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After Newspeak: Language Culture and Politics in Russia from Gorbachev to Putin

by Michael Gorham Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 256 pages
AU$59.99 NZ$63.47
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In After Newspeak, Michael S. Gorham presents a cultural history of the politics of Russian language from Gorbachev and glasnost to Putin and the emergence of new generations of Web technologies. Gorham begins from the premise that periods of rapid and radical change both shape and are shaped by language. He documents the role and fate of the Russian language in the collapse of the USSR and the decades of reform and national reconstruction that have followed. Gorham demonstrates the inextricable linkage of language and politics in everything from dictionaries of profanity to the flood of publications on linguistic self-help, the speech patterns of the country’s leaders, the blogs of its bureaucrats, and the official programs promoting the use of Russian in the so-called ''near abroad."

Gorham explains why glasnost figured as such a critical rhetorical battleground in the political strife that led to the Soviet Union’s collapse and shows why Russians came to deride the newfound freedom of speech of the 1990s as little more than the right to swear in public. He assesses the impact of Medvedev’s role as Blogger-in-Chief and the role Putin’s vulgar speech practices played in the restoration of national pride. And he investigates whether Internet communication and new media technologies have helped to consolidate a more vibrant democracy and civil society or if they serve as an additional resource for the political technologies manipulated by the Kremlin.

PrefaceAcknowledgmentsNote on Transliteration and TranslationsIntroduction: Ideologies, Economies, and Technologies of Language1. The Soviet Legacy: From Political to Cultural Correctness2. Glasnost Unleashed: Language Ideologies in the Gorbachev Revolution3. Economies of Profanity: Free Speech and Varieties of Language Degradation4. In Defense of the National Tongue: Guardians, Legislators, and Monitors of the Norm5. Taking the Offensive: Language Culture and Policy under Putin6. "Cyber Curtain" or Glasnost 2.0? Strategies for Web-based Communication in the New Media AgeConclusionAppendix: Sayings and Proverbs about Language

''After Newspeak productively combines language theory and a wealth of sources - from TV to paper journalism, political speeches to blogs - to advance an original argument that covers more than three decades of Russian culture. Michael S. Gorham's impressively meticulous and wide-ranging scholarship and consistently analytical treatment of the material persuasively demonstrates the interplay among language, identity, and politics. Rich in content and sophisticated in its conceptualization, this book should engage not only Slavists, but also anyone invested in understanding the power of language.'' - Helena Goscilo, The Ohio State University, author of Dehexing Sex: Russian Womanhood During and After Glasnost

''After Newspeak is a great book that gives tremendous insight into Russia's political culture, and it is a sheer delight to read.'' - Eliot Borenstein, New York University, author of Overkill: Sex and Violence in Contemporary Russian Popular Culture
Michael S. Gorham is Associate Professor of Russian in the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Florida. He is the author of Speaking in Soviet Tongues: Language Culture and the Politics of Voice in Revolutionary Russia and coeditor of Digital Russia: The Language, Culture, and Politics of New Media Communication.