Epistemological approach to correspondence: silent history of intimate spheres

  • Vita Gruodytė
Keywords: “The Nylon Curtain”, correspondence, cultural history, proxemic anthropology, micro- and macro-spherology


Cultural history, without which it is essentially impossible to speak about music, is composed, as we know, of a multitude of circumstances and coincidences affecting not only the musical artefacts but also the relations between those who create this history: Why did some people meet at some point? How was the link established between them? Why did this link last in some cases and why was it just punctual in other cases? What were the mutual influences? The project “The Nylon Curtain” is based on correspondence during the Cold War era, which was circulating between the Western countries and Lithuania. We allude to personal communication initiatives based on relationships, ideas, desires, and personal opportunities that helped create a “parallel history”. In the frame and context of official history, the formation of individual micro-spheres, namely the intimate world of correspondence, which would develop outside this framework, was one of a few publicly available tools to modulate the everyday environment. Thus, correspondence participated, independently of borders, in the establishment of a communication network, which functioned as an area without boundaries, and with its own specificities and problematics. This network became a “common” area, centred on cultural, professional and personal experiences. We should treat the correspondence of the Soviet period not only as a historical document but also as a reference to a certain emotional state of that period. The latter affects not only the language of the letters, but also what is read between the lines; not only what is said, but also what is implied by what is said: the silent language is the true discourse of the Soviet era. Consequently, the central element of our analysis, which allows us to make a link between the problems raised at the beginning, is emotional space: it is the key to understand that cultural acts in the Soviet era were carried out in spite of a greater or lesser presence of fear and in spite of the possibilities of the regime’s reaction.