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Old 02-22-2014, 07:32 PM
kurtisokc kurtisokc is offline
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Ethicity in the former USSR: How are Russians and Ukrainians different?

I am afraid this probably sounds ignorant, but I am trying to understand exactly how Russians and Ukrainians differ from each other (as ethnic groups, not as citizens of different countries.) I had kind of a vague notion that the dividing line was linguistic. However, apparently it is not that simple because there is Russian speaking Ukrainians, and they are distinct from ethnic Russian Ukrainians. So, is it mainly a cultural (though not necessarily linguistic) distinction? Or is it perceived in racial terms? Can a Ukrainian become a Russian by becoming "culturally Russian?" Is it a bright line or more of a Continuum? Published population statistics in former Soviet states seem to indicate that there is a sharp distinction between ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians. OTOH, according to Wikipedia, Leonev Brezhnev identified as either Russian or Ukrainian at different periods of his life, and former Russian president Megledev is of partly Ukrainian ancestry, so apparently the line is at least somewhat porous. So, how exactly do Russians and Ukrainians perceive their differences?
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Old 02-22-2014, 08:09 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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It's the same as any other ethnicity. Ukrainians are people who view themselves as Ukrainian, and Russians are people who view themselves as Russian.
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Old 02-22-2014, 09:12 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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That's not really helpful for someone who is confused about the situation. Let me elaborate. They are two closely related ethnicities. Identification with one or the other is situational, and decided in part by:

* nationality (citizenship), in Russia or in the Ukraine
* language, Russian or Ukrainian (which are close but not quite mutually intelligible)
* geography, in a historically Russian or Ukrainian area (which may or may not overlap with nationality)
* heritage (not a big factor in Europe, but much bigger in North America)
* social prestige (peer opinions of the various groups)
* history (largely shared through big chunks of history, but not entirely)
* politics—the Crimeans might be Ukrainian or Russian, depending on which way the winds are blowing
* various subcultural practices that get identified with one group or the other.

Any given individual might be Russian, Ukrainian, neither, or both, but is usually only one at a time, depending on the context. Right now, I'd suggest that politics is a larger factor than normal, when language is more of a factor. I'm not an expert in either group, though, so I'm prepared to be wrong.

For most large groups of people and people who span borders, ethnicity is really complicated. I would say that Russian and Ukrainian are to modern ethnicities than began diverging in the Middle Ages and haven't completely split yet, making it more of a porous border than between, say, either and a Navajo.
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Old 02-22-2014, 09:25 PM
aceplace57 aceplace57 is online now
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Ukrainian food is a lot better. I've eaten at a Ukrainian restaurant and love borshch (a soup) and pierogies. Those dumplings, OMG they are good.
http://www.activeukraine.com/five-be...itional-foods/

Last edited by aceplace57; 02-22-2014 at 09:27 PM.
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Old 02-22-2014, 10:39 PM
thelurkinghorror thelurkinghorror is online now
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Originally Posted by aceplace57 View Post
Ukrainian food is a lot better. I've eaten at a Ukrainian restaurant and love borshch (a soup) and pierogies. Those dumplings, OMG they are good.
http://www.activeukraine.com/five-be...itional-foods/
Also, Ukrainian women tend to be hotter.

Brezhnev emphasized his Russianness for political reasons. But overall, continuum sounds like a good term. There may be no possible way to tell X and Y apart, but due to culture, religion, history they are separate.
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Old 02-23-2014, 07:47 AM
Bill Door Bill Door is offline
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It's pretty easy to tell them apart. In the Russian system of government, Man oppresses Man, while in the Ukrainian system it's the other way around.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:09 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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I have older linguistics books that refer to the Russian and Ukrainian languages as "Great Russian" and "Little Russian."
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:40 AM
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Can you tell a Canadian from an American before he speaks? A Frenchman from a German, or a Tutsi from a Hutu? No - As said, It is just a matter of where you come from and where you see as 'home'.

Last edited by bob++; 02-23-2014 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:51 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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Before the Mongol conquest, Kiev was the political capital and cultural center of the Slavs in the region (known as "Kievan Rus").

