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The following paper by Dr. Mica J. Hall was presented at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Nationalities, at a session titled "Building the Crimean Tatar Nation," Columbia University, New York, 12 April 2002. We are grateful to Dr. Hall for letting us publish this interesting paper on the Web. Her e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Crimean Tatar-Russian as a Reflection of Crimean Tatar National Identity
Rare indeed is the person who can master a second language without betraying his native accent, either in sounds or intonation. Even more influential are the historico-cultural, emotional and intellectual aspects of the individual's relationship to his mother tongue, these being established through his original socialization, his natural and long-term participation in 'national' customs, lifestyle, mores, folklore, literature and historyall of which is effected either through language, in language, or with the help of language.
--Vitaly G. Kostomarov,
Practically since their deportation from Crimea in 1944, the Crimean Tatars' (CT) national movement has been the key social phenomenon in the lives of CT. One of the foremost reasons this small ethnic group has withstood and continues to withstand extreme economic and political hardship is the strength of the CT family structure. This paper is a sociolinguistic study of CT in Crimea, a discussion of both their language erosion and how they preserve national identity through linguistic patterning in the immediate and extended family.
The relationship between cultural identity and linguistic practices has been well established in sociolinguistic studies of inter-cultural communication (Clement and Noels, 1992). Whether an indicator of cause or consequence of national identity, ethnolinguistic behavior is based on a number of factors, including group status, the political and cultural conditions the group has lived in over time, a desire to identify with an in-group and differentiate from and out-group, etc. The CT became an extremely cohesive group in exile and their "trans-generational narratives of the homeland" (Williams, 2001) played an important role in group identification and eventual nation-building.
The CT are a small ethnic group whose native language is from the Turkic language family. Roughly half of the CT population, about 250,000 people, currently live on the Crimean Peninsula on the Black Sea coast of Ukraine. The majority of the population of Crimea speaks Russian. I have limited my study to CT in Crimea because their deportation and road to subsequent rehabilitation solidified in them not only the need for a homeland but an insistence on ethnic identification in a Russian-dominant society. I propose that CT population of Crimea, despite their mastery of R lexicon, grammar and syntax, retain a distinct accent in Russian, and that this accent has become an important ethnic identity marker for them.
Almost fifty years of exile interrupted the normal cultural development that would likely have fostered CT language. The majority of CT children and a significant portion of their parents, born in exile, know the CT language at best on an everyday, household level. As part of increasingly intense efforts by CT to establish and reinforce their ethnic identity, their dialect of Russian, which I will call Crimean Tatar-Russian (CT-R), has served to preserve their linguistic and cultural identity. CT-R is linguistically and socially significant because it is part of a larger trend among small ethnic groups to fight assimilation into the surrounding majority. Because language is essential in defining peoples and nations, identity and culture, and has played an integral part in defining Crimean Tatars, CT-R merits investigation as a basis for socializing CT to their national identity.
CT Group Socialization
To understand the significance of CT-R in building the CT nation, we must first examine some recent history. The Crimean Tatars were exiled from Crimea in 1944 for supposed collaboration with Nazi forces, and were allowed to return only in 1989. During that time they lived primarily in Uzbekistan and, with no access to education in CT, used Russian almost exclusively. It was in this period that CT homeland culture developed, and it is still prevalent among CT in Crimea today.
CT-R is partly the product of Soviet language policy, which paid lip service to preserving the languages of the peoples of the USSR, but in practice did little or nothing to preserve them. Sovietization meant Russification, and CT language fared poorly against the driving force from above to promote R as the language of the so-called 'internationale'. As Dorian (1999) notes, when "people have changed to another language and given up their own entirely, it has nearly always been due to a local history of political suppression, social discrimination, or economic deprivation. More often than not, all three have been present." Certainly, CT did not give up their language completely, but their communication became extremely Russified. The Latin alphabet of CT was replaced with Cyrillic. At the same time, most existing CT literature was declared to be "politically unacceptable" (Fisher 1978). The number of journals and newspapers published in CT was sharply reduced, and the language became extremely Russified. However, the main role of Soviet language policy in forming CT-R was to withhold formal education in CT, particularly after World War II.
Effectively, the Soviet system deprived the CT community of public access to their nationality's history, language and culture. In CT families, however, children gained an intimate knowledge of their history and culture, and thereby continued to shape a national identity separate from Soviet identity. In the absence of structured institutions to inculcate their group history, civilization, and tongue, it fell to the family to fulfill this duty. More than in most modern nationalities, the immediate and extended family single-handedly molded the future generation of CT (Altan, 100). This intense and extended family contact helps explain why CT-R, the mode of communication of important socializing topics, has had such staying power throughout generations.
