Russian language & identity

Project Details


The project investigates the discursive construction of Russian national identity in the post-Soviet period. It maps the dynamics of construction and contestation of identity discourses and explores linguistic mechanisms employed in these processes.

Layman's description

the project investigaes how Russian language is useed in the post-Soviet period to shape the new identity emerging after the collapse of the Soviet Union

Key findings

It is observed that the general pattern of Russian identity construction correlates with the sociolinguistic views by Pierre Bourdieu: the heterodox discourse breaking down cognitive schemata of the past and legitimizing novel language forms, comes forward in the time of the heretic break. This is manifest in the 1990s when the confusion regarding the identity content, significant shifts in the symbolic value to the informal linguistic code and steb and the ‘negative’ strategies of discontinuation and demontage prevalent in the discourses. It can be said that the Putin period of discursive production corresponds to the orthodox stage described by Bourdieu. Here, the identity narrative becomes prominent and acquires doxic nationalist overtones. Both, the temporal and the spatial discursive dimensions are engaged in the strategies of construction and perpetuation of positive self-image. The national identity is narrated through the reconstruction and reinvention of the heroic past, and revival (The Victory Day) or invention (the Day of National Unity) of celebratory discourses on the commemorative events. Neo-imperial narratives increase the sharp divide between linguistically defined in and out-groups. Discourses of linguistic culture display a tendency towards increased symbolic capital of language normalisation and the appeals to the Russian language as a identity symbol.

However when applied to the Post-Soviet Russia Bourdieu’s model needs a substantial adjustment. In none of the above periods, Russian identity makes a truly doxic, unified, and coherent narrative. In fact the study arrives at the conclusion that discourses Russian national identity continues to be fluid and contradictory. Russian identity is suspended between the two major paradigms of the century: the nationalising pull of the post-Communist world and the liquid identity of the late modernity.

Effective start/end date1/01/0930/07/13


  • AHRC: £35,118.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.