Reviews

This article provides a novel analysis of the re-articulation of collective identities among the Russians of Uzbekistan since independence in 1991.  After having briefly analysed the stakes of the term “diaspora” and the difficulty of using it in the case of Russians of the Near-Abroad, M. Flynn presents the study’s initial hypothesis:  Diaspora as an academic concept can be criticised for focusing too much on the relationship to “homeland”, for neglecting the “concrete localities” within which people live and the structural contexts of their society of settlement.  The author thus seeks to fill in this gap by studying the importance of daily life in the definition of national identities.  Interviews undertaken by the author in Tashkent in 2004 show that many of the respondents felt a strong and continuing sense of attachment to Uzbekistan, identifying it as their homeland.  This survey thus demonstrates the relevance of exploring everyday life, a level at which specific experiences can influence a sense of belonging to a homeland.  Criticism of the government’s language policy is rarely framed in terms of its being a tool of ethnic discrimination.  Blame for personal economic difficulties and loss of socio-economic status are seldom attributed directly to the Uzbek government, not to the Uzbek people.  Decisions to leave Uzbekistan for Russia are predominately taken for pragmatic reasons—for example, standards of living and employment—whereas very few decisions are driven by the idea of returning to one’s historic or ethnic homeland.  The interviews presented in this article show how feelings of difference from the Russians of Russia are used by the Russians of Uzbekistan to explain why they would have problems culturally integrating in Russia.  M. Flynn’s research thus substantiates the argument previously advanced by N. Kosmarskaia, according to which the term “Russkokul’turnost’ (Russian culture),” defined as an attachment not necessarily to Russia and its people but to a wider idea of Russian culture, might serve as a unifying factor amongst the Russian-speaking population in the post-Soviet borderlands.

Sébastien Peyrouse, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC
CER: I-8.4.G-749