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A taste of resistance.Linguist Gassan Guseynov explains how Russian speakers beyond Kremlin control are learning to use language to undermine Putin’s regime

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Dr. Gassan Guseynov

I distinctly remember the shock I felt in Moscow in the mid-1960s when I began to meet the “first wave” of immigrants, those who had fled Russia during the civil war or in the first years after the revolution. They spoke much more quietly, but with a kind of theatrical accent, carefully pronouncing every word, often inserting foreign words into their speech, pronouncing them in the same excellent English or French. These people spent 45 to 50 years in isolation from their home metropolis, matured and integrated into another world. And the Russian language in the USSR became a month for them.

But little by little, especially in the “thaw” after Stalin’s death, the “old” language gradually began to return. The Soviet language, both in official ideological speech (the so-called “wood language”) and in the speech of socially marginalized people, gradually relaxed both of its main aspects. Both the language of official ideology (which claimed to be normative) and the language of high culture. Nearly all of these he lived at the crossroads of three fields. No matter which field prevailed, the other he two were always there.

The novelty of the Putin era, which will soon last more than a quarter of a century, is two-fold. First, Putin, the late politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and their ideological milieu are characterized by an ideological language (despite the fact that the regime has no specific ideology) and a despicable, rude, hateful and violent It united two linguistic fields of language. The language of culture, science, knowledge and education has no place in Putin’s speech master.

An analysis of public speeches made by Putin and Zhirinovsky in response to specific actions taken by these Russian state figures (and many others) suggests that these orators have two basic discourses. It shows that it depends on the point. Both of these rhetorical constructs have broken through into actual policy on several occasions. Especially since his February 24, 2022 attack on Georgia and Ukraine in 2008, during the last war in Chechnya earlier this century.

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the Russian Federation over the past two decades. Of course, not everyone consciously “avoids Putin’s words,” but many in-depth interviews show that the main cause of these people’s unhappiness is the established public discourse on fear and threat. It shows an intolerance to

Guseynov on “kloachnyi” Russian

Many eminent writers and scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, artists and students, teachers, and people without a particular profession have recently come from Russia to republics of the former Soviet Union that do not speak partly or wholly Russian. , from Latvia to Ukraine, from Kazakhstan to Georgia and far abroad. One of the main impressions made by new arrivals to these countries is that the Russian language they encounter is totally different, not just in tone and style of conversation. The same people who not long ago looked down on migrant workers who spoke poor Russian now find themselves in unfamiliar roles. Immigrants are also silent about what the rest of the world would have been yelling for years, even though Russian state media is not yelling in democratic societies, but just conversation. It has adapted to the fact that

Since the February invasion of Ukraine, Russia’s public dialogue has been completely drowned in lies and aggression. Millions of people have somehow adapted to this and have come to obey the authorities’ orders. Cargo 200″ (using military terminology for coffins in transit), and instead of “war”, say “special military operations” or simply “SVO” (Specialinaya Voenaya Operatsiya)For short.

With tens of millions of people agreeing to repeat their master’s lies, hundreds of thousands of people (which may actually reach millions over time) leave their old communities. , was forced to appeal to the world with its own message. We are different Russians! “

Ukrainians make up an even larger cohort of Russian-speaking immigrants worldwide. They fled mainly to Europe (particularly Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic), not to western Ukraine. This is not in western Ukraine, as it is with the Russian-speaking regions of the country’s easternmost regions, which the Russian army has invaded under the pretext of protecting these “Russians”. The “Ukrainian Nazis” who supposedly “banned the Russian language”.

At the same time, Ukraine is changing its policy towards the Russian language. Russian-language mass media are now broadcasting around the clock. The audience of some channels (such as FREEDOM) is both the general public within the Russian Federation and the Russian-speaking diaspora within Ukraine. Talking His head invited to appear on these stations is often bilingual (fluent in both Ukrainian and Russian), although he is known to be a Russian-speaking person in the anti-Kremlin opposition. even more.

