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SENTENTIA. European Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences

Charting of emotions of the senior population of a small rural locality in the Euro-Arctic Zone of Russia

Zhigaltsova Tatiana

PhD in Philosophy

Docent, Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M. V. Lomonosov; Senior Scientific Associate, N. P. Laverov Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences

163000, Russia, Arkhangel'skaya oblast', g. Arkhangel'sk, ul. Naberezhnaya, 17

Other publications by this author








Abstract:   Recent urban studies give particular attention to the concept of place attachment. A modern settlement, first and foremost, represents a space that is emotionally comfortable for the local residents. The goal of this research consists in the analysis of emotional attachment and/or rejection to specific places in a small rural locality of Komsomolsky of Velsky District of the Arkhangelsk Region, situated in the Euro-Arctic Zone of Russia, and formed in the middle of the XX century as a place deprived of a long and rich history and traditions. The research results are based on the survey conducted among 40 residents of the locality aged 50 years and older. It demonstrated that the residents experienced various emotions of joy, interest, comfort, sorrow, pride, anxiety, shame, and disgust towards public places in the locality. At the same time, a single place (for example, a hospital, an abandoned school, gym, etc.) may incorporate both positive and negative emotions. The detected emotions were placed on a physical map and revealed the diversity of emotional perceptions of residents, with concentration of emotions in the center and suburbs of the locality. The interactive map is presented on the Internet resource http://emogeography.com/emotional-maps.html. The map exceeded the geographical boundaries of the locality and included several kilometers of the neighboring area. The research has vast implications for the improvement of emotional well-being of the residents of small rural settlements. Some recommendations on the reconstruction of center of the locality and engagement of population into social and cultural events are given.  


emotional geography, rural community, euro-arctic zone, mapping, emotopia, elderly population, emotional attachment, emotional rejection, interactive map, anonymous survey


Mapping as a method of plotting various facts, phenomena, processes, signs, etc. on a geographical map came into use in the late 18-th-early 19-th century. Mapping became popular in the humanities in the 1980s. Up to now, the following types of mapping have been defined: imaginative geographical mapping (Zamjatin, 2006), mental mapping (Veselkova, 2010), psychogeographical mapping (Debord, 1955), historical and ethnographical mapping (Bruk, 1973), linguistic mapping (Zamfira, 2009), cross-cultural mapping (Latov and Latova, 2010), and interactive mapping (Strel'nikova, 2013). The object of my research is closely connected to imaginative geographical mapping and mental mapping.

Imaginative geographical mapping is used in humanitarian geography and, in particular, imaginative geography, that defines an imaginative geographical map as ‘a graphical representation of geographical images of a piece of land or water area (places, landscapes, locations, rivers, populated areas, cities, regions, countries, continents, etc.) (Zamjatin, 2010: 30). This type of maps resembles mental (cognitive) maps and in appearance is similar to Venn diagrams (Zamjatin, 2010: 30).

Researchers use mental maps to visualize emotional reactions of an individual or a group of people towards the surrounding space. For example, K. Lynch, an American researcher, used drawings of citizens' every day routes to create mental maps of Boston, Los Angeles, and Jersey City. Lynch singled out such emotionally heightened spaces as the green areas (parks and blocks of trees), the water areas (rivers, lakes and swimming pools), the downtown, and locations offering panoramic views:

‘There was an emotional delight arising from a broad view that was referred to many times…A broad view will sometimes expose chaos, or express characterless loneliness, but a well-managed panorama seems to be a staple of urban enjoyment’ (Lynch, 1982: 49).

An illustrative example of mental mapping is drawings of children aged 10-12 years who lived in Paris and Berlin, both natives and migrants, to draw their daily routes from home to school. The resulting drawings were analysed by Semjonova in the article “Urban space mapping: main approaches to visual analysis” (2009). Comparing the children’s drawings, Semjonova concluded, that the migrant children did not draw the starting points and the end of their routes, ‘as if it was a road from nowhere to nowhere’, whereas the native children ‘usually started the route with “My home” and ended it with “My school” (Semjonova, 2009). Besides, the native children also included themselves in their drawings and marked ‘mental points’ that ‘captured their childhood fears and positive experiences connected with this route in the past’ (Semjonova, 2009). All this indicates that native children have an experience of personalized exploration of the surrounding space, while migrant children lack such experience.