CT born in exile grew up listening to stories about their families and their ancestral homeland. They heard this from parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other close relatives. It may seem strange for a non-Slavic ethnic group to preserve their ethnic identity through the use of Russian. However, the pervasiveness of Russification brought Russian into the home as well as school and the workplace. In what was likely an unconscious effort, it seems CT, while using Russian for practically all modes of communication, avoid speaking like the perceived oppressor. Thus the message of CT national identity is conveyed not only overtly in particular contexts, but also unconsciously in a much broader context through presentation, i.e. the use of CT-R presentation of any topic during inter-CT communication conveys the underlying message of positive CT ethnic unity and national identity. Language is an integral part of CT ethnic identity that has not been replaced by, only supplemented by, other means of ethnic identity marking such as clothing, music, and food. The immediate and extended family molded the future generation of CT both consciously with their stories, and unconsciously by modeling their language, CT-R. Thus CT-R became the de-facto native language of modern day Crimean Tatars.
One of the primary conclusions of the last three decades of sociological identity studies is that identity is formed as a process of communication with others (Collier & Thomas, 1988; Shotter & Gergen, 1989; Gans, 1979, as cited in Hecht, 1993). In addition, communication is an enactment of identity and even when group identification is not the primary purpose of the communicative act. In the course of everyday life speakers unconsciously utilize communication rituals (i.e. norms, mores) that create and express the group identity, and for CT this means communicating in CT-R. According to Hecht (1993), "not all messages are about identity, but identity is part of all messages." Members of the CT community have together defined a general identity as the indigenous people of Crimea and have taught successive generations this ethnic identity through enactment, i.e. through communication in CT-R.
Linguistic variations result more from group affiliation than from individual action, and imitation of groups considered superior or esteemed affects sociophonetic change. In keeping with this, several characteristics of CT-R usage indicate that its departures from Standard Spoken Russian (SSR) are likely prestige features for Crimean Tatars. Most importantly, the fact that the younger generation retains some features of CT-R rather than following the normal pattern of younger generation assimilation into the surrounding majority shows that these non-standard forms have currency in the Crimean Tatar community.
The French-speaking community in Canada shows a similar tendency, in that speakers may identify French as their native language, but English as the language used most often. There appears to be no conflict for CT speakers of Russian, just as there is none for French Canadian speakers of English: their life, their surroundings necessitate communication in a non-native language. The question of degree of language mastery plays little role in defining a language as native for purposes of ethnic identity. As Clement & Noels (1992) note, "when cultural membership is identified with ethnolinguistic group membership, it would appear that identification must be exclusive." Regardless of a much better mastery of Russian than of CT language, CT only identify CT language as their native language and thus preserve their ethnolinguistic identity. Russian language, therefore, is more a tool for communication, while CT-R is an enactment of CT ethnic identity.
The socialization of the younger generation is not the only significant component of this process. The middle generation does not seem to have assimilated fully into the society, with the younger generation showing a return to its "roots." Instead, the middle generation has perpetuated CT-R. These individuals are both being socialized into elderly roles, while facing potential mid-life crises, attempting to create stability in their own lives, and live up to their parents' goals for them and their goals for themselves. They were the first generation to return to Crimea, so there was and still is a heavy burden on them to keep the CT national identity alive. Certainly, it is unlikely that Crimean Tatars consciously try to incorporate these features in their Russian speech. However, when they use R to communicate amongst themselves, they hear these features in the speech of members of a group they regard highly and want to emulate, and this reinforces in them the idea that these features are positive and desirable.
CT maintenance and promotion of their social identity through CT-R is one of many examples of ethnolinguistic identity theory at work (cf. Beebe & Giles, 1984; Garret & Coupland, 1989; Giles & Johnson, 1981, 1987, as cited in Clement and Noels, 1992). Members of the CT community maintain a positive social identity within the CT community via their membership, and one way to demonstrate that membership, however unconsciously, is through the use of CT-R. However, CT do not show a tendency to disassociate themselves from the CT community in mixed or majority-R settings. Thus, it seems CT-R would not exemplify ethnolinguistic identity as perceived in a situational sense. As Clement and Noels (1992) describe it, situational identity refers to ethnolingustic identity as "situationally bound, such that individuals slip in and out of particular group memberships as required by immediate contextual demands." While degree of accentedness may increase in the home setting, the CT I interviewed did not attempt to blend in to the Russian culture when speaking to me or to Russian speakers of any ethnicity. Perhaps identification with the Russian cultural group, the "other" is somewhat desired, but CT value retention of their original cultural identity to such a degree that it seems unlikely any of them would openly claim simultaneous membership in both groups. Even the very few among my informants who suggested they might have two native languages, CT and R stopped far short of indicated any desire to assimilate into the greater R culture. It seems, as stated before, that if culture is ethnically or ethnolinguistically defined, that people overwhelmingly identify with only one group.
