Language Revival and Post-Soviet Identity ‘Renewal’ of Russian Greeks in Multilingual Moscow


Authors: Dionysios Zoumpalidis (Higher School of Economics, Russia)
Speaker: Dionysios Zoumpalidis
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
COMELA 2020 General Session


Abstract

Moscow’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity goes hand in hand with its increasing multilingualism. At the same time debates over issues of identity and cultural heritage within ethnic minority groups in the Russian capital-city are not uncommon.

In the present paper, I focus on the complex and multilevel nature of the situational socio-cultural process of language revival and identity ‘renewal’ of Turkish-/Pontic-/Russian-speaking Russian Greeks in Moscow. More specifically, I analyze the discourse around the linguistic ethno-cultural identity of Russian Greeks, with a particular focus on the Moscow Greek NGOs drawing on Bucholtz and Hall’s (2005) sociocultural linguistic identity theory. The scope of this research is twofold: first, I analyze the top-down approach to the promotion of “Greekness” of Russian Greeks in the Russian-language Greek open forum “Yagrek” (I’m Greek) as well as in various posts in social networks (Facebook), for the period of three years (2017-2020); second, I analyze  the reaction to these posts and debates over ethnic and cultural self-perception of Russian Greeks in the comments section and forums for the same period. The preliminary results demonstrate that active attempts have been made on the part of Greek NGOs in Moscow to promote a unified, top-down vision of the post-Soviet Russian-Greek identity with a particular emphasis on the Greek language question, which does not always coincide with the identity some Russian Greeks self-ascribe. At the same time ambiguous language attitudes, mixed feelings of ethnic pride (Pontian Vs Greek) as well as dominant national language ideologies unearth the complex discourse on ethnic self/other-perception that is frequently based on “what is your mother tongue?” and “where do you come from?” questions. It appears that the factor of geographical space, urban multilingual settings of Moscow, as well as level of the Greek language proficiency of Turkish-/Pontic-/Russian-speaking Russian Greeks play a crucial role in the formation of their new, post-Soviet situational socio-cultural identity in wider Russian contexts.

References
Bucholtz, M and K., Hall (2005). Discourse Studies Identity and Interaction: A Sociocultural Linguistic Approach. Discourse Studies, 7(4-5): 585-614.

Keywords: Russian Greeks, Post-Soviet identity, Multilingual Moscow