Avatar for bm13 22 декабря 2011
Екатерина Казанцева

Ethnicity, Language and Culture in a Post-Soviet Multi-Ethnic City: a thematic session for the 19th Sociolinguistic Symposium, Berlin, August 2012. The call for individual papers/posters has now been launched:

Sociolinguistics Symposium 19
August 22—24, 2012
Freie Universität Berlin (Germany)

The session will be organized as an introduction slot.

Keywords: identity, language attitudes, Russian language, multilingualism, post-Soviet city


Dr. Natalia Kosmarskaya
Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
Dr. Anastassia Zabrodskaja
Tallinn University/University of Tartu


Prof. Martin Ehala
University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

In order to submit an abstract, you will have to create a ConfTool account and choose the submission track (the session) you want to contribute to – «Ethnicity, Language and Culture in a Post-Soviet Multi-Ethnic City».

The deadline for submitting abstracts will be January 31, 2012.

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 ethnic self-identification?
  • What urban ethno-cultural groups are most liable to this kind of divergence/convergence?
  • How is identity negotiated in bilingual (multilingual) environments?
  • To what extent do post-Soviet cities of the NIS, being multi-ethnic, still retain practices of Russian or titular monolingualism?
  • 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 space?

The other themes of interest might include:

  • Russian-based cultural urban spaces versus those dominated by titular languages;
  • Monolingual versus multi-lingual public spaces (linguistic landscapes);
  • 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.

Information provided by:

Dr. Anastassia Zabrodskaja
Senior Researcher / Postdoctoral research fellow Institute of Estonian Language and Culture, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia
Institute of Estonian and General Linguistics, University of Tartu, Tartu, Estonia

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