Thursday, April 21, 2022

New Moscow Study Focuses on Identity Change among Russian Speakers in the United States

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 12 – The Moscow Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology has just released a study of how identities are shifting among the three largest Russian-speaking groups in the US – Russians, Jews, and Ukrainians – and how such changes will affect their understanding of what the Kremlin calls “the Russian world.”

            Written by Natalya Shalygina on the basis of field work and documents, the new book, Russian Americans: The Search for New Identities (in Russian; Moscow, 2021, 390 pages, ISBN: 978-5-4211-0277-9), focuses on changes in “linguistic identity” and on the adaptive strategies of Russian-speaking women (

            Only the introduction, table of contents and conclusions of this book are yet available online. In them, Shalygina argues that “to become part of American culture does not mean ‘to become American,’ that is, to acquire a new identity” and that the latest generation of Russian speakers in the US consequently gives preferences to the development of professional identities.

            Ukrainian and Jewish Russian-speakers are largely already lost to any Russian world, she suggests; but so too are many ethnic Russians, a conclusion that the powers that be in Moscow may not welcome  because it is one more indication of the amorphousness and weakness of the bonds that are supposed to hold the Russian world together.

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