The mapping of emotions is not new in research. Psychogeography has been using this research method since the middle of the twentieth century: ‘as part of the development of psychogeography, specialized methods were used to derive information and record results (psychogeographical cartography)’ (Mihajlenko, 2010: 96). Christian Nold presented a novel method of ‘Bio Mapping’ that consisted in recording Galvanic Skin Responses (GSR) of the participants, indicating emotional arousal in conjunction with their geographical location1. As a result, Nold (2009) plotted a map, which visualized points of high and low arousal. However, this method did not allow for the specification of the exact type of emotions, experienced by the participants in a specific place.

In order to lay a foundation for mapping such subjective and unsteady phenomena as emotions, it is important to refer to the concept of emotional memory. Emotional memory is the memory of experienced emotions and feelings ‘with a high-speed imprint, special durability, and mostly involuntary form of retention, reproduction and functioning on the unconscious level of the psyche’ (Anderson and Smith, 2001: 103).

The psychologists L. Scannell and R. Giffort (2010) postulated high significance of personal feelings towards places of residence. For a person, places become emotionally heightened spaces when they are connected to important experiences (Scannell and Gifford, 2010: 2). The authors conclude, that a lot of ‘threads tie individuals to their important places’ (Scannell and Gifford, 2010: 5).

The present study is conducted in the framework of emotional geography. Emotional geography is a relatively new field of urban studies, which deals with the emotional connection between the inhabitants and their places of living (Zhigaltsova, 2018: 358). Most often, the methods of emotional geography can be applied to the places, which are connected with emotional reactions of the users (e.g., houses for the elderly, schools, community and activity centres etc.). In this study, I am researching the emotional geography of the whole village. My study is congruent with the findings of Linda Sandberg and Malin Ronnblom (2016), who studied the attitude of the inhabitants to the relocation of the northernmost city in Sweden (Kiruna) to a new place. Based on the interviews with the inhabitants of Kiruna and the analysis of public discourse (publications in the magazines and newspapers, information leaflets etc.), the researchers identified such emotions, reactions and positions as optimism/hope, ambivalence, resignation, and anger/fear/loss (Sandberg and Ronnblom, 2016).

My hypothesis runs, that a person can experience such emotions as joy, interest, ease, pride, bitterness/sorrow, anxiety/fear, shame, and disgust/distaste not only during human interaction towards other people, but towards specific rural spaces (places in the village) as well. I introduced the term ‘emotopia’ or ‘emotion loci’ to define places that draw upon themselves the emotions of people from different social and educational backgrounds, ages, etc.

The aim of this study is to identify the presence or absence of places of emotional attachment/rejection in a small rural settlement, the Komsomolsky forest village, situated in the Euro-Arctic zone of Russia.

In order to achieve this aim, the following objectives were formulated:

· To classify emotions;

· To single out emotional reactions of the residents towards specific places in the village;

· To identify gender differences in the perception of emotopia;

· To plot an emotion map of the Komsomolsky forest village, the Arkhangelsk region, based on the survey among its residents aged 50-80 years.

The initial results of the study were published in Zhigaltsova (2018). For the present article, the data from the field expeditions were expanded and analyzed in depth.

The Komsomolsky village is a typical forest village that was founded as a satellite for a logging enterprise. Until 2004, the village was a part of the Shonoshsky Forestry Enterprise, founded in 1939. Such forest villages were built by different nationalities of the former USSR, and as such represent a unique experiment of sociocultural adaption of different peoples to the forced living conditions.

