Russian Greeks / Greek Russians: Parameters of Identity
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This thesis investigates how the ex-Soviet Greek populations used the reforms in Russia and the re-patriation policy of Greece emerging in the 1990s in order to form a new discourse on Greek identity. This new understanding of the Greek identity was marked by the term “Pontians.” The populations (in a Foucauldian sense) known in Russia and the Soviet Union as Greki, “the Greeks”, were never presented as a unified group nor even as a conglomerate of interacting groups. The new identity discourse that emerged, the discourse on Pontianness, was formed after the Gorbachev perestroika and directed not only towards the Russian Government and the general public in Russia, but also to Greece where many ex-Soviet Greeks found a new “homeland” from the end of the 1980s. In this new, post-Soviet situation, people who in the Soviet Union would be identified as Greeks would now be identified as Russians or Russian Pontians in Greece. People holding this identity gained access to different social (and national) fields in Greece, and were allowed the possibility to cross borders as Schengen/EU citizens who could thus choose their places of work and residence in Europe. Thus, the main argument of my thesis is that the identities of various ex-Soviet Greek populations changed and were homogenized after the perestroika. The new Greek identity “Pontians” changed the status of Greek populations in Russia and was simultaneously accepted in Greece as an identity expressing Greek descent. Geographically, the thesis focuses on the southern territories of the Russian Empire (from southeast Ukraine, Crimea and North Caucasus to Abkhazia, Georgia and the Kars region of contemporary Turkey) and is based on fieldwork undertaken between 2006 and 2011 in Russia and Greece.