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This presentation examines gardening as a cultural practice in the Soviet Union in late 1970s and 1980s, focusing on Estonia as a case study. While in Western Europe gardening had primarily become a hobby for the majority, in the Soviet context the lack of food available made gardening a practice for survival. Growing one's own food, bartering, treating and preserving it became an integral part of living, being at once a socialist and subversive practice. However, the idea of survival was still negotiated against one's pursuit for gardening as an aesthetic pleasure. Through an analysis of interviews and contemporaneous written and visual sources, this presentation aims to uncover how gardens were used, how different plants were chosen, how the produce was utilised and how the utilitarianism linked to socialist gardening continues to shape the gardening practices in 21st century Eastern Europe.

Triin Jerlei is an Associate Professor in Product Design at the Estonian Academy of Art. Her research topics include product design in Baltic states during the Soviet occupation, transnationalism in Soviet design and history of utilitarian glass. Previously she led the research project ‘Baltic Identity in Soviet Industrial Design’ (Vilnius
University, 2018–2020). 

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.