Decolonizing Siberian Minds

in Sibirica

Russian imperialism continues to leave a strong imprint on indigenous cultures across Siberia, and throughout the Russian Federation and the post-Soviet republics. Imperialism is invasive and persistent, and it might be impossible to escape its consequences. In 1986, African novelist and postcolonial theorist Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o published his influential essay collection, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. One of his arguments is that no postcolonial subject could be free from the constraints of imperialism until she or he succeeded in freeing the mind from the trap of an imposed (and foreign) language. Ngũgĩ’s experience was based on his own life growing up in Kenya, but his lesson is as applicable to Siberia as it is for East Africa. For indigenous Siberians, language and education are at the forefront of the ongoing postcolonial struggle to maintain their cultural identities in modern Russia.

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