Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Governance, ethnicity, and language in Baltic prisons.

Fri31  Mar04:45pm(15 mins)
Main Building Room 134


Olga Zeveleva1
1 ., United States


This work in progress attempts to make sense of how ethnic and class dynamics intersect in the carceral experience in Estonia. I draw on interviews with people who served prison sentences in Estonia between the 1960s and today. I build on Loic Wacquant’s theorization of marginality and segregation and argue that marginality in Estonia is determined by ethnicity and modulated by class. However, the importance of ethnicity in Estonia in the past three decades must be historically contextualized in the class dynamics and ideology of the Soviet system. Multigenerational class disparities, aggravated by ethno-centric nation-building policies in newly independent Estonia, against a backdrop of post-Soviet deindustrialization in the northeast of the country, have produced a type of social marginalization that is unique to Estonia: it disadvantages the Russian-speaking minority on ethnic grounds, and locks them into a dominated class position. Prisons, where Russian-speakers are overrepresented, have become places where Russian-speakers occupy the top levels of prisoner hierarchies. They are also sites for networking, and places where class position is solidified.