The hosts and guests of these programs sometimes repeat elements of propaganda and military censorship, but the material differs fundamentally in literacy, content, and logic from Russia’s own censored media. increase. This is a Russian political term that disappeared from the Russian mass media long ago.In Kazakhstan and Georgia you can find critical political analysis in Russian. Here the media environment is gradually adapting to the increasing Russian diaspora. (According to my own observations, he has two countries with artistic and academic elites that are fundamentally opposed to the revival of the Russian language: Ukraine since 2014 and his Georgia since 2008. .)

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Vladimir Putin is sometimes accused of trying to revive the Soviet Union as a Russian nation-state that conquers minorities, no longer based on an internationalist ideology. This plan (if at all) is now being carried out to some extent by diasporas settling not only in the Baltics, but also in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. However, unlike the former Soviet Union, the new Russian diaspora is not tasked with the function of “monitoring” the “national perimeter”. Moscow professors, who have already started teaching at universities in Tashkent, Almaty, Bishkek and even Tbilisi, as was the case during World War II, have high concerns about Russians, but are tempered by the local hospitality. there is

Also, Russian has remained a lingua franca when many peoples of the Tuva, Buryatia and Volga regions have gone abroad. The concept of “Russian as a language of intercultural interaction” allows members of ethnic minorities to broaden their use of the Russian language in parallel with the development of their own language. This happens even in the face of discrimination based on ethnicity. In parallel, Russia’s official narrative mainly states that former Soviet states are bent on persecution and even revenge on Russians for “historical transgressions” of the Soviet Union.

But what is the difference between today’s Russian-speaking population and the refugees who fled during the Civil War of 1918-1921, or after World War II in the 1940s? How is it different from the escaped “third wave” immigrants? doing. For many, the Russian language remains paramount, more important than material wealth or spiritual ties. is pouring

Just as the conflict began, many people in Ukraine, and Russian-speaking Ukrainians in the diaspora, extended the discourse of the war with Russia to the relationship between the two languages. Intellectuals in predominantly Russian-speaking cities like Odessa began not only studying Ukrainian, but also using it in their social media conversations. With the occupation of predominantly Russian-speaking territories, the fight against aggression became (for some) a war against the Russian Federation over the rights of the Russian language itself.

Thanks to growing Russian-language broadcasts from the Ukrainian side, the Ukrainian resistance not only defends the right of Ukrainians to use their language, but also denies Putin’s Russia the right to cynically abuse the Russian language. It became clear that he was committed to

This is where Ukraine’s future language policy direction coincides with the language policy vector voluntarily adopted by Russian minorities who were legally deprived of the ability to develop their own language in 2018. . Over the past quarter century, the Putin regime and its allies have turned public communication in Russian into a cesspool. All the ways the language is being abused simultaneously, from politically charged criminal slang to myriad conspiracy theories and Russian Orthodox church rhetoric, are trying to articulate what is happening in Russia right now. That’s why it’s exposed.

Less than a year after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, millions of Russian-speaking Ukrainians and hundreds of thousands of refugees from Russia began using Russia as the language of resistance to the Putin regime. learning to use the language. In Russian, Ukrainian refugees and mass media report on crimes committed by Russian troops in Ukraine. This same language-speaking Russian citizen uses the Internet to report crimes committed by authorities inside Russia.

These events alarmed the Slavic community in the West. Traditional exchanges with Russian scientific and academic institutions have ended, and Europeans and Americans clinging to Putin’s “Russky Mir” revivalism are in turmoil. Meanwhile, the former Russian colonies (Central Asia, the South Caucasus, the Balkans, the Baltics, and Eastern European countries) are already seeing an influx of Russian refugees into their universities and schools. The growth of online education will not make the Russian language obsolete.

Russian speakers, especially young people, tend to prefer language resistance and are gaining support from new media such as NEXTA in Poland, Priamyi and Current Time in Ukraine, and Dozhd and Meduza in Latvia. Elsewhere. Of course, there is still some cultural resistance inside Russia, but the state media has isolated the diaspora as a “minority of misfits” from the “true to themselves majority” in the big cities. In other words, the Russian authorities are fully aware that freedom of speech faces threats wherever it takes place.

translator from russian Kevin Rothrock

https://meduza.io/en/feature/2022/11/29/a-taste-for-resistance A taste of resistance.Linguist Gassan Guseynov explains how Russian speakers beyond Kremlin control are learning to use language to undermine Putin’s regime

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