During Mongol rule, the languages and cultures started diverging. The three main branches are "great Russia" (centered on Moscow), "little Russia" (Ukraine, centered on Kiev), and "white Russia" (Belarus, centered on Minsk). Whether these are three separate languages, or one language with three dialects, is a matter of much debate.

When the Mongol empire declined, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine achieved independence at different times, and under different leaders. Each country still considered itself Russian, but each thought itself to be the true heir to the Kievan tradition, and the other two to be the slightly disreputable cousins.

The Muscovite state became the largest and strongest of the three (hence, they called themselves "Great Russia"). The Muscovite rulers expanded and conquered their neighbors. Russians call this "the gathering of the Russias", and consider it to be a good thing. Belarusian and Ukrainian nationalists call it a foreign invasion, and consider it a bad thing.

Another bone of contention: The Muscovite rulers embraced Eastern Orthodox Christianity, and used it to promote unity within their realm. Roman Catholicism remained influential in Ukraine, and Moscow was never quite able to stamp it out.

The Great Russians always maintained the dominance of Moscow, but they maintained the existence of Belarus and Ukraine as administrative subdivisions withing their empire. To the tsars, the existence of three Russias allowed them to claim three grandiose titles instead of one. To the Soviets, it allowed them to get three votes in the UN instead of one. So the nationalists were able to maintain an identity separate from Moscow.

Russian nationalists often view Belarussians and Ukrainians as just Russians with odd accents. They view Slavic unity as desirable, even necessary in the face of US and Chinese hegemony, and Muslim terrorism. It mystifies them that Belarussians and Ukrainians might view them as just one more set of foreigners.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:02 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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The Great Russians always maintained the dominance of Moscow, but they maintained the existence of Belarus and Ukraine as administrative subdivisions withing their empire. To the tsars, the existence of three Russias allowed them to claim three grandiose titles instead of one. To the Soviets, it allowed them to get three votes in the UN instead of one.

My understanding is that the Soviet Union asked for separate representation for each of its soviet socialist republics on the theory that they were federated sovereign states. The United States then countered for 48 seats under the same theory. The compromise was that each could designate two constituent states for extra representation, but the United States never bothered to follow through because of the political difficulty of choosing two of the states to be given special status on the international stage.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:11 AM
Omar Little Omar Little is offline
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I don't think they are racially or really that ethnically different. More a national pride different.

Think Texas vs. Oklahoma.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:12 AM
mbh mbh is offline
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nm

Last edited by mbh; 02-23-2014 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Omar Little posted before I could make a snarky response to Ascenray's post.
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Old 02-23-2014, 11:14 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Think Texas vs. Oklahoma.
I believe if you went to Ukraine and said that, you're liable to get punched in the nose.

Last edited by Acsenray; 02-23-2014 at 11:14 AM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:24 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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I don't think they are racially or really that ethnically different. More a national pride different.
If you speak a different language then you belong to a different ethnic group. It is possible for different ethnic groups to speak the same language (cf Serbs-Croats, English-Irish) but that only means that the Russians and Ukrainians are further apart than the minimum it takes to constitute ethnic separation.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:28 PM
kurtisokc kurtisokc is offline
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Thank you everyone for the interesting and informative responses. I must admit that as an American I often find ethinc politics in the former Soviet Union confusing.

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Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
I believe if you went to Ukraine and said that, you're liable to get punched in the nose.
Maybe they would be more understanding if they had ever been to the Cotton Bowl on the second Saturday in October.

Seriously, the analogy I've heard is that they are like Americans and Canadians. Thing is that I would consider a generic English speaking Canadian to be of a different nationality than me, but not a different ethnicity.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:37 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Seriously, the analogy I've heard is that they are like Americans and Canadians. Thing is that I would consider a generic English speaking Canadian to be of a different nationality than me, but not a different ethnicity.
Well, I would say that in Canada and the United States, there are many ethnicities. Canada and the United States, unlike many of the countries of Europe, are not ethnicity-based entities.

