Globalization inspires European ethnologists

It used to be thought that the era of globalization leads to the unification of cultures. However, in practice, it has produced a polyphony of cultural values. Ethnologists from several European countries decided to meet at a scientific conference to discuss how and why this has happened, as well as to develop tools for a joint theoretical discussion of polyphony and the cultural diversity of European regions. Representatives from the Czech Republic, Belarus, and Ukraine gathered at the West Bohemian University in Pilsen to discuss these issues.

In their opinion, science should not only describe phenomena, but also suggest ways to improve the world. Therefore, a practical advice on improving cultural development in the context of globalization is proposed as the most important task of the network they are creating. Such tasks cannot be solved without an analysis of European cultures and experience of multicultural interaction; therefore, the conference program includes the presentation of the book Ethnology of Odessa in Historical and Modern Perspectives. Odessa is a city on the Black Sea where active interaction and mixing of various ethnic cultures took place in the XIX century. As a result, they formed a kind of regional fusion, but the ethnic communities of Odessa, rather than dissolving in this fusion, have retained their own specificities. The presentation of the book on the ethnology of Odessa was one of the important events of this scientific forum.

The result of the conference was the creation of the Central-European ethnological network whose aim is to further develop the cultural issues that confront science in the globalization era.

The conference organizer, Professor Petr Lozovyuk, spoke about the creation of the Center for Central-European and Eurasian Studies at the Department of Anthropology of West Bohemian University which was officially established at the Department of Anthropology of Faculty of Philosophy at the West Bohemian University. The reason for its emergence was the need to institutionalize more than five years of cooperation between the Department of Anthropology and a number of Eastern European universities. In our previous work, we came to the conclusion that Central Europe and the newly emerging Eurasian space are not only two interesting culturally diverse areas that in many respects complement each other, but they also have been in creative intellectual contact for a long time. Studying, developing and deepening these contacts in the academic field will play a central role in our further work.

The special role of our activity will be to motivate our students to learn the cultural realities of Eurasian countries and regions, to stimulate their interest in learning local languages, and then to stimulate interest in exploring studied regions and their populations. The result of such interest would ideally be the development of final works, which would be thematically focused on Eurasian (or Central European) topics.

The purpose of this and similar pedagogical research activities is to educate a new generation of experts, culturally and politically, of the unencumbered elite of these peoples. Therefore, I am glad that at our first Central European-Eurasian Colloquium, I can welcome, among other participants, our Eastern European and Central Asian scholars.

We intend to continue holding such meetings in Pilsen, and I hope that today we will also have time to discuss their possible formats and thematic foci.

The goal of this Center would be coordination and cooperation of academic efforts by scientists in a number of countries studying modern multiculturalism in historical retrospective. At present, ethnological methods of understanding “a person in cultures and cultures in a person” are relevant more than ever. Lozovyuk described the potential and prospects of ethnography in contemporary realities.

Elena Knyazeva, Candidate of Sciences in Sociology and head of the sociological center «Pulse», made a presentation titled «Inter-ethnic Relations and the Cultural Situation in Odessa during the Years of Independence of Ukraine», in which she presented an overview of the results of a large-scale public opinion research on the current issues of inter-ethnic relations and the cultural situation in the period of 1991-2017.

Materials of these studies are published in the collection «Ethnologies of Odessa». The author emphasized that Odessa sociologists have always sought to convey to Odessan consciousness all the information that would give an opportunity to understand what is happening, to understand the complexities of social relations in one of the most multi-ethnic cities of Ukraine.

Particular attention was paid to the analysis of the dynamics of the national and language situation. The speaker noted a very significant increase in the proportion of Ukrainians (by almost 30%), on the one hand, and a decrease by more than 20% in the share of Russians in Odessa over the past 25 years. However, she stressed that the Ukrainian language is not becoming preferred for communicating and consuming information, despite all the ongoing efforts to make it the language of preference. The number of Odessans, who communicate only in Ukrainian, is about 5%, and this figure has remained almost unchanged for 25 years.

