The study of life histories opens up opportunities for understanding the creative ways in which we construct and connect with our cultural world and the ways in which we understand or fail to understand ourselves. More specifically, this book highlights the ways in which ethnic belonging influences the shape and content of life stories and hence of self-understanding and personal identity. Life stories may be used both to confirm and to challenge the ideological interpretation of historical experience.
An overarching and connecting theme emerging from our interviews relates to differences in connections to the past and future: in other words, whether life stories are backward looking or forward looking. Generalisations are always fragile, but it seems that the life histories of Latvians tend to be anchored in the past whereas the life histories of Russians reach out to the future. Just as the future of Soviet society was constructed around projected plans, so too, individual lives are articulated in terms of future-oriented goals.