'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 that intently observe and comment on their collective life.
The 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 project looks to 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 is collected through extensive ethnographic 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 that bring together researchers and 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 and Pushkin House).
One of the outcomes of the project is an online resource on Russophone and Russia-related organisations and networks in the UK.
The above reports contain comprehensive information on fieldwork, publications, conference papers and other types of dissemination, academic events, knowledge-exchange and impact activities associated with the project during the period in question. Displayed below are just the flagship events in each phase of work.