And even those countries that are ethnicity based, they also include minority ethnicities. For example, "French" is a nationality and an ethnicity, but "Breton" and "Basque" are only ethnicities (at the moment, anyway).
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:37 PM
John Mace John Mace is offline
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Originally Posted by kurtisokc View Post
Thank you everyone for the interesting and informative responses. I must admit that as an American I often find ethinc politics in the former Soviet Union confusing.



Maybe they would be more understanding if they had ever been to the Cotton Bowl on the second Saturday in October.

Seriously, the analogy I've heard is that they are like Americans and Canadians. Thing is that I would consider a generic English speaking Canadian to be of a different nationality than me, but not a different ethnicity.
What if your heritage was from Mexico and his was from Scotland?
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:43 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Seriously, the analogy I've heard is that they are like Americans and Canadians. Thing is that I would consider a generic English speaking Canadian to be of a different nationality than me, but not a different ethnicity.
But Ukrainians and Russians speak different languages.
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Old 02-23-2014, 12:47 PM
kurtisokc kurtisokc is offline
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But Ukrainians and Russians speak different languages.
True, except that some Ukranians speak Russian.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:03 PM
kurtisokc kurtisokc is offline
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What if your heritage was from Mexico and his was from Scotland?
Well, my heritage is not from Mexico, but I see your point. As someone else mentioned Canada and the US aren't ethnic entities. We both have racial/ethnic groups who are usually marked by their language or race or both. And then we have (for lack of a better term), generic white people, who come from a lot of different ethnicities, but have blended together so much that they kind of just get lumped together.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:19 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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Canadian and American are definitely ethnicities as well as nationalities. If I were to put on my Anthropologist hat, I'd say Anglophone North America had a number of different regional ethnicities, most in the USA but a handful in Canada. Of course, as an American in Canada (and worse, a half-Canadian American in Canada), some of us complicate the picture. I imagine there's even more complications in the former USSR.

Edit: there are also ethnicities based on the ancestral culture, which I think is what's confusing you. Most Americans think of Mexican-American as an ethnicity, and Asian-American as an ethnicity (which isn't the case: it's a lot of different ethnicities), but they fail to think of New Englander as an ethnicity. And a lot of people use "ethnicity" as a substitute for "race," and then people think they're interchangeable. There are different kinds of ethnicities. All are based on shared culture, but why the culture is shared might be common land of origin, common language, common religion, common geography, etc.

Last edited by Dr. Drake; 02-23-2014 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:26 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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And even those countries that are ethnicity based, they also include minority ethnicities. For example, "French" is a nationality and an ethnicity, but "Breton" and "Basque" are only ethnicities (at the moment, anyway).
I don't think you and I use the same definition of ethnicity, but anyway, and thanks to modern mobility, if there is ever a Basque (or, I imagine, Breton) independent nation-state, its ethnicity will be as mixed as today's US. Today's Bilbao makes Middle-Ages Pamplona's three boroughs (dvided by custom/laws, with what we'd today call different ethnical groups living in different ones) look as homogeneous as a bottle of distilled water.

Last edited by Nava; 02-23-2014 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:30 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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First, France isn't an ethnicity-based country, it wasn't even one back when it got founded. But anyway, and thanks to modern mobility, if there is ever a Basque (or, I imagine, Breton) independent nation-state, its ethnicity will be as mixed as today's US.
But nation-states do create (or at least promote) one sort of ethnicity. People's regional culture is important, but they also have a stake in the national culture, and where the expression of the two comes into conflict (e.g. with language), the advantages to choosing the national culture are strong enough to pull people away from the regional cultures.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:30 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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True, except that some Ukranians speak Russian.
I was referring to such features as the language spoken at home.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:33 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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But nation-states do create (or at least promote) one sort of ethnicity. People's regional culture is important, but they also have a stake in the national culture, and where the expression of the two comes into conflict (e.g. with language), the advantages to choosing the national culture are strong enough to pull people away from the regional cultures.
And who says you have to choose?
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:40 PM
Dr. Drake Dr. Drake is offline
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And who says you have to choose?
Well, the French used to suppress Breton and the Basque languages rather harshly, and look how well the British managed to suppress the Irish. Or look at the expression of black culture or Southern culture vs. mainstream white culture in the US. You don't inherently have to choose, but for socio-politico-economic reasons, it's often advantageous to cleave to the national culture rather than the regional.