Language is at the core of national identity, and it is a commonly held idea among CT that language is at the core of their ethnicity. CT recently celebrated the 150th birthday of Ismail Bey Gaspirali, one of the early leaders of a movement to unify Turkic peoples, who created a new method of education with the motto "Unity in language, thought, and action" (Fisher 1978, 103). Gaspirali advocated using a Turkic lingua franca, not specifically developing CT language, but he did encourage CT to see themselves as an ethnolinguistic entity. He predicted that if CT did not use language as a unifying tool, that they would later have to use R to achieve their goals. His prediction came true. Gaspirali's successors succeeded in stoking the ethnic cohesiveness of CT, but their success did not depend on the success of the CT language. Despite later efforts by Crimean Tatars to revive national consciousness through CT language press, literature, and very limited education while in exile, R nonetheless replaced CT language as the predominant means of communication among CT. The very existence of CT-R today, among speakers of all ages, has shown that language has been a necessary unifier for CT, even if it has not been the CT literary language.
To support CT language development Crimea currently has the following institutions: a few CT-language schools, theatres with performances in both Russian and CT, the CT department at Simferopol' State University, the Crimean Pedagogical Institute to train teachers to teach content in CT language, a CT library, a few newspapers and magazines, and very limited radio and television programming in CT. These represent some progress in advancing the use of CT language, but they are far from affecting CT-R or replacing it as the working everyday language of CT. CT-R has become the de facto lingua franca of the CT and continues to be because of strong family socialization and because it preserves national identity.
My research shows that the majority of CT who grew up in exile were exposed to CT in the home from 0-3 years of age. They had enough language modeling and interaction to promote phonetic development in CT, but not grammatical and lexical development. Even if the children did use CT words when they first started to learn R, CT lexicon had no currency in family communication beyond everyday, household topics, much less in the greater Russian-speaking society, and so did not persist in CT's language use. For communicative purposes, CT functionally use Russian, with little or no code-switching into CT language, and have fully assimilated into the Soviet Russian-speaking society. According to Edwards (1977, 1985), "language in its communicative sense will tend to become assimilated faster and more completely than those, such as language in its symbolic sense," (Clement & Noels, 1992). CT do not feel self-conscious speaking CT-R in the greater society precisely because they have a native-speaker mastery of R lexicon, syntax and grammar. CT children have no negative reinforcement such as witnessing parents' lack of ability to function in society or be understood. Instead they see that the CT accent does not hinder comprehension by Russians and members of other Russian-speaking ethnic groups. Their accent, then, helps them retain their ethnolinguistic identity, while they function normally in a R-language dominant society.
CT born after 1942 not only show high proficiency in R language, but seem most comfortable speaking and writing in R. While most admit to a lack of perfect control of CT-language, all of my informants named it as their native language. The esteemed Mustafa Jemilev, the famous CT leader and first chairman of the Organization of the Crimean Tatar National Movement, said that he delivered his report to the 2nd Kurultay (the congress of the primary CT political body, Mejlis) in CT-language, despite the knowledge that those in attendance might not understand him, because he considered the congress an historic event (Allworth 1998, 17). He also admitted it required days to translate the speech into CT from the R in which he had composed it. Many other speakers in those sessions delivered their messages in R, possibly because they could not so fluently address the Kurultay correctly in their own language, or perhaps from a sense that many CT audience members felt more at ease with R. This clearly illustrates the predominance of R language among CT.
CT widespread use of Russian is not unique, as minority communities often prefer to speak a language other than their "native tongue," and "more often than not it is the language of the former colonial overlord" (Dorian, 1999). The CT, however, did not assimilate fully into the culture and did not adopt R outright. Rather, they have passed on CT-R from generation to generation as a symbolic marker of ethnic identity. Kostomarov (1993) notes how, with Glasnost, some ethnic groups accused those who had adopted a new language of infidelity to their roots. Many of my informants certainly professed feelings of guilt for 'losing' their 'native' language, but CT-R allows them to subconsciously preserve something of their 'native' language, creating a new 'native' language for the CT community.
