What is it about?

Mat is a specific domain of Russian obscene vocabulary including words related to sexuality. The first sociolinguistic studies on mat emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union, concomitantly with the formation of Russian gender studies in the early 1990s (Tëmkina & Zdravomyslova 2003: 51). Until today, research on gender and taboo in Russian has been exiguous. Many scholars claim that the use of mat is a male prerogative (Uspenskiĭ 1994: 56, Doleschal & Schmid 2001: 274), whereas women’s use of mat is heavily sanctioned in society. Through data from a survey I carried out with 772 participants, I illustrate that mat is strongly present in women’s language use and that stereotypical gender conceptualizations are undergoing change. From the participants’ answers it emerges that discussions about the use of obscene language play a critical role in the multifaceted process of renegotiation of gender roles in post-Soviet contexts.

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Why is it important?

With this article, I shed light on how gender dynamics in the post-Soviet context evolve hand in hand with more general political and societal developments and how these changes are expressed in the usage of swear words.


Dynamics of censorship and taboo breach in the post-Soviet context can be regarded as a lens through groundbreaking societal changes can be observed and hopefully understood. Especially in this epoch, I find it all the more essential to keep discussing with each other and engaging with all that which happens in the countries of the former Soviet Union, so as to prevent another iron curtain from dropping. Therefore, I hope this article raises your interest in the role of taboo in societies and how its linguistic expression reflects complex societal dynamics.

Cristiana Lucchetti
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Obscene language and the renegotiation of gender roles in post-Soviet contexts, Pragmatics & Cognition, December 2021, John Benjamins,
DOI: 10.1075/pc.00021.luc.
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