Usually what happens is people prevent their children from being full participants in the regional culture. That's what happened to my grandparents, common for the children of immigrants. That's what happened to my husband's grandparents, common for the children of colonized people.

You yourself are a great example—you're fluent in both Spanish culture and Navarrese (is that right?). But I bet you could pull examples from your own family of people who reject the regional culture or at least some of its values.
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Old 02-23-2014, 01:57 PM
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Slightly off topic, but I often heard minority groups like the Jews and Roma would not be considered either Russian or Ukrainian no matter how long they'd lived there or how much they assimilated. (For example, Soviet internal passports listed "Jewish" as an ethnicity.) Is this still true in the post-Soviet era?
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Old 02-23-2014, 02:18 PM
Nava Nava is offline
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You yourself are a great example—you're fluent in both Spanish culture and Navarrese (is that right?). But I bet you could pull examples from your own family of people who reject the regional culture or at least some of its values.
No...

Not a single one. I do have one relative by marriage who's the opposite, although not Navarrese but Vascongada.

spoilering for rambling length

SPOILER:
I have an aunt who's HB, when my uncle (PNV) found out that he and their children were in ETA's list of targets their marriage was pretty much over (her being in their political branch means she knew about it). The son (who's one of those weirdos tha--- oh wait, I guess we could count him as rejecting local culture, or maybe evading it is a better word, as we consider debate a sport and he'll cut his own arm off rather than express disagreement), anyway, the son is the only one in the family who used to write the lastname with a tx (again, a rejection of the Spanish part, not of the Basque part); at one point he saw that his sister wrote it with a ch and asked why, "when in Basque it's with a tx*" and she gave him the family's standard answer of "if my ancestors have written it with a ch for over 1000 years, who am I to correct them?"

My American cousins don't call themselves Venezuelan-American, or Spanish-American. They call themselves Navarrese. One of them married a Guipuzcoano (third gen American, mind you, but guipuchi, and yes he calls himself both guipuzcoano an guipuchi).

Except for the PNV uncle (RIP, natural causes) and his widow, the rest of the family are all

navarro lo primero,
y por navarro, español,
y antes que perder los Fueros,
prefiero perderme yo
, as Moreno Torroba wrote.

(Navarrese first of all, and because of this, a Spaniard; before I lose the Fueros I'd prefer to lose my soul)

(Which strictly speaking isn't wholly true, since you can be Navarrese and a Frenchman, but nowadays those are more likely to just use Gascon or Landes as it's less likely to confuse the outsiders. Want another song?

Soy navarro lo primero; español, si me conviene. Y si me quitan los Fueros, francés el año que viene.

I'm Navarrese first of all; a Spaniard if it so suits me. And if they rob me of the Fueros, next year I will be French.)



I think I've told the story of Idígoras' interview before... *searches* Apparently not.

Back in must-have-been-1999, a radio chain interviewed the spokespersons for each of the parties which made up the national parliament. HB's was Jon Idígoras. During his interview, someone asked him what did he think had been the worst mistake Basque Nationalism had ever made, and he said "the redefinition of 'Basque' to one which placed it in opposition with 'Navarrese'. We hadn't realized that if you make a Navarrese choose between eating and being Navarrese you better have the OJ ready, the fuckers love their food as much as anybody else but to the last man, they would stop eating."

My dying Dad (that's how I know the date) replied "of course, stop eating I know how, but stop being Navarrese? How's that work?"



Yet another song: one of the lines that's been used in the counter-campaign to re-redefine Basque to its old definition is this one:
Vasco navarro soy,
del valle roncalés...

(A Basque Navarrese I am,
from the valley of Roncal)

which depends on who you listen to was sung by Julián Gayarre or merely dedicated to him, but in any case and even though nowadays we're about the only ones who've heard of that 19th century tenor we're still fond of him.





