Public defence in Architecture, Landscape and Urbanism, Architect M.Sc. Netta Böök

How a former Finnish settlement was turned into a sovkhoz’s central village in the USSR
- Public defence from the Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Architecture
Suomalaisia taloja, neuvostoaikainen kirjakauppa, televisioantenneja ja sähkötolppia Kurkijoen taajaman pääkadun Ulitsa Leninan varrella. Pöllyävää hiekkatietä pitkin lähestyy vaalea henkilöauto.
Kurkijoen taajamaa vuonna 1971 konsuli Aarne Roihan kuvaamana. Kansatieteen kuvakokoelma. Museoviraston kuvakokoelmat. Museovirasto

The title of the thesis: Talot pysyvät, ihmiset vaihtuvat. Sosialistisen yhteiskunnan rakentaminen entisessä suomalaisessa Kurkijoen kirkonkylässä Neuvostoliitossa (in English: Houses stay, people move. Building a socialist society in a former Finnish settlement in Kurkijoki in the Soviet Union)

Doctoral student: Netta Böök
Opponent: Prof. Maria Lähteenmäki, The Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland
Custos: Prof. Panu Savolainen, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Department of Architecture

The dissertation examines, from the perspective of architectural history, what happened to the central settlement of the municipality of Kurkijoki after it was ceded to the USSR following the Winter War and Continuation War in 1941 and 1944 respectively. What exactly did the building stock that the USSR received from Finland comprise of, and how did the Soviet leadership and authorities deal with the buildings of the 'enemy nation'? What did they tell the settlers about the former inhabitants and their society? 

As the Soviet state determined what the countryside and its architecture should be, the region was reorganised according to those ideals. Farms were merged into kolkhozes and sovkhozes, and hundreds of buildings were relocated. The exception was the municipality’s intact and compact central settlement, which corresponded in its essential features to the ideal of a socialist rural settlement during the Stalin era. It was given the status of the sovkhoz’s central village that ensured the use and preservation of the buildings. During the Khrushchev and Brezhnev periods, the new ideal was a compact, urban agro-town, and also the Kurkijoki settlement was due to be turned into one. After the collapse of the USSR, however, it still looked like a former Finnish settlement, with modest supplementary building from the Soviet era. 

In the field of architectural history, the study is the first to examine the development of an individual Finnish village in the annexed Karelia as part of Soviet socialist society, and the first to give a voice to the Soviet immigrants who encountered the material traces of Finnish culture. 

What makes the settlement of Kurkijoki unique as a research object is its exceptionally well-preserved pre-war building stock; the study of its reception and use open up perspectives on historical phenomena and undercurrents that go beyond the individual village. 

More generally, the case of Kurkijoki shows that cultural ruptures and systemic changes leave long-lasting traces on both buildings and people. Centralised and hierarchical planning practices, which for ideological reasons do not take local conditions into account, can lead to a huge waste of material and human resources. Moving people into conditions over which they have little control and where there is no ownership of buildings leads to rootlessness and indifference to the built environment.

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