What makes CT-R different from other minority groups' versions of the majority language is CT's lack of a kinstate. For example, Ukrainians are a minority in Crimea, but their accent when they speak Russian does not define them as a people because they have a kinstate, Ukraine, for cultural reference and support. With no kinstate to turn to, CT refer to themselves as the indigenous people of Crimea rather than a minority. CT-R is the linguistic cultural reference and support for CT, at least for the recent past and for some time to come.
Approach and Research Methodology
This paper is a sociolinguistic study of CT-R, as we can only properly analyze this linguistic phenomenon by considering significant extra-linguistic factors, such as age and education, to help interpret the raw linguistic data. I have limited my study to the phonological system of Russian as spoken by CT. From the interviews it was clear that CT-R did not show any marked grammatical or lexical forms, which is consistent with their language experiences.
From 1996 to 1998 I interviewed 100 Crimean Tatars in various cities, towns, and villages in Crimea. In interviewing participants I attempted to elicit unmonitored, spontaneous, informal speech so my informants would reveal more of the sounds and phonological rules in their representation of the second language (L2) sound system than they would in a more formal situation. To gain a representative sample, I asked informants biographical questions, and to tell me stories of their families' deportation. As a result, informants concentrated more on content than delivery, and I was thus able to elicit fairly natural, unmonitored speech, while collecting various phrases, repeated among informants, for comparison among samples.
According to Ellis (1985), interlanguage is an L2 learner's representation of the L2, which differs from standard L2 due to first language (L1) interference and the misapplication of L2 rules. Normally, L2 speakers' interlanguage approaches nearer and nearer to the standard L2 with more and more exposure. My research, however, shows that phonologically, this is not so with speakers of CT-R. CT retention of an accent in Russian differs from the well-known phenomenon among New York and Martha's Vinyard natives of linguistic identity. For these groups the identification is less ethnolinguistic than regionally defined and, more importantly, it is a variant of their L1, so neither their national nor ethnic identity is in question. CT-R speakers, on the other hand, show evidence of L1 interference in their L2, regardless of their high degree of mastery of Russian.
As is common even among speakers who are fluent in a second language, CT-R speakers show first language interference and interlanguage forms. These include Interference of CT phonological rules and distribution, Failure to use R phonological processes, Underapplication of R phonological processes, Overgeneralization, Underdifferentiation, Overdifferentiation, Overcompensation, Violation of R rule restrictions on environment, Non-standard stress with various consequences for pronunciation, and Non-standard intonation contours and intonation center placement. Some examples of typical CT-R pronunciation follow.
a. most often, CT-R speakers apply V reduction based on the non-standard stress, e.g. язык [jazyk], опубликовать [Λpub'l'Ikovδt], в Крыму [fkrymu], перевозли [p'Ir'Ivoz'l'I]
b. they sometimes apply SSR V reduction first, then re-assign stress, e.g. везли [v'Iz'l'i] высылали [vysylal'I]
c. a third variant that occurs in CT-R is язык [jazyk][non-standard stress, no subsequent V reduction], or такой [takoj]
There is a widespread belief among CT that language is at the core of their ethnicity-indeed their nationality. Certainly, all of my informants named CT as their native language, regardless of their self-evaluated level of fluency, thus indicating their strong personal motivation to retain ethnic identity. Currently, the symbolic value of CT language is inversely proportionate to its communicative value, thought this may change in the future. Although the majority of CT espouse CT-language education and development as their goal, my research shows that currently CT-R functions as their linguistic in-group marker. The CT have, in practice, validated CT-R through the generations, and not CT, in this role.
As mentioned above, age plays the most important role in CT-R, with both expected and unexpected results. The older generation, as expected, retains the most non-standard features in their CT-R. However, the middle and younger CT generations also retain several features of CT-R, rather than approaching SSR pronunciation. These "semi-speakers" of CT (Dorian, 1999), while not reaching full fluency in CT, had sufficient exposure to continue to affect their phonological perception and production. Education does not affect CT-R as much as might be expected. CT-R speakers do speak at various linguistic levels depending on their education, but the features of CT-R appear in the speech of speakers at all education levels. According to Dubois, and Dubois & Horvath (1997; 1998), the more educated the Cajun speaker in Louisiana, the greater the degree of ethnolinguistic identification. Perhaps such was the case in Gaspirali's time or shortly thereafter when the educated elite encouraged CT ethnic identity and national awareness, but since then CT-R has become so well incorporated into the CT group identity that it has spread to all levels of education.