* it's been with a tx since the founder of PNV decreed so, which excuse me but compared with how long that bitch of a lastname has been in the family is a fart in time's face.

Fueros: the legal system that's traditional of the Basque areas, now sadly "modernized" and "democratized". It's a downside-up system, where custom and tradition come before and are above written law (laws are supposed to be a write-down of customs and/or of parliamentary agreements and you can get a written law changed by showing that it doesn't match custom).

Last edited by Nava; 02-23-2014 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 06:42 PM
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Actually - Ethnic (and ethnicity) has become a euphemism for race. In today's society 'race' has unpleasant connotations, so we tend to speak of 'ethnics' when we wish to refer to some minority, usually immigrant, group.
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Old 02-23-2014, 06:44 PM
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I was referring to such features as the language spoken at home.
So was kurtisokc. A third of Ukrainian citizens -- some 11 million people -- speak Russian as their mother tongue. I'd wager a majority of those speakers self-identify as Ukrainian, and possibly also as exclusively Ukrainian.
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Old 02-23-2014, 07:28 PM
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I know a Ukrainian family because the father was employed by a family member and I used to hire him to do things like paint my house. He was a super good guy with lots of skills but wanted nothing to do with his native homeland. I made the mistake once of telling him that I wanted to visit Russia now that the Cold War was over. He replied 'Russia is not good country. You do not want to go there ever. I am not Russian. I am Ukrainian". I tried to make it better and replied, 'Ok, I would love to see the Ukraine sometime'. He simply replied 'No, Ukraine is worse country than Russia. Do not ever go there'.

I love those former Soviet types. They keep it short and sweet and tell it to you straight. That is the only thing I know about it so I will just have to take his word for it. That was a few years ago and have maintained my promise not to visit the Ukraine.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 02-23-2014 at 07:29 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 07:31 PM
Eva Luna Eva Luna is offline
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Slightly off topic, but I often heard minority groups like the Jews and Roma would not be considered either Russian or Ukrainian no matter how long they'd lived there or how much they assimilated. (For example, Soviet internal passports listed "Jewish" as an ethnicity.) Is this still true in the post-Soviet era?
The passports no longer list ethnicity (and everyone had ethnicity of some sort listed, not just Jews - and if your parents were of 2 different ethnicities, you could choose which one to list), but the identity issues remain. There have been many, many books written about ethnic identity in the FSU. I once took an entire grad seminar on it.
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Old 02-23-2014, 07:40 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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So was kurtisokc. A third of Ukrainian citizens -- some 11 million people -- speak Russian as their mother tongue. I'd wager a majority of those speakers self-identify as Ukrainian, and possibly also as exclusively Ukrainian.
I interpreted what he said as an attempt to identify inconsistency in what I had said.

Ethnicity and citizenship need not be mutually exclusive, but that does not mean common citizenship makes ethnic differences disappear. Those citizens of Ukraine who speak Russian at home ought to be considered ethnic Russians exactly as those US citizens who speak Spanish at home ought to be considered ethnic Latin Americans.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:28 PM
kurtisokc kurtisokc is offline
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But my point was that, according to official population statistics, language doesn't seem to be the dividing line. In parts of Eastern Ukraine, "Russian speakers" outnumber "ethnic Russians," which implies that the the categories are not coextensive. I assume "Russian speaker" in this context means someone who speaks Russian as his/her native language, but I could be wrong.

Last edited by kurtisokc; 02-23-2014 at 08:29 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 08:31 PM
kunilou kunilou is offline
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My understanding is that the Soviet Union asked for separate representation for each of its soviet socialist republics on the theory that they were federated sovereign states. The United States then countered for 48 seats under the same theory. The compromise was that each could designate two constituent states for extra representation, but the United States never bothered to follow through because of the political difficulty of choosing two of the states to be given special status on the international stage.
Not entirely correct. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was a founding member of the U.N. while still governed by the U.S. And while they were granted independence a year later, there was no guarantee of that in June 1945.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:37 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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If you speak a different language then you belong to a different ethnic group.
Then there are no Kurds, only Kurmanjis and Soranis . Those dialects/languages happen to be pretty much mutually unintelligible - I was talking to a multilingual Sorani-speaking Kurd I know and he said Kurmanji-speaking Kurds might as well be speaking martian for all he could tell. However both groups claim a shared Kurdish heritage.

