The team members are interested in understanding the diversity of elements that positively influence the commitment of the members of the minority to promote and maintain their languages and cultures. At the same time, we are interested to identify factors that inevitably have had a negative impact on the “cultural survival” of many minority communities in Europe. Central for the project is also the emphasis on Russia and the comparative, interdisciplinary approach into many minority communities simultaneously from the viewpoints of several different disciplines.
All of the project participants have both individual as well as joint projects. The joint activities include regular team meetings in which the individual projects are discussed. The group will also produce an edited volume (with additional invited contributions) and a popular science book on the language and culture maintenance issues that will be addressed for minority communities. In addition, two dissertations will be prepared within the project.
The principal research questions in the project are the following:
The principal question in the project is: what are the components of cultural and linguistic survival in the 21st century?
What are the socio-political, legal and psychological processes enhancing the preservation or even revitalization of certain minority identities?
The research is conducted on the following minority language communities: Inari Saami (Finland), Karelian (Russia, partly also Finland), Komi, Udmurt, Mari, Tatar, Bashkir Chuvash (European side of Russia) Enets, Dolgan, Nenets ( Taimyr Peninsula, Russia), Southern Saami (Russia and Sweden), Hungarians in Romania, Sater Frisian (Germany) and Finland-Swedes.
Some central points of interest for the project are:
- State-of-the-art of the language minorities under investigation: What is the demographic structure of the speech community? What are the linguistic attitudes among different age groups and people with different backgrounds? What is the social dynamics of the language shift in different contexts?
- Identity and language: What is the effect of language loss to linguistic identity among the still-speakers and the first generations of non-speakers? How does a large-scale language shift affect the ethnic identity? What linguistic means are used for expressing a minority identity when the skills in the national language decline?
- Traditional vs. postmodern language community: How do urbanization, rising educational standards and the change in traditional livelihoods affect the minority speech communities? In which networks are the minority languages used when the communities turn scattered and socially more layered than before?
- The effects of institutionalization of the minority languages: What is the role of national elites in transforming the linguistic community into a modern society? Where do the models for ethno-national activism come from and how are they implemented in practice? What is the role of new literary standards to the communities?
- Comparison of different macro-contexts: what are the similarities and dissimilarities in the fates of the minority language communities in EU and Russia?
- Looking for effective ways to empower minorities: Which strategies for minority language protection have the best prospects for success in Russia and EU?
In addition, the research project also has the practical goals:
- To foster a network of Russian and other European specialists on minority issues and minority language planning
- To spread awareness on issues related to minority languages and their protection