There are big differences between traditional Russian villages and such forest settlements as Komsomolsky. Traditional villages of the Russian North are characterized by their individual look and free-pattern settlement planning, harmonious integration with the natural environment and clear delineation of the borders of the settlement, clearly shaped centre and residential facilities in the community. Traditional northern houses were usually built for a single family and rested upon on a high basement (‘podklet’) with all supply buildings gathered under the same roof. However, temporary forest villages, built during the Soviet period, used ribbon development patterns with typical one-storeyed houses for two to four families, or two-storeyed houses for eight families.

Over the past two decades, following the economic crisis and the depletion of forest resources, most of the logging enterprises were shut down: ‘At present, there remained few forest villages: The 58th Kilometer (with a few railway workers), Sredny (now only a logging camp with two brigades and a railway sleeper factory), Komsomolsky, Tuloma (on the verge of disappearance, with only 40 inhabitants, mainly elderly people), Yemenga – no longer a lumber camp, but merely a logging unit. Such villages as Kozye, Stary, Novy, Severny and Ryabinovy have ceased to exist’ (Pribytkov, 2004). The forestry enterprises are shutting down, but the inhabitants of these forest villages, mainly people of the retirement age, stay to live there. The study of emotopia of such forest villages on the brink of disappearance can shed light on tight emotional attachment to places that have no long history and local traditions, and, at a first glance, cannot create a strong feeling of place in their residents.


C. Ellard (2015) distinguishes five universal types of places: places of affection, places of lust, places of boredom, places of anxiety, and places of awe. The architecture of a city can trigger feelings similar to feelings towards a person:

‘The history of interactions with another person nurtures feelings of trust, openness, and affection. In much the same way, our history of visits to a place, the time we spend there, and the experiences that we have, can give rise to strong feelings of attachment. And much as with love between humans, what we bring

to a relationship from our own past can be just as important as what we experience in new encounters with a place’.’ (Ellard, 2015: 81).

Buildings can make the same cross-culturally recognized impression on people of different sexes, races and religious beliefs. For example, the author, calling himself an atheist, describes his mental state when visiting the Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome in such a way:

‘…I felt a similar breaking down at the edges of my selfhood, made all the more remarkable by the fact that I knew that what I was feeling was, in some sense, intentional—that one of the purposes of the building in which I stood was to deliberately elicit what I was feeling and to use those feelings to change who I was’. (Ellard, 2015: 155).

Ellard’s research focuses on the mental state of a citizen, not on the architectural environment. The same basic principle underlies the present study. The mapping of emotions becomes feasible, because the residents are ‘attached’ to their place of living by autobiographical, personally significant memories.

In 2015, I studied polar emotional reactions towards specific places by the children and adolescents living in Nikel, a small industrial city situated in the Murmansk Region of Russia (Zhigaltsova, 2017). The original hypothesis consisted in the supposition, that an individual could develop emotions of the polar spectrum (strongly negative or strongly positive) towards places. The presence of such polar emotions could prove the individual’s ‘rootedness’ into his or her place of residence. However, in the course of the study it became obvious, that it was necessary to widen the emotional spectrum, because the expeditions revealed that people experienced not just polar emotions like ‘affection/joy’ or ‘disgust/anxiety’ towards their places of living, but a wide range of other emotions as well. This created a new vision of research problem. In the light of the findings from these expeditions, the emotions were classified as follows:

· positive: joy, interest, ease/tranquillity;

· negative: anxiety/fear, disgust/distaste;

· moral: pride, shame, bitterness/sorrow.

A person experiences moral emotions when assessing his or her own behaviour and the behaviour of other people for compliance/non-compliance with socially significant norms.

In June and July 2017, I conducted an anonymous survey among 40 people (20 men and 20 women respondents) aged 50 to 80 years, living in the Komsomolsky forest village, the Velsky District of the Arkhangelsk Region (Expedition 1). Places become meaningful when there are personally important experiences. That is why the inclusion criteria for the respondents were as follows: aged 50 years or older, long period of living in the village, direct or indirect participation in the construction or design of the main buildings in the village.

