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Title: From Soviet intelligentsia to emerging Russian middle class? : social mobility trajectories and transformations in self-identifications of young Russians who have lived in Britain in the 2000s
Author: Savikovskaia, Iuliia
ISNI:       0000 0004 7430 5309
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2017
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The focus of interest in this thesis is the social and personal trajectories of men and women who were born in the Soviet Union in the 1970-1980s and then, after growing up in post-Soviet Russia in the 1990s in an atmosphere of change and uncertainty, decided to exploit the opportunities to go abroad to study and work that started opening up in the early and mid-1990s. The thesis analyses these moves as the individual strategies of either escaping or waiting on the career insecurities in Russia, or consciously enhancing one's social standing and professional and educational capital. It traces their social and professional trajectories, showing that, apart from developing the desired expertise and gaining experience, these Russians went through intensive changes in their self-identifications and senses of belonging, including the acquisition of new habits of mobility, international social networks and cosmopolitan dispositions. This thesis argues that, while their Soviet-Russian cultural past and their belonging to a particular social group of 'Soviet intelligentsia' was still important to them, they continuously acquired new social, cultural and cosmopolitan forms of capital that influenced their coming back to Russia as different persons from their contemporaries who had stayed in the country. They brought with them new dispositions and new social practices resulting from their active comparisons of their lives in Russia and Britain, and in many respects they actively maintained their differences in creating clubs for returnees. While able to integrate successfully into the emerging Russian middle classes, they still expressed the cultural and intellectual heritage of the past Soviet intelligentsia, now reborn in the guise of Westernizing attitudes and practices, different degrees of cosmopolitan patriotism, intellectual pursuits, a quest for education and self-development, interest in world travel, an ethical concern for sustainability, opposition to excessive consumerism in Russia and conspicuous practices of status performance. The materials for this research were mainly gathered through the use of semi-structured in-depth interviews, one third of them longitudinal, with informants talking to the researcher several times during the course of fieldwork between 2007 and 2012. Some additional participant observation has been conducted in informal Russian circles in the UK and among returnees from Britain in Russia. This research consists of an ethnography with elements of a biographical approach. This has made the researcher attentive to the inclusion of a certain event within a person's whole biography, aimed at putting the period researched within the context of the past and future lives of the informant. The participants of this research were aged between 22 and 40 and belonged to a transition cohort generation (Miller 2000), as they had all passed their childhoods in the Soviet Union, their adolescence and teenage years coinciding with the period of dissolution of the USSR, with the transitional break up of one system and the formation of another, while their young adulthood developed in post-Soviet Russia. They were mainly single when they initiated their move to Britain, and had various professional profiles within the broadly defined groups of 'highly skilled' and 'highly educated', the latter term being preferred in this research. The dissertation includes an introduction, four ethnographic chapters, a conclusion and one appendix. The introduction presents the historical and research context, the methodology and the design of the study. The first chapter traces the professional and educational trajectories of participants, while the second chapter focuses on informants' spatial mobility and habits of extensive travel acquired during the move to Britain. The third chapter deals with the negotiation of informants' belonging to a particular cultural and social past, which is associated both with Russian-Soviet culture and with their social status as the children of Soviet-era intelligentsia. The fourth chapter argues that, while belonging to Soviet intelligentsia families was still important for informants' self-identifications in Britain, new social, cultural and cosmopolitan forms of capital were acquired during this period, resulting in new cosmopolitan dispositions, ethics and moral values, and new practices socially remitted (Levitt 2001) from Britain. The conclusion places this ethnography within the state-of-the-art research on the mobilities of Russians to the UK.
Supervisor: Parkin, Robert ; Spencer, Dimitrina Sponsor: Hill Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Russians--Foreign countries ; Russians in United Kingdom ; Highly skilled migration ; Russian intelligentsia ; Last Soviet generation ; Eastern European migration