Language, Ethnicity and Separatism: Survey Results from Two Post-Soviet Regions

58 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2018

See all articles by Kyle L. Marquardt

Kyle L. Marquardt

V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg

Date Written: October 16, 2018


Scholars often use language to proxy ethnic identity in studies of conflict and separatism. This conflation of language and ethnicity can be misleading: language can cut across ethnic divides, and has a strong link to identity and social mobility. Center-periphery linguistic dynamics—contexts in which residents of a peripheral region speak a language distinct from that of the metropole—can thus influence individual preferences over separatist outcomes independently of ethnic identity. Results from a survey of two post-Soviet regions support this claim. Analyses demonstrate that individuals fluent in a peripheral lingua franca are more likely to support separatism than those who are not, while individuals fluent in the metropolitan language are less likely to support separatist outcomes. Moreover, an individual's linguistic abilities show a stronger relationship with support for separatism than her ethnic identification.

Keywords: separatism, identity politics, ethnic politics, language politics, post-Soviet politics, survey experiments, Bayesian methods

Suggested Citation

Marquardt, Kyle L., Language, Ethnicity and Separatism: Survey Results from Two Post-Soviet Regions (October 16, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

Kyle L. Marquardt (Contact Author)

V-Dem Institute, University of Gothenburg ( email )

Department of Political Science
Sprängkullsgatan 19, PO 711
Gothenburg, SE 40530


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