At present, the population of the Komsomolsky village is less than 500 people. Mostly, those who still live in the village are the settlers of the first generation, i.e. those who directly participated in the building of the village and experienced all the difficulties associated with the building of a new settlement. The forestry enterprise, the school, the community centre, and the hospital were all closed down at different times within the last 20 years. The outpatient cabinet, the pharmacy, the kindergarten, the village administration, the post office, the library, the community club and two shops are still operating. Due to the location in the lowland, there is no cellular communication in the village.

The questionnaire consisted of 14 open-ended questions. In addition to usual questions about age, gender, duration of living in the village, it also included questions about the places in the village that caused the feelings of joy, interest, ease, pride, bitterness/sorrow, anxiety/fear, shame, and disgust/distaste. The questionnaire ended with a task to finish the sentence: ‘For me, Komsomolsky is ... and a question ‘Would you like to move elsewhere if you had such an opportunity? (‘Yes’, ‘No’ or ‘Not sure’), and why. The complete questionnaire is given in Appendix 1.


All of the respondents have been living in Komsomolsky for long periods of time (20% of the respondents – for more than 30 years, 35% - more than 40 years, 25% - more than 50 years, 10% - more than 60 years, and another 10% - more than 70 years). The routes of the elderly people in the village included a daily walk to the local shops, and going to the river or the forest in the summer time.

After the questionnaire data were analysed, we singled out a number of emotopia in the village (Table 1).

The list of emotions and corresponding places of the elderly residents of the Komsomolsky forest village




The forest, the mountain, the river, the hay meadows, one’s own detached house, the vegetable garden, the dam, the stadium, the school, the central Komsomolskaya street, the gym, the club, the whole village.


The forest, friends’ or relatives’ places, the library, the community club, the vegetable garden, the shop, the post office (to receive retirement allowance), the river, the workplace, the gym, the sand quarry.


One own’s home, the shop, the forest/the nature, the lakes, friends’ or relatives’ places, the mountain, the school, the kindergarten, the workplace, the veterans’ club, the library.


The nature/ the river, the club, the library, the dam, the hospital, the monument devoted to the Soldiers who perished during the Great Patriotic War, the central Komsomolskaya street, the school, the kindergarten, the people.


The school, the cemetery, the abandoned houses, the railway, the community bath house, the forestry enterprise, the hospital, the logging company, the gym, the road.


The river, the school, the cemetery, the abandoned houses, the entrance to the village, the old community centre, the hospital/the outpatient cabinet, the library, the whole village, the dilapidated housing, the village administration, the boiler-house, the kindergarten, the railway bridge, the ecological situation, the lack of cellular communication.


The landfill site, the abandoned houses, the streets, the enterprise, the cemetery, the disposal dumps in the village, the storehouses, [ashamed] of everything, of the village administration.


The abandoned houses, the rubbish, the devastation, the village council/ the village administration, the entry to the village, the places where they sell alcohol.

Table 1. The list of emotions and corresponding places, mentioned in the anonymous questionnaire by the elderly residents of the Komsomolsky forest village.

In the following section, we will describe the emotions, experienced by the residents of Komsomolsky towards various places in the village.


More than one fifth of the respondents (21.9 %) believed that there were no places in Komsomolsky that could cause joy. The feeling of joy was most often related to the nature outside of the village: ‘the river, the hay meadow, the forest’, and ‘the pinewood behind the stadium’. The river was most often connected with the feeling of joy (15.6%), and was followed by the dam (12.5%). When describing this emotion, only 3.1% of the respondents commented that joy was caused by the whole area: ‘The whole village. I take a walk around the village every day’.


