Identity, social mobility and ethnic mobilization: Language and the disintegration of the Soviet Union
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.
New drivers of Russian nationalism appeared in the 1990s, making possible either – as a reaction to globalisation – a return to an imperial nationalism, or – in response to ethnic conflict – a rise in ethnic nationalism. This chapter analyses the changing balance of elite and mass preferences and their influence on the choices made by the Russian government. The attitudes of the elite shifted recently in favour of imperial projects beyond Russia’s borders, in a sharp reversal of a long-term post-Soviet trend. Another long-term trend has recently accelerated: that of valuing military might over economic power in international relations. Anti-Muslim sentiment simmering across the Russian Federation might inspire ethnic nationalism. However, the chapter shows that mass-level attitudes towards Muslims correlate negatively with attitudes towards the USA. Given the current level of anti-US sentiment, the ethnic scenario therefore seems unlikely, for the moment.
This article looks into the debate on public attitudes in Russia towards the EU and Europe. The relevance of Europe and of the perception of belonging to Europe for Russian national identity is evaluated. To what extent do the Russians see themselves as European and what criteria fit this notion today after the two post-Soviet decades have drawn to a close? The existing image of the EU is analysed in the context of asserting and consolidating the Russian political nation. Elite and expert group opinions are considered, having in mind their influence on the wider public views on national identity. Historic notions of the West in Russian intellectual discourse are evocated as a valid context for the current debate, and the relevance of the traditional cleavage between westernizers and traditionalists for present day identity politics is evaluated. An important point in this discussion is the Russian and the Western perception of the ‘values gap’. The paper draws upon three groups of sources: public opinion survey data, public political discourse and its media coverage, and academic and expert literature.
This paper examines partition as a solution to ethnic civil wars and modifies the ethnic security dilemma, suggesting that strong state institutions are more important than demographically separating ethnic groups to achieve an enduring peace. The paper starts with a puzzle: if ethnic separation is required for peace, how do some partitions that leave minorities behind maintain peace? The paper compares post-partition Georgia–Abkhazia, which experienced violence renewal within five years of the partition, with post-partition Moldova–Transnistria, which maintained peace. Both countries had ‘stay-behind’ ethnic minorities. The paper also disaggregates and compares the territories within post-partition Abkhazia, which contain ethnic Georgians: Lower Gali experienced violence while neighboring Upper Gali did not. The paper argues that state institutions create an incentive for ethnic minorities to collaborate with the state, regardless of minority preferences, and this helps maintain peace. However, preferences become important where institutions are weak and members of the ethnic minority have the opportunity to defect; this increases the likelihood of violence. The results build on the ethnic security dilemma by specifying micro-mechanisms and challenging the theory's reliance on intransigent ethnic identities in explaining the causes of post-partition violence.
Bilingual education including, on the one hand, access to dominating language, and, on the other, - teaching in minority languages or teaching only languages themselves at school is an important part of language politics of a state. In many regions we observe a paradoxical situation: school education does not promote acquisition of a disappearing language, though it is highly valued by members of community. The article considers features of teaching minority languages at school in the Russian Federation on two examples - Nivkh and Kalmyk. Interviews with parents, pupils, former pupils and teachers allow to describe teaching native language at school as a procedure of maintaining identity of community.
In the article author investigates into the experience of national military building in the national respublics of the USSR in the 1920-1930 in the context of soviet cultural, national and language politics.
Language is the most essential medium of scientific activity. Many historians, sociologists and science studies scholars have investigated scientific language for this reason, but only few have examined those cases where language itself has become an object of scientific discussion. Over the centuries scientists have sought to control, refine and engineer language for various epistemological, communicative and nationalistic purposes. This book seeks to explore cases in the history of science in which questions or concerns with language have bubbled to the surface in scientific discourse. This opens a window into the particular ways in which scientists have conceived of and construed language as the central medium of their activity across different cultural contexts and places, and the clashes and tensions that have manifested their many attempts to engineer it to both preserve and enrich its function. The subject of language draws out many topics that have mostly been neglected in the history of science, such as the connection between the emergence of national languages and the development of science within national settings, and allows us to connect together historical episodes from many understudied cultural and linguistic venues such as Eastern European and medieval Hebrew science.