While making the film ‘six square meters’ about my Russian family history I was struck by the scarcety of stories of my family, transmitted from generation to genertaion. Hardly anything.

Why didn’t I know about the famines that my family have suffered? Why don’t I know about how they were forced to work in collective farms? Why is it that my aunts don’t know any more? 

There are a lot of different answers to this question. One of the answers comes from antropologist Svetlana Adonyeva, who made an extensive research for over 30 years about peasant life in the last century in Soviet Russia. I listened to her lecture, pointed out by my cousin Tania  (thank you!)

She speaks about the tremendous gap between two generations peasants: those who were born around 1900 (like my grandmother) and their children (like my mother and my aunts) , born in the 20s and 30s of the last century. The first generation matured before the revolution and stayed deeply religious and traditional, despite the new era of ‘communism’. But their children attended school where they were taught that religious women were dumb and should be drowned. That all old habits should be banned. And imagine your child coming home and telling you “Mum, they told me at school that women like you should be drowned because you are so dumb and stupid to believe in God.” . You can’t answer like ‘Who told you that bullshit?” because your life is at stake and that of your child: you will become the enemy of the people and your child will be bullied and not finish school. Or send to a gulag camp. So all these women/mothers kept silent. And never said a word, didn’t tell their children about how they looked at things. As not create more problems on top of trying to survive, which was hard enough anyway. . And this mecanism worked very well: now, our generation doesn’t know a thing. 

And if you take into account that 80% of the Russian population were peasants at the beginning of the 20th century, the majority of the Russians is affected by this. 

Aliona van der Horst