It always comes down to the politics of group identity. Ukrainians don't want to be considered Russian, so they aren't. Same with Serbs, Croats or Bosniaks who use religion as a tribal ID or the the people of Northern Ireland who do the same. Meanwhile there are Arabs in Afghanistan that claim Arab heritage based on legendary descent, but don't speak a lick of Arabic ( they speak the Dari dialect of Persian instead ). Language is a pretty decent gauge, but nothing is hard and fast when it comes to group identification.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 02-23-2014 at 09:42 PM.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:47 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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But my point was that, according to official population statistics, language doesn't seem to be the dividing line. In parts of Eastern Ukraine, "Russian speakers" outnumber "ethnic Russians," which implies that the the categories are not coextensive. I assume "Russian speaker" in this context means someone who speaks Russian as his/her native language, but I could be wrong.
You appear to have access to a very fine-grained ethno-linguistic map or table. Is it available online?

My guess is that "Russian speakers" refers to all citizens of Ukraine who speak Russian, and that that number is higher than the number of ethnic Russians because there are many non-Russians who are proficient in the language. Even if Russian is now deemphasized now there are millions of Ukrainians who grew up during the Soviet era when fluency in Russian was more important; it was probably even required in school.

This is really a subject where it would be nice to obtain comment from a real Ukrainian. I'm a bit surprised one hasn't shown up already.
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Old 02-23-2014, 09:58 PM
alphaboi867 alphaboi867 is offline
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Not entirely correct. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was a founding member of the U.N. while still governed by the U.S. And while they were granted independence a year later, there was no guarantee of that in June 1945.
India was also a founding member of the United Nations despite not yet being an independent country.
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Old 02-23-2014, 10:19 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
Then there are no Kurds, only Kurmanjis and Soranis . Those dialects/languages happen to be pretty much mutually unintelligible - I was talking to a multilingual Sorani-speaking Kurd I know and he said Kurmanji-speaking Kurds might as well be speaking martian for all he could tell. However both groups claim a shared Kurdish heritage.
Thanks for the information, I did not know that about the Kurds. By my definition there would be two ethnic groups who share Kurdish identity.

The same type of situation occurs in China, where, I have read, the numerous ethnic dialects (Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese are IIRC the three largest) are in their spoken form more different than English and French. However, the Chinese written language is I think identical for all dialects, and I assume all Kurds also have the same written language- a condition not prevailing between Ukrainians and Russians.


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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
It always comes down to the politics of group identity. Ukrainians don't want to be considered Russian, so they aren't. Same with Serbs, Croats or Bosniaks who use religion as a tribal ID or the the people of Northern Ireland who do the same. Meanwhile there are Arabs in Afghanistan that claim Arab heritage based on legendary descent, but don't speak a lick of Arabic ( they speak the Dari dialect of Persian instead ). Language is a pretty decent gauge, but nothing is hard and fast when it comes to group identification.
There ought to be some approach by which ethnic groups can be reasonably divided and categorized, and I would think differing languages, written or spoken, should be considered a dividing line.
  #40  
Old 02-23-2014, 11:36 PM
Vercingetorix Vercingetorix is offline
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Originally Posted by alphaboi867 View Post
India was also a founding member of the United Nations despite not yet being an independent country.
And they were represented at Versailles and in the League of Nations before that.
  #41  
Old 02-24-2014, 12:11 AM
AK84 AK84 is online now
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India was also a founding member of the United Nations despite not yet being an independent country.
Only due to the sufferance of the British.
  #42  
Old 02-24-2014, 01:45 AM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Originally Posted by WheatCat View Post
I assume all Kurds also have the same written language-
Nope . Kurmanji is written with a modified Latin alphabet, Sorani with a modified Persian alphabet. And people wonder why I remain skeptical about the long-term prospects for a unified independent Kurdish state .

