Guzel Yusupova: The Revitalisation of Minority Languages in the Russian Federation

The Revitalisation of Minority Languages in the Russian Federation: Nationalising Statehood, Inter-Ethnic Solidarity, and Digital Media

Russia is home to a large number of ethnic minority groups for whom native language is a core component of their identities. Yet from 2000, minorities in Russia have had to contend with a new political drive towards the cultural homogenisation of Russian citizens, instigated by Vladimir Putin’s national state agenda, as well as the regime’s reassertion of political control in the Federation’s multi-ethnic regions. While there are studies that review contemporary ethnic minorities in Russia, none of them examines language revitalisation processes in sufficient detail, nor do they look at the emergence of new forms of social solidarity enabled by the proliferation of digital media. Although the recent revival of minority languages in Russia is a well-known phenomenon, the role that internet and social media platforms play in the transformation of attitudes towards minority languages and building networks of solidarity for minority languages protection remains understudied.
This project, carried out by Dr Guzel Yusupova, represents the first in-depth analysis of the impact of digital media on contemporary language revitalisation movements among Russian ethnic minorities. The research focuses on two case-study groups – the Tatar and the Chuvash. Each has its ‘own’ titular republic within the Russian Federation and the two groups are equal in legal terms, although they differ significantly in terms of economic and political resources (the Tatar being far better placed in this regard). At the same time, examined is the much wider inter-ethnic social network of language revitalisation activists working in the digital domain and political activists, who, while belonging to different ethno-national groups, are joining forces to solve common problems. The research is based on semi-structured interviews with representatives of ethnic minorities from Chuvashia and Tatarstan, focusing on language practices, attitudes towards ‘language’, and the use of digital media in relation to language. Additional interviews are conducted with minority language revitalisation activists from ten other republics of the Russian Federation.

Guzel Yusupova

Dr. Guzel Yusupova is COFUND Junior Research Fellow in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University, UK. Her current project is associated with Cross-Language Dynamics (OWRI) project. Her research  focuses on minority nationalism, language revitalization and inter-ethnic solidarity in Russia. In 2016-2017 she was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society (REMESO) at Linköping University, Sweden. Previously she was Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM), Austria and Research Fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. She holds a PhD in Sociology from European University at Saint-Petersburg and has taught at the Kazan Federal University, Tatarstan, Russia. Her academic interests include nationalism studies, sociology of ethnicity, multi/intercultural societies, social identity, complexity theory, language revitalization, qualitative methodology and Social Network Analysis. Her work has been published in Nations and Nationalism, Problems of Post-Communism, Nationalities Papers and National Identities as well as in some Russian academic journals and edited volumes.


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