Alexander Prigarin, Professor of the Department of Archeology and Ethnology of Ukraine at I.Mechnikov Odessa National University, spoke about the results of twenty years of research on the Old Believers in the global and regional context. He revealed, through specific examples, the factors of the formation and development of the Old Believers as an ethnic and religious community, widely spread throughout the world. Attention was drawn to the fact that this “Russian world” arose long before this metaphor became relevant for the agenda of Russia itself. Successfully fitting into the permanent resettlement and development of the spaces of the Russian people (V.O. Klyuchevsky), the Old Believers acted as pioneers of these processes. Their groups are the first mass and structured Russian diasporas in many countries, including in Europe. They desired to go to or across the boundaries of the empire for the sake of preserving their faith, or, in another way, to “hide” inside the maternal territory itself. This can be considered as two models of the preservation and reproduction of their religious otherness, which are based on the transition in the world outlook from global to local / minor eschatology: the Antichrist dominates the world, but rather than fighting him, we need to save our souls.

The same transition determined the stability of communities to various manifestations of modernization and globalization. Being absolutely conservative and traditional in matters of religion, the Old Believers turned out to be quite innovative in relation to the external manifestations of life. These properties allowed them not so much to fight globalization as to act as its actors and often — its guides.

These stories were shown on the example of one of the most remarkable groups, Lipovans. Even in such an ethnographically saturated region as Budjak with its multiculturalism, local Old Believers are not deprived of attention. Being one of the first who mastered these territories, part of the «Wild Field» or the project «Novorossiya», the Old Believers developed a distinctive version of their traditions.

The scale of such a phenomenon as the Old Believers is evidenced by the simple fact that there has been hardly an audience with no listeners who had their own personal experience of interacting with the group and / or their personal Old Believers roots. After numerous questions, students admitted that their interest was not so much academic as due to their family stories.

Galina Stoyanova, Associate Professor of the Department of Archeology and Ethnology of Ukraine at I. Mechnikov Odessa National University, presented in her report the results of a research devoted to a special social group — female sailors. This subject was published within the framework of the project «Ethnology of Odessa in Historical and Modern Perspectives». Stoyanova chose the most salient aspects of this topic to present to the Czech and expert audience of the conference. In particular, she drew attention to the fact that it is these socio-corporate communities that define the original image of Odessa. In a debate with other participants, who proposed to compare the sailors with the “workers in the barracks”, the author noted that such analogies are not relevant: it is clear that the structures and strategies of these groups differ fundamentally.

In addition, it was noted that the specifics of this group are emphasized not only by the peculiarities of its formation, but also the cyclical life-time of female sailors, built on the alternation of expectations and meetings. The emotional and psychological nuances of the “behavior” of the female sailors, namely the ability to overcome a long separation, were met with enthusiasm. In this case, special corporate solidarity can be traced in thematic communities created in popular social networks. For the first time in historiography, a community is analyzed, which is formed on the basis of the similarity of the professional activities of both spouses. It could be seen just an external formal factor, but it acts as structure-forming for a number of different individuals. This experience is reproduced in many generations of Odessa women.

An interesting presentation was made by Kirill Shevchenko, Doctor of Historical Sciences and Professor at the Branch of the Russian State Social University in Minsk. He made a presentation “The Russian World as an Object of Ethnocultural Engineering: Western Belorussian Lands as Part of Poland in 1919-1939.”

In the interwar period of 1919-1939, the Belarusian minority of interwar Poland became the object of a policy of ethnocultural engineering by official Warsaw. The main goal of the authorities of interwar Poland was to polonize the Belarusian population. Their main blow was directed against the shared Russian identity of the Belarusians. Shevchenko stressed in his report that the main obstacle to the Polonization of the Belarusians was their all-Russian identity.

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