The ElMaRB project has officially ended, but its legacy will live. Margarita Zavadskaya, Elena Gorbacheva, and several other of our colleagues taught a course on political behavior in Post-Communist states during the Autumn semester, which was based on the research we have been doing during the three years of the ElMaRB project. We enjoyed the course and we had a wonderful group of students. One of the assignments the students had was to write a blog post on a phenomenon related to political behavior in the studied region. The students did a great job working on their posts and we want to publish the best one on our blog. It deals with the issue of language in Kazakhstan – a state where there are two official languages, Kazakh and Russian, and where Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changed the attitudes toward language use.
In our project, we did not deal with languages specifically, but they were always on our minds. The main contribution of ElMaRB was a dataset on electoral malpractice, split into two parts – one for Russian elections, and one for the national elections in the world (soon to be published). For the international elections, one aspect that we struggled with was what media database can we use to study how national elections in different countries are reported. Of course, to see how media coverage affects elections in a certain country, you need to look at the media in the language of that country. This task would be impossible for a small team like ours without a database like Factiva, which aggregates news from 200 countries in 32 languages. This made it possible for us to see how widespread the negative messages on elections are among different countries and in different years and how these messages correlate with turnout and election results. So for us, in the ElMaRB project, the role of the negative language in mass media used to describe elections and electoral malpractice was important. The blog post we publish in the next post approaches the languages from a completely different perspective, yet it also shows how languages can affect (political) behavior and values of citizens.