The death list of Sandarmokh: Mayme Sevander's work as emancipatory international and intercultural professional communication

Kyle Mattson


This article examines the emancipatory power of Mayme Sevander's published list in her Vaeltajat (2000), meaning The Wanderers. Comprising the names and details of Finnish émigrés killed or displaced in Stalin's 1937-1938 Purge at Sandarmokh, Petrozavodsk, Soviet Karelia (now in the Republic of Karelia, Russia), the Finnish-language list can be seen as a published memorial. Pursuing contextual rhetorical analysis of advocacy and emancipation work, Mattson argues that an errant 1930s socialist-communist PR campaign painted Soviet Karelia as a utopia, resulting in a near-religious departure of many U.S. Finnish émigrés for that region. Positing that conflating advocacy with emancipation in rhetorics of the faithful can sometimes have dangerous outcomes, Mattson presents an excerpt of Sevander's list—the 141 murdered U.S. Finnish émigrés—as, alternatively, "the Death List of Sandarmokh" and "Mayme's List." Ultimately, Mattson views Sevander's translation of the victims' names and details as the true emancipation project, a recovery of that tragic history.


assemblages; Finnish émigrés; socialist-communist rhetorics; translation; advocacy; emancipation

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