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Negotiating Linguistic, Cultural and Social Identities in the Post-Soviet World

Edited By Sarah Smyth and Conny Opitz

In this volume, researchers in the fields of language in society, sociolinguistics, language politics, diaspora and identity studies explore the contacts between languages and cultures in the post-Soviet world. The book presents a range of perspectives on the effects of migration and of re-drawing of borders among groups and individuals for whom the Russian language has had an instrumental or symbolic prominence. How do recent geopolitical shifts impact on the policies and practices of newly independent states? How have communities and individuals come to redefine their own identities and core values? How does a cultural context in which the power relations between cultural and linguistic groups have been reversed or recalibrated affect the attitudes of each group? How does the potential for transnational identities impact on the interplay between diasporic and homeland communities? How does migration influence linguistic and parenting practices? This collection of fers answers to these and many other questions through case studies from eleven regions in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

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Sarah Smyth Introduction

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Корни тоже … если начинать думать, откуда я и кто я – то на самом деле, корни неглубокие, так как я знаю своих бабушек и дедушек с обеих сторон, это – предел. [I was born in a country which is no more, and in a city which is no more – in the Soviet Union, in the city of Gorkiy. When I write USSR and Gorkiy in my passport application form, I feel, sort of, well, that I’m from nowhere. As for my roots … if I begin to think where I am from and who I am, I realize that my roots do not go deep. I knew my grandmothers and grandfathers on both sides. And that’s the limit.] — Life story, woman in her thirties, ‘Our Languages’ project, Dublin, 2011 I have always hated being asked who I am, where I am from or, as the Irish frame it, who my people are. These questions have always confounded me and resulted in anxiety: that I would deceive either my interlocutor or myself. One part of my brain understands that my interlocutor is making polite conversation and wants a single word answer: a singular point of origin, the name of a recognizable space or a gesturing to a people or a clan, or reference to a language which captures the spirit of a people. But the conventional categories of history, geography and language which nation states use to assign, or withhold, citizenship or other legal rights do not quite fit the bill. These categories anchor me in time and space, they make me a someone from somewhere. But a someone who does not always recognize themselves in that singular definition, and who is often...

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