Just three percent of those who completed the questionnaires believed that there were no places in Komsomolsky that could evoke interest. For 37.5 % of the local residents, ‘the forest’ was the most interesting place in the village. Also, 18.8% of the respondents replied that it was ‘the club’ (the community centre). When asked to describe interesting places, the respondents mentioned not only places, but also activities: ‘the gym, the community centre, visiting elderly people who need my help’, ‘visiting my former colleagues and old friends’, ‘going to the shop, to the village festivals’, ‘going to the forest to pick mushrooms and berries, attending cultural events in the community centre’, ‘not far from home, or visiting friends and family’, ‘the forest (berries, mushrooms), nature in summer, the forest looks like a fairy-tale in winter’, ‘It is interesting to go to the club, to the veteran meetings. Also, going to the library, as there are handicraft workshops and games’, ‘the centre of the village and the street I live in, my house’.


For 12.5% of the respondents, there were no places of ease in the village. The feeling of ease was attributed either to one’s own house (34.4%) or a friend’s (relative’s) place (9.4%): ‘At my age I feel at ease only at home’, ‘My friends’ places; we are happy when we get together’, or recreation areas outside of the village, namely the forest (15.6%) and the river (9.4%): ‘picnics in the countryside’, ‘Negodyaevskaya Mountain, a panoramic view of the whole village’. The respondents aged 70 years and older did not indicate any specific places in the village: ‘I feel at ease everywhere in the village. It was built right before my eyes’.


Since a large number of buildings and structures are dilapidated, half of respondents believed that there were no places to be proud of: ‘There is nothing’, ‘There are no such places, unfortunately’. Nature was the cause of pride for 9.4 % of the participants. Some responses indicated that the places of pride were personified (3.1%): ‘I am proud of the people who live in this godforsaken place’, ‘I have given off 50 years of my life to the school and I am proud of it: I spent all Sundays, all holidays with the schoolchildren’. Besides, the people were proud of the buildings, which had been built by them and which were still functioning: ‘the dam’, ‘the central street with the working shops, the hospital, the library and the war obelisk with the inscription “No one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten’, ‘the kindergarten’, ‘the club’.


The lack of places that could cause sorrow was reported only by 9.4% of those who completed the questionnaire. For the majority of the respondents, this question turned out to be the most sensitive one: ‘the lack of workplaces, run-down buildings, poor access to the district centre’, ‘the cemetery, the dying of our wonderful Komsomolsky village’, ‘the empty building of the school, the gym’, ‘the former forestry enterprise’, ‘dilapidated buildings, the railway, the school’, ‘the abandoned houses, the ruined bath house’. The highest percentage was given to the school (28.1%), the abandoned houses (15.6%), and thehospital (12.5%). ‘The whole villages’ was the cause of sorrow for 15.6% of the respondents. It is worth mentioning that the residents named not only the functioning buildings, but also those that were closed down in the last two decades, calling them by their former names (the school, the small community centre, the hospital, the forestry enterprise) even today.


In a large city, anxiety is usually triggered by the road intersections, the congested traffic, the bus stops, and the abundance of overall hustle and bustle:

‘Beyond obvious factors such as shape, noise, sensory overload, and exposure to environmental threats, the single factor that stands above all others as a potential stimulus for anxiety in modern built environments is the interpersonal one. Put simply, modern urban life requires us to live in close proximity with strangers’. (Ellard, 2015: 135).

A small rural community, where people know each other well, has different anxiety patterns. As for places of anxiety, 12.5% of those who filled in the questionnaire could not name such a place in Komsomolsky. Rather, anxiety was related to the uncertainty of the future of the village and general social insecurity: ‘The hospital, or rather the absence of doctors and ambulances after midnight and until early morning’, ‘I am very much concerned with the outbreak of mites. It is difficult to fight them individually’, ‘The fact, that the village is being destroyed now, there is no work, the school, the hospital, and the gym were all closed down. All this causes anxiety’, ‘I am not anxious about a certain place, but about the conditions of life: where do we belong, we, the elderly people? We belong nowhere. A bunch of 60-90 somethings. Just think about it!’, ‘That the outpatient cabinet will be closed’, ‘The whole village and its future’, ‘The empty houses… what if there will be fires?’, ‘I feel anxiety for the river, because people do not spare it, they dump [waste] in it, do not clean it properly’, ‘Very often we have landline telephone cuts, I fear to remain without any communication at all’. The hospital received the highest percentage (25% of the respondents) as a place of anxiety, followed by the dilapidated buildings, the school, ‘the whole settlement’with 9.4% report rate each.


