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Durham University

School of Modern Languages and Cultures: Russian Studies

Staff in the Department of Russian

Publication details for Professor Andy Byford

2014 'Performing ‘Community’ Russian Speakers in Contemporary Britain', in Cairns, Lucille & Fouz-Hernández, Santiago (eds.), Rethinking ‘Identities’ Cultural Articulations of Alterity and Resistance in the New Millennium, Peter Lang, pp. 115-139

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

During the early 2000s Great Britain witnessed a considerable rise in numbers of the Russian-speaking former-Soviet migrant population.1 This has been the result of the greatly increased opportunities for migration in most former Soviet states, the eastwards enlargement of the European Union, and the economically driven relaxation of immigration regulations under the UK’s Labour government between 1997 and 2008.2 Although they patently form a linguistically cohesive group, the Russian-speaking migrants discussed here are not easy to define as a group in ethnic, national or diasporic terms. They include individuals arriving from different post-Soviet countries in several successive migrant waves, in a whole range of changing personal, professional and socio-economic circumstances. Their ethnic self-identifications, national loyalties, generational experiences and expressions of mutual solidarity remain complex and flexible, as do their migrant statuses and trajectories.

Conceptualizing the ‘Russianness’ of this population is far from straightforward since many of these migrants’ identifications with Russian language, culture and history point to their common upbringing and roots in the former Soviet ‘empire’ rather than to either a particular ethnicity or citizenship. Indeed, both the term rossiiane, meaning ‘citizens of the Russian Federation’, and russkie, meaning ‘ethnic Russians’, are much too narrow and specific to apply to this migrant population as a whole. The term sootechestvenniki (compatriots), deployed by the Russian government in its legislation and policy documents in reference to ‘Russians outside Russia’ as a form of diaspora, is even more problematic on account of...