Elite or Outcast?
Kate Fox, the British sociologist, dedicated her book “Watching the English to the English caste, which is expressed in a manner of communication, colloquial vocabulary, cloths, behavior rules. Different social groups recognize their members according to these peculiar features. This research has suggested me an idea to carry out such work in Baku.
For over a year I researched self-management of the city’s Russian speaking society for the Heinrich Böll Foundation and came to interesting conclusions.
Initially the research had no any hypothesis that allowed not to adjust (that it important even subconsciously) the work to a final result which would certainly only confirm my author’s misperceptions.
My work is a result of interviews with different representatives of the group; I also used the respondents’ diaries and field trainings (participation in “bashes).
The foreword for foreigners
According to different estimates, from 2, 5 million to 4 million people live in Baku. The minority (statistic on their number is not available) speaks the Russian language. Over 300 schools, most part of which is public, function in Baku and its outskirts. There are Russian sectors (classes where teaching is carried out in the Russian language) practically in all public schools. Media, printed publications, news portals in the Russian language exist. Besides, there is the Russian Drama Theatre. A tourist, speaking the Russian language, has greater chances to be understood. Perfect knowledge of the Russian language is an obligatory condition for being admitted to work in serious organizations in the capital, especially in the service sphere.
It’s hardly to tell exactly why the Russian language has “hung up in Baku in such way that many Baku residents speak it instead of the Azerbaijani language. Perhaps, it is a result of several factors: a traditional multinationality of the oil capital; 70 years in the USSR, when the Russian language was a means of communication between the republics and with “bosses from Moscow, etc. When the Soviet Union had disintegrated and Karabakh conflict had broken out, “the comfortable and close-knit family of international Baku intellectuals also tragically collapsed- the Jews moved to Israel, Armenians – to Armenia, Russians – to Russia, because they considered it was more safety there. They were replaced by a flow of refugees, IDPs and labor migrants from Karabakh and pre-border regions. Those were rural residents with another culture, traditions and their number equaled the number of the capital’s residents. As a result of such shock Baku residents united into a “dense group, which used the Russian language as a uniting sign.
Noteworthy, there is a precise system of relevance for members of this community – the “Russian sector means belonging to “a good family of intellectuals, or it is a kind of an argument in favor of perfect qualification, but “azsector – negligence. Thus, there are two sub-cultures: people are divided depending on the language of communication and according to this sign they recognize “ins and “outs with different ways of life and interests. The groups have no absolutely distinct boundaries, for example, someone may speak both languages well or fuse together both groups’ peculiarities. There is dislike between the groups, though; existence of it is denied strictly. This is the first thesis.
Several years ago one of the famous Russian language bloggers conducted a survey on his webpage in livejournal, asking whether there was a real disregard regarding “azsector. 49 users from Baku out of 50 ones stated there was nothing of the kind.
Several days later two users (ladies) discussed in my presence our common acquaintances, using epithets “he is from azsector, “skibby and “speaks Russian language (in a positive context, not as a statement).
Since that time I have got accustomed to begin provocative talks among relatives, colleagues and friends and to record results. The denial effect was less may be because of the trustworthy situation and unawareness of the recording to the pocketbook. Nevertheless, here “deniers used the abovementioned epithets notwithstanding their statements that such division of the citizens of the country was an act of un-patriotism, exclusiveness, silliness and sometimes as a “result of the heavy soviet past.
A scandal, which took place four year ago, may be cited as an argument. Azerbaijani student Saria Aliyeva told about such division to the Russian magazine “Afisha. Following it she was in the focus of a hate campaign in social networks and even in the press. Aliyeva had a boyfriend from azsector and her words that they together “stitch off the Russian sector became a meme, having caused a great number of anecdotes and funny pictures. Nevertheless, in fact, her postulate “Baku has been divided into two sectors, “inciting Baku residents, was true.
Russian speaking Baku residents put off Azerbaijani language speakers to the lower stage involuntarily, habitually, not thinking about it. If they are pointed to it, they will deny it loudly, they hate a thought of being adherent to stereotypes.
2. A feeling of guilty for ‘speaking the Russian language
A majority of informants either feel guilt for speaking Russian or try to justify themselves in some way. Sometimes a great difference between thought before declarations in social networks and words, uttered in interviews, exists. It is difficult not to make a slip in the two-hour interview concerning this issue even if a person conceals the position.
“I speak the enemy’s language, says one of the survey’s participants, declaring dislike regarding Russia. Well-educated, well-read, erudite says: “two languages should not exist in the state.
All participants of the survey recognized existence of a certain public reproof for lack of the “native language knowledge. It should be noted that ethnic Russians come across it less seldom.
Here we should speak about reasons. As it turned out, all informants, including me, equalize notions “nation, ethnos, “language media consciously or not. In fact the problem is in the internal contradiction appearing as a result of the last elements disparity.
Traditionally, a notion “nation has a political coloring in the world. It means a source of power as a counter to previous dominating doctrines in the world when a religious community or a ruling dynasty was a source. This notion is political, neither ethnographic nor linguistic. The question is why such interpretation appeared in our country.
We should return to the soviet past, to the period of the USSR formation. It was a single country in the world, whose name was based on the national or geographic basis. The communist party’s leadership created national states defined their borders, unified national languages. As a result it created a construct nation-ethnos-language as well as a basis for contemporary dichotomy in self-identification. We perceive this construct as a single correct reality and it does not matter that the civilization’s history contradicts to this image, that American nations are not ethnic.
3. The language as a part of the Conduct Code
“If a person has mastered Russian, for certain he/she did not come from the region yesterday, says one of the participants, who note directly or indirectly that the Russian language is a kind of means to find a person with the same code of conduct to a certain extent.
Informants note a difference between members of groups – attitude to a religion and sexuality, literature and musical passions. According to them, difference in attitude to personal privacy frameworks is the most delicate discrepancy.
One of the informants told that her colleague stated she would not like her son marry her after she had leant the informant was Russian. As Russian language speaking informants say they are persuaded to accept another code of conduct, ideology, even the cloths style by the more numerous “Azerbaijani sector. It causes one informant’s discomfort, another says he does not feel it, but he clears out with surprise in his personal diary (it was written on my request) that unfamiliar people very often interfere into his personal space.
It is more hard for women as factually they have to lead a double life, while communicating with “another sector’s representatives. “As if you were a secret prostitute in Pakistan- to wear modest cloths, especially when visiting outskirts or at meetings with relatives and what is the main – to lower the eyes in public places and “never smile even if you want it very much.
Thus, identification according to a language is a means to come out in the unfamiliar place before an unfamiliar person.
I would like to remind about my disclaimer in the end. The groups’ boundaries are not precise. There are many so called “border people. They less participated in the research – mainly to try to feel this fragile boundary. Manly people, defining themselves as Russian speaking, participated in the survey.