Other factors examined as potential influences on CT-R include speakers' CT dialect and that of their parents, as well as where they had lived. The effects of these factors were negligible, as was interference from Uzbek language. A longitudinal study of Uzbek-Russian would likely yield interesting results vis-à-vis CT-R and explaining the interlanguage forms therein.
The lack of CT-language education in Soviet schools may have adversely affected CT L1 speakers' R as well as their CT. This follows from the idea that when content is taught in pupils' native language at least part of the time, their language is validated. This leads them to take a more positive approach to an L2. They learn it as a foreign language rather than having it forced on them, which only serves to send the message that their L1 is inadequate. According to Edward Allworth (1998, 18), both younger and older CT speak R in order to blend into their social surroundings and thereby cast off the stigma wrongly placed on them by the Soviet regime in 1944. My research, however, shows that CT use of R is much more a matter of practical communication among generations. In preserving CT-R, CT actively resist assimilation into the greater Russian-speaking community. Until CT-language becomes the true L1 of CT, and CT then approach R as any other L2, CT-R will likely not approach Standard Spoken Russian phonetically.
What makes CT-R unique is not that it is an example of L2 speakers' accent in L2, nor that people should retain an accent as a group identity marker. As with many ethnic groups, over time the dominant language in the surrounding society has taken over at home as well. The CT of Crimea, however, have not adopted the dominant language wholesale, nor have they lost their variant of the L2 over time. Instead they use a variant of the language of the perceived 'oppressor' as a marker for their own national and ethnic identity. This symbolic construct fits Gans' (1979) description of symbolic ethnicity, "whereby salient attributes of one's culture may be contrasted with comparable features of another group in order to serve as visible markers of ethnicity with a minimum interference in daily life," (Clement & Noels, 1992). Native language is often used within family as an unconscious means to family socialization, but CT use CT-R in the society as well. CT-R is not limited to the family sphere and there appears to be no code-switching depending on situation.
Of particular importance for the future of CT-R and CT-language is the question of national language. According to the most recent Crimean constitution, adopted in 1999, Russian, as the language of the majority and that of interethnic communication, may be used in all spheres of public life, while Ukrainian is the official State Language. Meanwhile, the CT language carries the status of that of any other minority language in Crimea. For practical purposes, Russian is recognized as dominant in Crimea. It is this triadic relationship of culture and power that perpetuates CT-R and promotes ethnic tension and linguistic dissimilation in Crimea.
The CT community has shown increasing cooperation with the Ukrainian government, as well as a desire to integrate to some degree into Ukrainian society. The question remains on what terms the relationship will evolve. As Dorian (1999) states, "even when a country declares intself multilingual and recognizes two or more official languages, that does not necessarily eliminate the problems." Since returning to Crimea, CT have campaigned to be recognized as the indigenous people of Crimea stating that they, unlike any other ethnic group in Crimea, lack a kinstate. However, it was not until 1996 that the Ukrainian Constitution officially introduced the term "indigenous peoples" into Ukrainian legal terminology. Article 11 states: "The State shall facilitate...the development of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious attributes of all indigenous peoples and national minorities of Ukraine" (Brama). It does not describe any specific provisions to protect indigenous people's rights, nor does it specify CT as the indigenous people of Crimea. This provision was meant to reconcile the idea of the CT people's special self-identity with its actual legal definition as an ethnic minority. The idea was to fulfil the CT national ambitions without violating Ukraine's laws. In reality, this situation only provides more motivation for retaining CT-R, as a way to reinforce identity in the face of a lack of recognition by the State.
Relevance and Contribution to the Field
My analysis demonstrates language policies have historically affected and continue to affect ethnic group identity, and how families react by socializing their children--consciously or unconsciously--to the ethnic group identity. The literature on CT has focused primarily on CT history and political standing. Where language is mentioned in a contemporary context, it is to call for the development of CT-language schools, or to note or bemoan the widespread use of R among the younger CT due to their R-language education, but it has not described CT-R or discussed its significance. None of this research, however, has delved into that dialect of R unique to CT or acknowledged its significance in preserving CT national and ethnic identity.
Conclusions and Directions for Future Research
The strength of CT as a group lies in its ability to preserve its heritage, and one of their primary means is through distinctive language. Along with watershed moments in the CT history of the 20th century, CT-R has played a key role in the evolution of (at least the Crimean CT) conception of what it means to be a CT. A more complete picture of modern-day CT in Crimea could be produced by further investigation into the definition of CT-ness, including the CT-R aspect of CT-ness. In an era when group legitimacy depends on the ability to approximate national form, CT have created a collective voice by socializing family members through language and using language in ways that exhibit high member integration into CT society.
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Posted: 15 May 2002