Translational dissonances in the totalitarian monologue

Continuities, discontinuities and hidden conflicts in Soviet Estonian translation history

Translation analysis is an effective way to refine our historical understanding of the totalitarian phenomenon. As our research into the communicative meaning of translation during the Soviet period in Estonia has shown, dichotomous oppositions such as ‘official culture’ vs ‘counter-culture’ fail to explain the dissonances that translations can introduce into the totalitarian monologue. The approach we have developed and applied to our case study is based on an exploration of different layers of translation’s historicity: starting from an analysis of systemic continuities such as censorship or state control of book production, and diachronic discontinuities like changes in the statistical figures on translation over the Soviet period, we arrive at a contextualized exploration of particular aspects of translation processes and their products. Taking into account the constraints of the totalitarian system and the loopholes it left, a study of both the censor’s interventions and the microstylistic decisions of translators reveal the dialogical and highly individual potential of translations, and also the highly individual character of the so called „totalitarian systems”, which can vary in their degrees of monologism in both space and time.