When asked if any places in Komsomolsky were connected with shame, 15.6% responded that there were no such places in the village. The remaining part of the respondents listed certain places such as ‘the illegal landfill’, ‘the pulled down and dilapidated houses, the neglected warehouses, the untended graves at the cemetery’, ‘collapsing sheds on entrance to the village’. The highest percentage was given to the landfill (21 %), the abandoned houses (15.6 %), ‘everything’ (12.5 %). However, we also noticed a consistent pattern of personifying the places of shame (9.4 %): ‘The administration, who just let things slide - the village is dying’, ‘I am not ashamed of the place itself! I am ashamed of those people who let such villages die’.


Almost half of the respondents (43.8 %) replied that there were no places in the village that made them feel disgust. However, some places of disgust were still mentioned and these included ‘the abandoned houses’ and ‘a lot of rubbish on the road’ (15.6 % each), ‘the landfill’ (12.5 %). The respondents also provided the following descriptions for places of disgust: ‘Places where people sell illicit alcohol’, ‘the old brick buildings on the road to the village’, ‘it is unpleasant to walk in the streets with dilapidated houses in Oktyabr’skaya Street. They spoil the view of the neighbourhood, make it unwelcoming. There are poorly lit places there...’.

When sorted out by gender, the replies revealed that the majority of women and men believed that there were no places of joy (20.8% and 25% respectively) and pride (45.8% and 62.5%, respectively) in Komsomolsky.

As for the places of interest, 37.7% of both male and female respondents mentioned ‘the forest’. One’s own house was considered a place of comfort and ease by 29.2% men and 50% women; the school was mentioned as the place of sorrow and bitterness by 29.2% of women, the hospital as the place of anxiety and the landfill as the place of shame by 25% of women respondents each. Most women (37.5%) believed that there were no places of disgust in the village. Interestingly, the male respondents did not have negative emotions towards any specific places in the village and replied that there were no places of sorrow, anxiety and shame (37.5% for each emotion), as well as no places of disgust in Komsomolsky (62.5 %).


Figure 1. The places of emotional attachment for the residents of Komsomolsky: a - the monument devoted to the soldiers who perished during the Great Patriotic War; b - the library; c - the school (not operating today); d - the community centre (also not operating). Photos: T.V. Zhigalsova, 2017.

When answering the question if they wanted to live elsewhere, 83.3% of the women gave positive answers; the men, however, were less categorical (“Yes” - 50%, “Not sure” - 25%). The main reasons for wanting to leave Komsomolsky included ‘health situation’, ‘no workplaces and no housing for young people’, ‘no perspectives’, ‘I’d leave if only I could, because in Komsomolsky there are no modern conveniences, no work, I don’t like anything here’, ‘I would agree to move to better living conditions, with central heating and water supply. I live in a dilapidated house. But I do not see how [to move]’, ‘I would move, if the authorities provided better housing for me’, ‘I would love to spend the rest of my days in a decent house’, ‘because of poor healthcare’, ‘because the village is dying’, ‘I will go away when the outpatient cabinet is closed down completely and there are no buses running’. The reasons to stay were connected with emotional rootedness in the place and included: ‘I would not like to leave, because the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence’, ‘I've spent my whole life here’, I’ve got nowhere else to go’.

Despite the obvious desire to leave Komsomolsky, the residents called the village ‘my life’ (43.8%), ‘my motherland’ (18.8%), ‘just a place of residence like any other’ (18.8%), ‘my home’ (12.5%).


In this study, we classified emotions that people can experience towards places in general, and singled out emotional reactions of the residents towards specific places in Komsomolsky, as well identified gender differences in the perception of emotopia.

