Socio-cultural and Language Changes in a "Cultural Island": Vershina – A Polish Village in Siberia
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The present article is an attempt to describe the social evolution of the community of Vershina, a village founded in the beginning of the 20th century by voluntary settlers from Little Poland – from a cultural island to the stage of assimilation. The social, economic, cultural, political and language situation of the community changed several times. The most significant historical moments of Russia and Soviet Union set the borders of three main periods in Verhina’s history. During its first two-three decades Vershina consisted a homogenous Polish cultural and language island. The migrants preserved the Roman Catholic religion, Polish language, traditions, as well as farming methods and machines. Collectivization and the communist system with its repressions made the Polish village assimilate to its surroundings. With the flow of time, the generation of first settlers died and some of the traditions of Little Poland vanished or got modified with elements of the Soviet, Russian or Buryat culture. After Perestroika the minorities gained some rights, which strengthened in the 1990s. Thanks to the political changes and the collapse of the SU the inhabitants of Vershina can found cultural organisations, cultivate their religion and learn Polish in the local schools. However, in spite of the regained rights, over the decades of mass sovietization and ateization, the culture and customs of the Polish community became similar to other Siberian villages. Young people from the group of our interest abandon their mother language, are not eager to leave Russia and move to Poland. The process of assimilation is intensifying while there are practically no factors protecting the local culture and language.
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