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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Language "Purity" and the De-Russification of Tatar


Tatar is a Turkic language spoken in Tatarstan, Russia, by one quarter of its four million residents. Tatar ethnic identity, as constructed through linguistic performance, is inextricably linked with orientation towards or away from Russian language and culture, such that the integrity and cultural "purity" of post-Soviet Tatars -- thought by many to be necessary for the survival of the Tatar language, culture, and nation -- is equated with de-Russification. "Purification" practices usually involve the cleansing of Russian influence, while the influences of other cultures (e.g., Persian, Arabic) are allowed to remain. This de-Russification, as expressed through a variety of purification movements, takes place in a post-Soviet sociolinguistic setting where, although the climate is more conducive to the use of Tatar than in years past, language shift to Russian continues apace.

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