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Open World Research Initiative (OWRI)

‘Global Russians’: Transnational Russophone Networks in the UK

The ‘Global Russian’ is a new, emergent phenomenon of post-communist Russian cosmopolitanism, which espouses the transnational mobility of people, capital, language and culture. Russian diasporic and transcultural spaces and networks have become increasingly prominent on the British multicultural and multilingual map – from dedicated art auction houses, costume balls and festivals to hundreds of schools, societies, restaurants, clubs, and internet sites. The visibility of Russians in the UK has been augmented in many television documentaries, series, novels and newspaper columns which intently observe and comment on their collective life.

Thid project, led by Professor Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh), with the assistance of Dr Yulia Lukyanova, aims to capture the construction, articulation and commodification of ‘global Russian’ identities and to identify the forms in which they interact with the local cultural and social life in the UK. Combining the discursive studies approach with globalisation theories, the projects will develop a new paradigm to explore the phenomenon of ‘global Russian’ identity and its community-building potential. By examining the apparently high level of Russian cultural engagement in the UK, the project findings will deepen our understanding of ‘community’ itself.

The project interprets Russian sites of identity production and community building in the UK as fluid, discursively constructed networks occurring intra-diasporically and transculturally. It treats ‘global Russian’ identity as discursive performance and explores its complex layers and cleavages as they constantly process and negotiate the flows of narratives, meanings and imaginaries. The data will be collected through extensive anthropological fieldwork in both physical and virtual spaces of identity production and exchange, focusing on Russian-speaking cultural, educational, business and leisure domains in England and Scotland.

The project contributes to the exploration of how evolving forms of mobility and connectivity are transforming contemporary transnational communities, specifically that of globally-dispersed Russian speakers. The project is concerned with how the formation and transformation of transnational language communities affects international relations, definitions of nationhood, negotiations of identity, migration processes, diasporisation, and so forth. By exploring the way in which ‘global Russians’ engage with the UK’s local cultural and social life, and vice versa, the project provides insight into ‘transnational Britain’ itself, contributing new understandings into what ‘community’ might mean in this context. By examining the diverse, vibrant and rapidly expanding Russian cultural engagement with the UK, the project interrogates how language can open communities to the world by maximizing connectivity. Finally, the analysis of ‘global Russian’ identity discourses unpicks linguistic strategies involved in the production of memory, nostalgia, and cultural and linguistic belonging. This will contribute to answering the question: does language facilitate or disrupt the globalising nation’s capacity to access its imaginary pasts and imagined futures?

The project includes a series of workshops which will involve not only researchers but also extensive input from non-academic stakeholders (writers and media figures engaging in the representation of the Russian diaspora in the UK and cultural entrepreneur organisations, such as Academia Rossica, Clavert 22 Gallery and Pushkin House).

See report on work carried out during the first, seedcorn, phase of the project (01.10.2016 - 31.12.2017).

For more information about this project contact:


16-17 June 2017

Londongrad and Londongradians: Identities, Imaginaries and Cultural Practices of Russians in the UK, Princess Dashkova Centre, University of Edinburgh.

This international workshop brought together writers, script writers, journalists and actors who have worked on the creation of the imaginaries of the Russian-British community of ‘Londongrad’, and academics able to provide a critical examination of these imaginaries.