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There ought to be some approach by which ethnic groups can be reasonably divided and categorized,
It would certainly make everything tidier. Sadly we're an inherently untidy folk. There are a lot of things in this world where we don't have a good, coherent, single definition ( species concepts for example - you might be amazed at how contentious arguments over systematics and taxonomy can get ) and I think ethnicity is a case in point. I'd be awful wary of telling some of my Serb relatives that they might as well be Croats because they speak essentially the same language ( and for that matter they were historically Croatian Serbs, living in the Croatia ) . Even if you throw in the use of different scripts you still have the problem of, say, standard Bosnian and Croatian, which both use Latin scripts.

I do sympathize, since I've had to argue on this board often enough that Arabs are best defined as those who speak Arabic as their first language. But there are always exceptions to everything, as with those Afghan Arabs cited above.

Last edited by Tamerlane; 02-24-2014 at 01:48 AM.
  #43  
Old 02-24-2014, 09:49 AM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
Nope . Kurmanji is written with a modified Latin alphabet, Sorani with a modified Persian alphabet. And people wonder why I remain skeptical about the long-term prospects for a unified independent Kurdish state .
All the more reason to subdivide those who identify themselves as Kurds. I do not see what would be wrong with the term "ethnic."

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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
It would certainly make everything tidier. Sadly we're an inherently untidy folk. There are a lot of things in this world where we don't have a good, coherent, single definition ( species concepts for example - you might be amazed at how contentious arguments over systematics and taxonomy can get )
A definition with a grey area or two wouldn't be so bad.

As for the species analogy I have never understood why they can't agree on the ability to produce fertile offspring as the defining condition, with the term "subspecies" used to apply to specimen groups such as wolves and domestic dogs which differ significantly in appearance and/or other characteristics.

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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
and I think ethnicity is a case in point. I'd be awful wary of telling some of my Serb relatives that they might as well be Croats because they speak essentially the same language ( and for that matter they were historically Croatian Serbs, living in the Croatia ) . Even if you throw in the use of different scripts you still have the problem of, say, standard Bosnian and Croatian, which both use Latin scripts.
The Serb-Croat dividing is pretty grey, depending as it does only on script and attitude. Ditto Croat-Bosnian, which are even closer, since they have the same script.

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Originally Posted by Tamerlane View Post
I do sympathize, since I've had to argue on this board often enough that Arabs are best defined as those who speak Arabic as their first language. But there are always exceptions to everything, as with those Afghan Arabs cited above.
Are the Afghan Arabs socially segregated? It occurs to me that a criterion for ethnicity might be some degree of self-imposed isolation from other groups.
  #44  
Old 02-24-2014, 10:17 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by WheatCat View Post
If you speak a different language then you belong to a different ethnic group.
What if you write a different language? Among Norwegian speakers, does usage of Nynorsk versus Bokmål mark a different ethnic group? Among Serbian (i.e., Serbo-Croatian) and Moldovan (i.e., Romanian) speakers, does usage of Latin versus Cyrillic orthographies mark a different ethnic group? Among Mandarin Chinese speakers, does use of the traditional versus simplified orthographies mark a different ethnic group? What about if you don't speak at all? Does the Deaf community in a given nation constitute a distinct ethnic group?

Last edited by psychonaut; 02-24-2014 at 10:19 AM.
  #45  
Old 02-24-2014, 10:35 AM
Leo Bloom Leo Bloom is offline
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Originally Posted by Omar Little View Post
I don't think they are racially or really that ethnically different. More a national pride different.

Think Texas vs. Oklahoma.
If Oklahomans remembered when Texas killed five million or so of their relatives by starving them to death.

