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A Dim Light of Dawn: Finnish Post-Cold War Experiences Between East and West, 1989–1995

Tampere University
Duration of project1.9.2021–31.8.2025
Area of focusSociety

The post-Cold War studies have largely ignored the liminal experiences on the edge of the East-West divide after the 1989 revolutions. The aim of the project is to analyze the history of experiences in early-1990s Finnish society during a major change that concerned all the sections of the society. One of the defining characteristics of a social change is the uncertainty about the future, a liminal experience. We analyze how these uncertainties were manifested in the lives of the citizens and what means people adopted to share and cope with these experiences. The time frame of the study, 1989–1995, ends in the 1995 enlargement of the European Union. We approach the topic from three interconnected perspectives, all of which are united by the experience of change. Three themes are: economic depression, neo-patriotism and the European integration.

Methodologically the project belongs to the history of experiences. We understand “experience” as a social process in which individual and small-group experiences tied to a time and place are transformed into a shared narrative of experience within a larger collective. We pay special attention to how the expressed experiences and emotions portrayed the expectations about the future.

The project introduces the history of experiences to the post-Cold War studies. We suggest that liminality understood as remaining in-between, describes the experiences of change in the early 1990s. The geopolitics, the mental geography and the economy had been transformed, yet in the ordinary experiences it remained unclear, whether for worse or better.

Project group

Tuomas Tepora (PI)
Aapo Roselius
Ville Yliaska


The aim of the project is to analyze the history of experiences in early-1990s Finnish society during societal change that concerned the entire society.


The results on early-1990s experiences help the public to understand the present nationalistic populism in Europe and shed new light on how the liminal experiences of the early-1990s have been narrativized.

Funding source

Academy of Finland