This presentation discusses the results of a nine-month long oral history research project conducted by students and faculty at the American University of Central Asia regarding the Stalinist period in Soviet Kirghizia. Our research team collected and translated 70 oral testimonies concerned with collectivization, famine, purges, World War II, and forced relocation. Though our research was area-specific, the methods that we used can be easily adapted for similar projects elsewhere.
This project, the first of its kind in a liberal arts university based in Kyrgyzstan, has used the elements untypical for research in the area: students and digital tools. Students have been central in the project, participating in all the stages – preparation, fieldwork, transcription, translation, text and data analysis, cataloguing and archiving. Digital tools greatly aided the work – ELAN used for transcription, Voyant and Antconc for analysis, and OMEKA for archiving.
By integrating oral history with Digital Humanities, and placing the students at the centre of the project, students actively involved in the process became empowered as knowledge collectors and creators. While learning research methods and Digital Humanities approaches, students went beyond the frameworks of history textbooks to discover how historical events and developments shaped their own communities. The project shows how, with new technology and new methodologies, students can address difficult subjects such as the human impact of Stalinism.