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Conversations with God

Multilingualism among the Catholics in Belarus in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries. Sociolinguistic study


Ewa Golachowska

The book discusses the sociolinguistic status and prestige of the Polish language and the changes in the national identity of Catholics in Belarus due to the switch from Polish to Belarusian in the Catholic Church. The research shows that the national identification of Catholics in Belarus is changing. The oldest generations most often self-identify as Polish. For those from the middle and youngest generations, the link between nationality and their religion is not obvious as being a Catholic does not exclude a Belarusian self-identity. Belonging to the Catholic Church results from being baptized in the Catholic rite, while national identity can be defined in many ways and re-defined by various life experiences. Catholicism has proven to be a less debated and more durable category than nationality.

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Preface to the English Edition


The book “Conversations with God. Multilingualism among the Catholics in Belarus in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries” is a description and interpretation of phenomena that accompanied the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus in its transition from Polish to the Belarusian language. This change was accompanied by a high amount of tension of a social and ethnic character. In addition, it may be assumed that for many young Catholics in Belarus the linguistic transformations in the sacred sphere have become a catalyst for change or a reason for verifying their own national identity. However, it is not just a description of the specific situation that is of significance here. By undertaking reflections on the relationships between religion, language and ethnicity, the book contributes to the discussion on this very issue in various Slavic countries and in Europe, particularly in the area of the former Soviet Union, where processes related to religiousness and national identity were latent for many years – it is only recently that they have come to be exceptionally dynamic. One may note that the transition of religion from the social to the private sphere is somewhat delayed here, while the significance of religion for national identity is gradually decreasing. These processes were hindered for many years as a result of atheisation, which in the 1990s was followed by the “release of faith”, as the residents of the former Soviet Union, that is my interlocutors, refer to the restoration of religious freedoms. Language as a so-called...

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