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Buryat Urbanisation and Modernisation: A Theoretical Model Based on the Example of Ulan-Ude

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image of Inner Asia

This paper provides a model for understanding the modernisation process undergone by ethnic minorities in Russia during the twentieth century. Modernisation is often seen as a negative process implying cultural loss, but focus on this theme has distracted attention from the more humane and positive aspects of the process. Using the example of the Buryats, the article makes a strong argument for the inevitability of socio-economic change, as people gradually adapt to, and then grasp, the opportunities offered by urbanisation. It is true that the cost has been a relative loss of cultural autonomy and the decline of the Buryat language as a multi-functional means of communication. This happens because allencompassing institutional unification is an inescapable effect of modernisation, and linguistic unity follows the cultural dominance of the majority ethnic group. For minorities cultural autonomy is a transient form and is conditional on even more urgent problems of socio-economic vitality and viability. Thus, culturallinguistic autonomy is inversely proportional to the degree of access to selfrealisation and mobility within industrial societies.


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