Change and Continuity in the Urban Semiosphere of Post-Soviet Kharkiv


  • Svitlana Malykhina Boston University



The paper studies change and continuity in the urban semiosphere of Kharkiv in the post-Maidan period, focusing on themes such as the interplay of languages, street art, toponyms, and the significance of political, ideological, commercial, and artistic discourses in the urban space. The urban vernacular of Kharkiv is examined via the concept of the palimpsest that helps to expose the process of acceptance or rejection of the past, and to assess how things are remembered and forgotten through the tropes of the old narrative that were scrapped and replaced with new ones. The analysis of the linguistic landscape in this study focuses on a broader, more inclusive set of components that are part of public spaces, such as street graffiti metaphors and reactions to the text on graffiti. Thus, а multimodal approach is essential to provide deeper meanings and interpretations of public spaces. To examine the complex linguistic landscape, I bring together a representative collection of public signage that mirrors the dynamics of different historical, linguistic, and ideological factors that shape the contemporary Ukrainian identity, along with the too obvious and simultaneous presence within it of markers of the collective identity from the Soviet period. The juxtaposition of overlapping narratives provides a means to discuss the city’s community-building efforts. My paper introduces a few familiar cases of how post-Soviet urban dwellers have shaped social spaces.


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Author Biography

Svitlana Malykhina, Boston University

Lecturer in Russian and Coordinator of the Russian Language Program