Identity loss and recovery in the life stories of Soviet WWII veterans

Coleman, Peter G. and Podolskij, Andrei (2007) Identity loss and recovery in the life stories of Soviet WWII veterans. The Gerontologist, 47, (1), 52-60.


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Purpose: we examined the adjustment to societal change following the fall of communism in a group of Soviet war veterans from Russia and the Ukraine. The focus of the study was on the dynamics of identity development, and especially generativity, in a period of intense social upheaval.

Design and Methods:we administered measures of self-esteem, life satisfaction, and generativity to 50 World War II veterans from five distinct areas of the former Soviet Union. We also conducted life-history interviews and made a thematic analysis of the transcripts.

Results: despite the loss of the system of government and values that had dominated their lives, most participants demonstrated positive well-being, and especially a high sense of generativity. They described their experience of societal change as having disturbed their past, present, and future sense of self. Most, however, had found ways of reaffirming a generative identity. For some, this meant maintaining a Soviet identity; for others, it meant taking a critical view of the history through which they had lived. The principal sustaining element among the participants as a whole was hope in their own families' future.

Implications: Major societal change of the kind experienced by Soviet war veterans in later life poses a challenge to a continued sense of generativity. These elderly veterans were able to meet this challenge, providing evidence of their resilience and the continuing strength of family bonds in the former Soviet Union at this time of debate about national identity.

Item Type: Article
ISSNs: 0016-9013 (print)
Related URLs:
Keywords: generativity, societal change, values, family bonds, communism, russia, ukraine
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DK Russia. Soviet Union. Former Soviet Republics
H Social Sciences > HX Socialism. Communism. Anarchism
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Psychology > Division of Human Wellbeing
ePrint ID: 44935
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
February 2007Published
Date Deposited: 20 Mar 2007
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 12:19

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