Aside from that, yeah.
  #46  
Old 02-24-2014, 10:57 AM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
What if you write a different language? Among Norwegian speakers, does usage of Nynorsk versus Bokmål mark a different ethnic group? Among Serbian (i.e., Serbo-Croatian) and Moldovan (i.e., Romanian) speakers, does usage of Latin versus Cyrillic orthographies mark a different ethnic group? Among Mandarin Chinese speakers, does use of the traditional versus simplified orthographies mark a different ethnic group? What about if you don't speak at all? Does the Deaf community in a given nation constitute a distinct ethnic group?
Difference in script is one thing to consider, but surely Norway has a national written standard? And even if there is not are the two you mention completely mutually unintelligible? I would think the simplified Mandarin would be intelligible to all educated Mandarin speakers and would therefore not constitute an ethnic division. A deaf person would be categorized according to the ethnicity of his parents.

It seems to me at least these three variables are in play in the definition of ethnicity:

spoken language
written language
personal attitude/self-identification/self-segregation

And there might be other variables. The problem is deciding how much relative importance to assign to each variable. I think the most weight should be placed on the language spoken at home, but I agree that is debatable. I cannot be comfortable with dismissing language altogether, though.
  #47  
Old 02-24-2014, 11:09 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by WheatCat View Post
Difference in script is one thing to consider, but surely Norway has a national written standard? And even if there is not are the two you mention completely mutually unintelligible? I would think the simplified Mandarin would be intelligible to all educated Mandarin speakers and would therefore not constitute an ethnic division. A deaf person would be categorized according to the ethnicity of his parents.
I'm sure there's some mutual intelligibility between the two official Norwegian writing systems, and also between simplified and traditional Chinese, but certainly not much between Cyrillic and Latin. And my last question wasn't really about deaf people so much as Deaf people. Those who self-identify as Deaf (which I understand to be a majority of those who were deaf at birth or from childhood) usually have a very strong sense of belonging to a culture which is distinct from the larger hearing community, including that of any hearing parents.
Quote:
And there might be other variables. The problem is deciding how much relative importance to assign to each variable. I think the most weight should be placed on the language spoken at home, but I agree that is debatable. I cannot be comfortable with dismissing language altogether, though.
Just as a matter of curiosity, is what you're writing just ad-hoc musing on your part, or are you summarizing previously published classification criteria which have achieved widespread acceptance by those with an interest or expertise in ethnicity and cultural studies?
  #48  
Old 02-24-2014, 11:35 AM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Does the relationship between Germany and Austria have any comparable features to the relationship between Russian and the Ukraine?
  #49  
Old 02-24-2014, 11:56 AM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
I'm sure there's some mutual intelligibility between the two official Norwegian writing systems, and also between simplified and traditional Chinese, but certainly not much between Cyrillic and Latin.
I am missing the point here. The Cyrillic-Latin divide must refer to the Serb-Croat divide. Earlier I referred to that as a grey area case, although besides script the two emphatically self-identify as separate ethnic groups, so maybe it is really not all that grey.

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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
And my last question wasn't really about deaf people so much as Deaf people. Those who self-identify as Deaf (which I understand to be a majority of those who were deaf at birth or from childhood) usually have a very strong sense of belonging to a culture which is distinct from the larger hearing community, including that of any hearing parents.
I think it is going too far to define disability as an ethnic category. If they learn to read, write and speak in a language then they should probably be assigned ethnically according to that language.

The problem with accepting self-definition as the sole, exclusive criterion is that it opens the door to absurd necessities such as allowing someone who eats a Big Mac every day to call himself a vegetarian, or allowing someone who denies the sanctity of the New Testament to call himself a Christian. I do not think that is reasonable, and that consequently other criteria must be considered.

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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Just as a matter of curiosity, is what you're writing just ad-hoc musing on your part, or are you summarizing previously published classification criteria which have achieved widespread acceptance by those with an interest or expertise in ethnicity and cultural studies?
Ad hoc musing on my part, although the social sciences are so soft and mushy that I would not feel as obligated to defer to authority as I might to a chemist or a physicist.
  #50  
Old 02-24-2014, 12:06 PM
WheatCat WheatCat is offline
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Originally Posted by psychonaut View Post
Just as a matter of curiosity, is what you're writing just ad-hoc musing on your part, or are you summarizing previously published classification criteria which have achieved widespread acceptance by those with an interest or expertise in ethnicity and cultural studies?
And you?
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