The findings in this study can be transferred to other abandoned forest settlements in the Euro-Arctic zone of Russia, since all such villages share architectural, socio-economic, historical and cultural backgrounds. The limitation of this study is the insufficient analysis of the socio-economic situation, since the respondents' answers are, in many ways, an expression of the dissatisfaction with the work of the local administration, hence the personification of places of shame. This demonstrates that the research of such kind should be the joint work of specialists in sociology, architecture, landscape design and other.

One possible area for further research would be the comparison of the emotional environments of forest villages like Komsomolsky and historical (traditional) villages, which have many centuries of history. In a pilot study, which I conducted in July 2018 (Expedition 2), a questionnaire was administered among ten inhabitants of a historical Pomor village Vorzogory, which is situated on the coast of the White Sea in the Arctic zone of the Russian Federation and has the population of one hundred (mostly elderly) people. The findings in this study showed a striking difference in self-identity of the local population. When asked if they wanted to continue living in Vorzogory, the inhabitants gave unambiguously positive answers. This demonstrates strong emotional rootedness in the environment: ‘Yes, of course, because I am a Pomor’, ‘I have been living here since I was born, and I cannot imagine living elsewhere’, ‘Yes, because it is peaceful and beautiful here’ (Expedition 2). The people are proud of the church triplet, which was built in the 17-th and 19-th centuries and includes the summer church, the winter church and the bell-tower, the 40-meter-long driveway to the White Sea, and the river bank. The feeling of pride is connected to the objects which were either build by their ancestors, or are part of the natural landscape. The shame is caused by the lack of care of the inhabitants for their surroundings, like the disposal dumps, the abandoned farm houses etc. For their inhabitants, Vorzogory is ‘the beloved homeland’ and ‘the most beautiful place on Earth’.


In the present study, we hypothesized that people have the same spectrum of emotional reactions towards their places of living, as they might have towards other people.The emotions that we studied included‘joy’, ‘interest’, ‘ease’, ‘bitterness/pity’, ‘pride’, ‘anxiety/fear’, ‘shame’ and ‘disgust/distaste’.

The aim of the study was to prove or refute the presence of emotionally-heightened places in a small non-traditional forest community. Strong evidence was found of the existence of emotopia, i.e. the places of attachment and places of rejection in the emotional environment of the village Komsomolsky. There was a significant correlation between gender and emotional perception of places in the village. The results of the study confirm the existence of gender differences in the emotional perception of places. The women tended to attribute moral emotions. The men demonstrated neutral emotions to the public places in the village (such as the club, the shop, the library) while the women expressed positive and moral emotions to the same places. The men felt comfortable at home and showed interest towards the forest outside of the village.

The results of the study support the idea that ‘gender issues must be taken into account in many aspects of city planning and development’ (Ellard, 2015).

The respondents also mentioned the places that were beyond the physical boundaries of the village and were situated within several kilometres of the village (the forest, the hay meadow, the lakes). This indicated the blurring of emotional boundaries between the village and the surrounding nature. The personification of places (especially places of shame and bitterness) can be explained by strong social ties that are typical of the traditional way of life in small settlements:

‘The stability of the composition of the rural settlement population, as well as ethnic homogeneity, weak socio-professional and cultural differentiation, typical close kinship and neighbourhood ties contribute to the preservation of the traditional lifestyles in the neighbouring community’ (Mudrik, 2004).

Very often, the emotional reaction of a person towards a certain place is interpreted through his or her living conditions and general social welfare. The abandoned houses and the landfill cause both feelings of shame and distaste. To improve the emotional atmosphere and the ecology of life of the inhabitants, it is necessary, first of all, to solve the problems associated with these places.

The respondents attributed the outpatient cabinet to the place that caused anxiety. However, the reasons for anxiety lay not in the fear of doctors, queues or the very atmosphere of the hospital, rather, it originated from fear of uncertainty, as the population would be forced to migrate once the outpatient cabinet is closed down completely. There was a strong feeling of isolation (‘I do not like living in a remote forest village, far away from civilization’) and uncertainty about the future among the population of Komsomolsky (‘They closed the forestry enterprise, then transferred it to Tegra, there was no work left. Men had nothing to do but drink alcohol. There used to be a sawmill, a big club, the school. The hospital was good and had qualified doctors. There was a physiotherapeutic room, healthcare covered a large area. And now what? What awaits us?’). The findings in this study suggested that the emotional geography of the village was diverse although there were not so many emotopia.

