• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Article

Identity, social mobility and ethnic mobilization: Language and the disintegration of the Soviet Union

Comparative Political Studies. 2018. Vol. 51. No. 7. P. 831-867.

The disintegration of the Soviet Union is an essential case for the study of ethnic politics and identity-based mobilization. However, analyses in this article demonstrate that commonly used measures of ethnic diversity and politically relevant group concentration show little consistent relationship with events of ethnic mobilization in Soviet regions during the period 1987-1992. In contrast, the proportion of a regional population that did not speak a metropolitan language has a consistently strong negative relationship with mobilization across these regions. In line with recent work on identity politics, I argue that a lack of proficiency in a metropolitan language marks nonspeakers as outsiders and hinders their social mobility. Regions with many of these individuals thus have a relatively high potential for identity-based mobilization. These findings provide further impetus for looking beyond ethnic groups in measuring identity-based cleavages, and indicate that language can play an important role in political outcomes aside from proxying ethnicity.