Linguistic Diversity in Kharkiv: Between “Pride” and “Profit,” Between the Local and the Global

  • Ganna (Anna) Pletnyova University of Calgary


This paper explores the linguistic diversity of the city of Kharkiv, focusing on the language ideologies and practices of Russian-speaking Kharkivites in the wake of the Russo-Ukrainian military conflict of 2014. This conflict polarized Ukrainian Russophones into competing ideological positions for or against Russia and gave fresh vigour to the long-existing linguistic debate in Ukraine, which was a result of the Russian government’s manipulations of the Ukrainian language situation. The political convictions of Russian-speaking Kharkivites affect their linguistic behaviour, motivating them to attempt to switch to Ukrainian, to advocate bi- or multilingualism, or to demonstratively use only Russian.

A field study that I carried out in Kharkiv in the summer of 2018 examined correlations and discrepancies between Kharkivites’ linguistic ideologies and their real-life language practices, focusing on the interaction between two factors: the discourse of “pride” in speaking a particular language, which is anchored in a speaker’s interpretations of the role of language in a nation, and the discourse of “profit,” which is based on a speaker’s expectation of economic benefits related to mastering a certain language.

The study results reveal the vacillations of this Russian-speaking community between support for the monolingual ideology of the nation-state and the globalizing concept of multilingualism, demonstrating an interplay between discourses of “pride” and “profit” and the influence of local and global forces.

Author Biography

Ganna (Anna) Pletnyova , University of Calgary

PhD Candidate and Sessional Instructor