Finally, an emotion map of Komsomolsky was developed and every emotion was designated with a certain colour. Positive emotions were marked in greens and blues, while negative emotions were coloured from reds to browns:

· positive: joy - green, interest - lettuce green, ease - cyan; moral positive: pride - turquoise blue;

· negative: anxiety/fear - red, disgust - terracotta; moral negative: shame - brown, bitterness/sorrow - orange.


Figure 2. The map of emotopia in Komsomolsky, Arkhangelsk Region, 2017-2019. Website http://emogeography.com/emotional-maps.html

The emotion map showed emotional segregation: positive emotions were clustered around the centre of the village, the main street, and the nature outside of the village. The sources of negative emotions (anxiety/fear, disgust/distaste) were in the outskirts and the entrance to the village because a large number of abandoned and dilapidated buildings and the cemetery were located in this part of the village. The emotion loci connected with anxiety were scattered throughout the whole village and even overlapped with the positively-charged places (the school, the hospital, the kindergarten, the library). This is explained by the fact, that the residents were anxious that these places would be closed down and disappear. However, the school is not working already. The anxiety towards the school can be explained by the fear of fires, which is also true for other abandoned buildings. The emotion map clearly showed that moral negative emotions (shame, bitterness/sorrow) were concentrated in the upper part of the village, and supported our conclusion about the existence of emotional segregation in small rural communities.

The modelling of such emotion maps based on the emotional perception of places by different social groups in small Euro-Arctic settlements can have many implications. They help strengthen place attachment of the inhabitants, identify problem areas, and predict necessary preventative measures to improve the ecology of the place. Such prevention measures include:

· demolition or renovation of old buildings;

· cleaning of the forest and of the river bottom;

· cultivation of the landfill site;

· increased number of cultural and social events and entertainments;

· engagement of the male population in volunteer activities of renovation and reconstruction of the village.

Re-coding negative emotions into positive ones is a long and laborious process. The results of research into emotional perception of places can potentially be useful not only for the local administrations, but also to various stake-holders like local initiative groups, artists, architects, ethnologists and all those who are not indifferent to the emotional health of the inhabitants. An essential element of the work targeted at the preservation and development of the Euro-Arctic landscape is individual approach to each settlement.


1. Nold . Emotional Cartography - Technologies of the Self. Retrieved from http://emotionalcartography.net


The author very much appreciates the support of all the inhabitants of Komsomolsky, who participated in the questionnaire and the interviews, as well as help of Anna Kondakova with language editing and proof reading.

Field data, collected by the author:

Expedition 1: Komsomolsky, Russia, Arkhangelsk Region. 2017.

Expedition 2: Vorzogory, Russia, Arkhangelsk Region. 2018.

Attachment 1. Questionnaire: The places of emotional attachment and/or rejection for the middle-aged and elderly inhabitants of Komsomolsky.

The questionnaire is anonymous. The results will be used in a generalized way.

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Nationality
  4. How long have you been living in Komsomolsky?
  5. List your routine routes in Komsomolsky:
  6. Which places do you find interesting in Komsomolsky?
  7. Which places make you feel at ease?
  8. Place(s) which cause(s) joy:
  9. Place(s) which cause(s) pride:
  10. 10.Place(s) which cause(s) sorrow:
  11. 11.Place(s) which cause(s) anxiety:
  12. 12.Place(s) which cause(s) shame:
  13. 13.Place(s) which cause(s) disgust:
  14. 14.What does Komsomolsky mean to you? How will you continue the phrase: “For me, Komsomolsky is ...”
  15. 15.Are you planning to continue living in Komsomolsky? Why?

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