia for socialism. Nostalgia may be based on a personal experience or on somebody else’s experience, as well as may be enrooted in discourse and in modern trends. There is also a great number of ways of undergoing and expressing nostalgia: it is possible to be nostalgic by means of celebrating and by means of grieving.

We defined three types of «nostalgia for socialism» represented at the flea markets in St.Petersburg and in Berlin which can be identified in both societies and in both markets and serve as forms of «binding together» the torn fragments of the past in the history of societies and people, forming the new communities and transforming the old ones.