UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


From Jokes to War of Extermination

07 February 2023, 6:00 pm–8:00 pm

Gasan Gusejnov

Post-Soviet Russian Anti-Ukrainianism in the Linguistic and Ideological Dimension, 1991-2022. A SSEES PROLang seminar with Gasan Gusejnov

This event is free.

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Masaryk Room
UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies
16 Taviton street

The full-scale aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, makes us take a fresh look at the entire post-Soviet period of history and the language policy of both states. Now it is more and more obvious that in the policy of the Russian Federation under Yeltsin, and under Presidents Putin and Medvedev, solid ideological foundations were laid precisely for a war of annihilation, for the annexation of territories and the forcible Russification of the population of Ukraine. This talk will examine the main political and cultural milestones of this prehistory, as well as a dictionary of Russian anti-Ukrainianisms (a term first proposed by the speaker in books of 2003-2004). The ideological colouring of the Ukrainian accent in the Russian language manifested itself at the level of so-called "harmless ethnic jokes" even in Soviet times. After the Second World War, the suppression of "Ukrainianism" took on ever more sophisticated forms. Under the guise of the flourishing of "the entire multinational Soviet culture," Ukraine was offered a policy of creeping assimilation and dissolution in the Soviet-Russian world. The Soviet Union collapsed shortly before the successful completion of this policy. From the first day of the declaration of sovereignty, the independent Ukrainian state was described in Russian political discourse as an incapable rebellious province. This attitude was broadcast and implanted in Ukraine itself, relying on Russian writers of Ukrainian origin and on the imposed memory of the Second World War as a battle against world evil, which “was won mainly by the Russian soldier”. On the other hand, Ukrainians were more and more insistently presented in the media as “Banderites” and “Hitler’s allies”. The fascistization of Russian political discourse intensified after the annexation of Crimea and the start of the war in Donbas. The relative success of the linguo-political indoctrination of the population of the Russian Federation by the Kremlin is explained in this talk through several specific examples from 2022.

This event will be livestreamed online https://ucl.zoom.us/j/96213871431


Gasan Gusejnov has authored several books and more than a hundred articles on classical philology, cultural history, and political rhetoric. Since 1978, he has taught in many universities in the former USSR/Russia and in Europe, including Alexander von Humboldt Fellow (Heidelberg, 1990-1991), at the Institute of Eastern Europe in Bremen, later on Universities of Bonn, Basel and Bochum (1992-1998, 2006-2007). From 2012 to 2020, he was Professor at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Since 2020, Gasan has been a political émigré in Germany and Greece. He is the Co-Founder and Professor of the Free University / Brīvā Universitāte (Latvia). He is currently a visiting scholar at Jesus College University of Cambridge (2022-2023). You can read more about Gasan’s work and its reception in Russia here. See also his recent article, ‘“A taste for resistance”: Philologist Gasan Gusejnov explains how Russian-speakers beyond the Kremlin’s control are learning to use language to undermine the Putin regime and The Fight for the future of the Russian Language. A podcast with Kevin Rothrock’.