Toxic Memories and Amateur Genealogy in Contemporary Russia


  • Inna Leykin Department of Sociology, Political Science and Communication, Open University of Israel



amateur genealogy, commemorative politics, genealogical imagination, political violence, post-Soviet memory, therapeutic discourse


This article investigates post-Soviet practices of amateur genealogy in relation to the politics of memory in Russia. Based on long-term ethnographic research into a popular genealogy club in a large provincial city, it explores genealogists’ interpretive practices through which flat and unified historical narratives about the Soviet past, and especially about political violence, gain temporal, and spatial depth. The article argues that these practices have been informed by a growing presence of the therapeutic discourse in post-Soviet Russia, which resulted in genealogy becoming a means to reshape individuals’ relations with the Soviet past. Positioning oneself on the genealogical grid and historicizing family narratives contextualizes the self and ensures a sense of inclusion in a broader community. It is by virtue of its transformative potential that amateur genealogy becomes a balm for post-Soviet memory.