Ethnicity, Language and Culture in a Post-Soviet Multi-Ethnic
Proposed by: Kosmarskaya, Natalia; Zabrodskaja, Anastassia
Submitted by: Zabrodskaja, Anastassia (University of
Tartu / Tallinn University, Estonia)
The last decade has witnessed a rise in scholarly interest towards
the post-Soviet language situation. The agenda remains being dominated
by research in language policy and macro-sociolinguistics (Korth 2005,
Hogan-Brun et al. 2008) as well as overall descriptions of the status
change of Russian (Pavlenko 2008a, 2008b).
Under post-Soviet conditions one of the most topical socio-linguistic
dilemmas covers variety of issues related to changing language
hierarchies (Russian versus titular languages). Numerous manifestations
of this radical turn include top-down initiatives of the so called
nationalizing states (incl. the legislative measures) as well as shift
in individual linguistic behaviour and cultural orientations (in the
everyday life, in career building, educational choices, marriage
preferences, etc.). Big cities, especially capital cities, provide a
very good site for exploring these changes, with their thick
communicative environment; variety of cultural products produced and
consumed; rapidly changing public spaces; visualization of “national
revival” measures embodied in changes in toponymy, re-symbolization of
city space, appearance of new cultural markers, etc. In addition,
population of many cities of the New Independent States (NIS) has
undergone serious ethno-cultural transformation after the break-up of
the USSR, starting with massive outflow of the so called
Russian-speakers (ethnic Russians and other non-titular Russophones)
during the 1990s, and ending with influx of transnational and/or
internal rural migrants during the current decade.
The general aim of the session is to throw light on everyday
linguistic practices and identities’ (re)negotiation of urban dwellers
contextualized within transformation of post-Soviet urban socio-cultural
and linguistic environment. As far as more concrete objectives are
concerned, we expect contributions which will take into account striking
heterogeneity of regions within post-Soviet space and between the
countries within these regions in what is related to de facto
and de jure status of the Russian language and popular
perceptions of challenges provoked by changes in socio-linguistic
situation. Thus, as minimum, two distinct regions might be defined;
these are the Baltic countries and those of Central Asia (the cases
polarity of which in regard to Russophones’ position and Russian
language status is deeply rooted in the pattern of colonization of the
two regions). These territories within the post-Soviet space, in their
turn, provide a contrasting picture in comparison with Ukraine,
Byelorussia and Azerbaijan, also being the regions with a noticeable
presence of Russian-speakers.
Questions to be raised by the session participants may include, but
not are limited to, the following ones:
- Can mastering of Russian as a native language be taken as a synonym
of urban culture and a base for urban identity?
- Do parameters of cultural identity overlap or not with those of
- What urban ethno-cultural groups are most liable to this kind of
- How is identity negotiated in bilingual (multilingual)
- To what extent do post-Soviet cities of the NIS, being
multi-ethnic, still retain practices of Russian or titular
- What ethno-cultural groups are most successful in
maintaining/enriching these practices?
- Can Russian linguistic and cultural space in post-Soviet cities be
taken as a “Cheshire cat smile”, functioning without Russians themselves?
What could be the factors contributing to maintenance/erosion of this
The other themes of interest might include:
- Russian-based cultural urban spaces versus those dominated by
- Monolingual versus multi-lingual public spaces (linguistic
- Pragmatism versus cultural nostalgia as motors of titulars’
interest towards studying of the Russian language;
- Last but not least, differences in attitudes towards
above-mentioned issues among Russian-speakers, members of titular groups
and non-Russian and non-titular minority groups.
Hogan-Brun, Gabrielle, Uldis Ozolins, Meilute Ramoniene, Mart Rannut
2008. Language Politics and Practice in the Baltic States. – Ed. by
Robert Kaplan & Richard Baldauf, Language Planning and Policy in
Europe. The Baltic States, Ireland, and Italy (pp. 31–193).
Clevedon, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
Korth, Britta 2005. Language Attitudes Towards Kyrgyz and Russian.
Discourse, Education and Policy in Post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. Bern ·
Wien: Peter Lang.
Pavlenko, Aneta 2008a (ed.) Multilingualism in post-Soviet countries.
– International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism,
Pavlenko, Aneta 2008b. Russian in Post-Soviet Countries. –
Russian Linguistics, 32, 59–80.