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  • The Museum of Forbidden Testimonies: Afghan War Veterans Club, Alytus, Lithuania

Carolin, Clare, 2013, Book, The Museum of Forbidden Testimonies: Afghan War Veterans Club, Alytus, Lithuania TBC. (Unpublished)

Abstract or Description:

This research project sets out to investigate and bring to public attention a unique and barely known body of material held by the Afghan War Veterans Club, a grass roots institution in southern Lithuania curated by and purely from the perspective of Lithuanian conscripts in the Red Army who had no wish to serve Soviet Imperialism but were forced to do so.

The veterans of Alytus were among some 5,000 Lithuanians who towards the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (1979-89) were conscripted into the army and sent there, often against their will. The occupation claimed numerous lives, caused intense material damage and ended in defeat. After the collapse of the Soviet Union Lithuanian veterans of the Afghan conflict (many of whom were injured and/or affected by post traumatic stress) were seen as part of the legacy of the Soviet Union and ostracized by Lithuanian society, leading them to develop their own support networks and organisations for self-representation, of which the Alytus club is an example.

The holdings of the museum consist mainly of snapshot photographs and 'dembel albums' compiled by the conscripts during their tours of duty. These albums, filled with drawings and snapshots depicting scenes of daily life in the military, formal portrait photographs, tourist memorabilia and other ephemera provide a unique testimony of the experience of serving as a conscript in the Soviet Army during its occupation of Afghanistan. These testimonies are made all the more poignant by the fact that making of these albums was strictly forbidden by the Soviet military authorities who intercepted and censored all outgoing documentation of the conflict, such that the entire contents of the Museum consists of material smuggled out by returning conscripts. Visits to the museum are by appointment only and in advance of each visit its custodians curate a display from the holdings in response the anticipated interests of their visitors.

This obscure institution has been the focus of an investigation by Carolin since 2008 which has involved in depth interviews with the museum's custodians, photographic documentation, comprehensive documentation of all the 'dembel albums' and an ongoing review of popular, visual, literary and filmic accounts of the Soviet and NATO occupations of Afghanistan. Carolin has presented her research at the Counter Archives symposium at the Jagellionian University, Krakow in May 2011, the symposium Finding Utopia in the Archive at Birkbeck College in June 2011, and as part of the lecture series Art and Globalisation at the Royal College of Art in April 2012. An image-led publication presenting the material from the 'dembel albums' with an essay by Carolin is planned for 2013.

Subjects: Other > Social studies > L200 Politics > L240 International Politics
Other > Social studies > L700 Human and Social Geography
Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W160 Fine Art Conservation
Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art > W190 Fine Art not elsewhere classified
Creative Arts and Design > W600 Cinematics and Photography > W640 Photography
School or Centre: School of Humanities
Copyright Holders: Alytus Afghan War Veterans Museum
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2011 21:33
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2012 15:33
URI: http://researchonline.rca.ac.uk/id/eprint/723

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