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Comparison of language ideologies in the Soviet Union and the current Russian Federation – Continuity, ruptures, and new orientations


The year 2018 marked a turning point in the development of bi- and multilingualism in the Russian Federation: after a hot debate, the republic state languages and non-Russian national languages were legally defined as optional in the Russian education system. In view of this drastic change in the management of multilingualism on the one hand and the intensive reference to the Soviet language policy in the societal and scientific discourse of the current Russian Federation on the other, a systematic comparison of the language ideologies of the Russian Federation with those of the Soviet Union becomes particularly stringent. The latest development in the language policy breaks with the right to mother tongue education based in official documents – a right whose continuity to the model of mass bilingualism and the official principle of equality of languages in the Soviet Union is evident. Further ruptures in the language policy affect the periods of Soviet language policy, the de jure anchoring of the ideology of state languages following the collapse of the Soviet Union and today's monolingual nation-building in the Russian Federation. It draws from Soviet language ideologies: above them are, e.g., reinterpretations or new interpretations of the concepts of “unity in diversity” or the “velikij i mogučij russkij jazyk”. To what extent the language ideologies of the Russian Federation can be diagnosed as continuity, break or reorientation in comparison with those of the Soviet Union is the aim of the comprehensive discourse-analytical studies in the proposed project.
The parameters for the comparison between the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation are key topics of language policy and language ideologies identified from sociolinguistic literature and the project corpus, such as unity in diversity, equality of languages, "velikij i mogučij russkij jazyk", "russkij kak rodnoj", and others. The comparison is based on a triangulated data corpus on the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation (official documents, language expert texts, and public discourses), which encompasses a broad spectrum of actors. Additionally, a control corpus of guided interviews is built. The methods of analysis encompass diverse discursive approaches to language policy. By comparing the Soviet Union with the Russian Federation, the project aims to reveal the continuity, reinterpretation or recontextualization of language ideologies on the basis of a longitudinal study. From a methodical point of view, the project aims to further develop discourse-linguistic approaches to language policy and ideologies by making them fruitful for the analysis of language situations in Eastern Europe. Thus, sociolinguistic research traditions in the East and West will (again) be more strongly joined. Overall, this research will uncover the dynamics in language-related nation-building discourses.