Lehrveranstaltungen von Urmila Goel an der Europa-Universität Viadrina in Frankfurt/Oder
Wintersemester 2004/05: Virtual Ethnicity - Ethnic Identity Construction in the Internet
reports by Darja Bozhko
I find more and more useful things on my site. Usually, when I observe my site annd the changes for the last week, I do not pay some kind of personal attantion. I mean, I can be interested in finding some information at the moment, but I had never had an idea that the site i am observing can help me. Today, while looking at the forum list and trying to count, how many new topics appeared , I saw that one of them was about finding a partner to go somewhere by car. The case is that I am tryaing to plan my holidays at the moment - I want to visit some friends of mine, living in the different parts of Germany. And I have been trying to find some variants, that can be cheaper,than paying for wochenende tickets every two weeks. I lost a lot of time searching the sites like www.mitfahrzentrale.de. And today I discovered that on one of the forums of my site there are numeral topics, where people not only give a huge list of the sites like this, but they also have many offers and give a lot of useful advices. This surprised and helped me a lot .
As I said before, I don´t really see a lot of life on my site – they always change the news, you can always find a Tv programms for the next week, but all these things are done really quickly and I can never see that something had been changed, unless I pay some extra attention. Maybe, the reason is that the users never discuss the organisation of the site ( how has it been working), they never complain about anything. The reason is, I think, that one can never find the moderators or the administrators. I tried several times, I asked people on the forums and in chatrooms, but they only make jokes about an envisible hands of those guys and so on.
In my last report I mentioned that one can even find the russian wife on my site, but I did not explain how does it work. Of coarse, the site has the dating-servise, which is claimed to be one of the best ones in Germany. It has two parts – one is only on-line and it is free, the other one gives the phonenumbers of offices, the adresse and so on – a lot of official information. In oder to find someone, you have to register and to pay a registration fee, and then, as far as I was able to learn, one has to pay each month and for every partner offered to him(her). One can find many forums, where the service is discussed. I should say, that the most of the words are quite positive, that gives an impression, that this dating service is organised rather good.
So, it seems to be obvious, that the administrators do a great job, but why they are so unseen and hidden then?
Today i will try to describe my site Germany.ru as detailed and vivid as possible, to give a good impression on what is going on there and how does it look and function .
The first things you notice when opening the site are the main colours, if they are the colours of the flag, or if the design of the site somehow reflects the culture of the country this site is about. When I open my site, the first thing I notice is that there are no specific signs at all – no colours, no pictures, no flags. Not of Russia, nor Germany.
But the first line you see says something like “russian Germany”, what is pretty strange. The colours are absolutely neutral, the main is something like plain orange. The site is availible in two languages - russian and german, and, what was pretty surprising for me, german version is not a short one of russian, but perfectly equal to russian and has all the same parts, pages and links.
On the first page the site has all the links to the things it offers and it also includes a lot of all sorts of information. You can see that this site can be useful for different people and different options – for russian people, living in Germany, who wants to know more about the way life goes here, abot the things one should know to live here, such as first steps in having a bank account or a KrankenVersicherung kard and the comparison of different sorts of them, advices on how one can reach any town or city and which way is more comfortable or the cheapest one; for anyone, who wants to visit Germany like a tourist, because the site has all the neccesary links to maps, to the German embassies in different countries of post Soviet Union and so on. It also offers help in finding people, somehow lost in Russia or in Germany. This site can be also useful for german people interested in Russia or anything connected with it . You can even get some help in finding a russian wife : ))
It is worth mentioning that you can also easily find such useful things, as statistics and advices on what is the cheapest way to call home from Germany, train and buses timetabeles including prices, on-line translators, links to numerous online and not on-line libraries in different towns in Germany, where one can find books in russian or books for studying German language. The structure of the site is very thoughtful and comfotable – for example, when you follow the link about the books to study german, what you immediately get is hundreds of links to language schools and to the forums, where peple discuss the schools, compare the books and even leave their telefone numbers for those, who need any sort of help. You can also use the online shop to oder some of them or book the language course, no matter in which part of germany or Russia you are in.
On the very first page of the site you can also see the list of all the groups and forums the site provides and the advertisement about different cultural events – german in Germany, but also the timetables of the tours of very famous russian pop-singers and ballet troups, as well as of the famous artists. You can also book the tickets directly on-line.
On the right side of the first page one can find the weather broadcast for all parts of Germany and Russia and an on-line shop.
As far as I know, being a registered user offers more possibilities to use the site (as a registered user you can have a free email account and participate in forums), but it is not like you have to be one in oder to use it at all. Moreover, the process of the registration is very simple and takes not more than ten minutes.
I find it very nice that you also have the links to more than a hundred of radiostations, again russian as well as german.
The site Germany.ru also offers the match-servise, as usually sites like this do. But it can be used not only for those, who dreams about finding tjeir perfect match, bt also for those, who feels lonely in Germany anfd wants to have a simple chat with someone, who is able to understandm what is it like to live in the other country, to miss home, or for those, who needs any sort of help.
The statistics is always avaliable and it has the number of users( which is 243181 at the moment), the number of online users(1081, 908 of them are registered ones), the number of the ones using the chat and games at the moment, and also the statistics about how many of them are men and how many of them are women.
I almost forgot to admit the helpfulness of the ICQ and Messanger links on the site for those, who are just looking for any comfortable way to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Fot example, it is rather hard for my mom to use chats and massengers, especially when the directions are in english ( like in the most cases), or in German. But I was very surprised to know, that she followed my advice and downloaded the MSNmessanger on our home computer. Moreover, later she told me that it was very interesting for her to go to Germany.ru, because there she can find so many things that make her feel closer to me(in the meaning of distance, of coarse). Now she often writes me about the pictures of Berlin or Frankfurt(Odrer) she had found and how nice it is ti at least see with her own eyes the things I am looking at every day.
On my site everything goes the way it should – some new announcements about tours of Russian pop stars, about trying to sell a car and to find a husband : ) It seems like the life of the site is rather intensive.
This week i have found a subject in the forums, that made me laugh a lot and, at the same time, to think about some aspects of communicating of the Russian people living in Germany.
It was a forum about hoe were to find good lingerie in Germany. There were different women participating : Russian women, married to German men, women, who came to Germany with their families and women, who married Russian men they had met in Germany. The last ones said that their husbands help them to find beautiful and sexy underwear and often give it as presents, because they really believe that Russian women are more sexy than German ones and they are so happy they found them in Germany and they want their wives to be as “Russian”, as possible. Does it mean that Russian men, who live or came to live in Germany, although they really enjoy living here( I made that conclusion, as I had seen the links to the sites from witch one woman’s husband, as she said, is always buying her presents – from my point of view, they cost a fortune), are still thinking about returning home(because it is more convenient to come back to Russia with a Russian wife, who knows what it is like and fully prepared :)? Or they just want to have as much Russian, as they can, at least when they are at home?
One woman, married to German man and having children with him, claims that they are wrong, that they should think about brining up children and paying the credits and Krankenversicherung , not spending money on such a stupid things as beautiful underwear. Does that means that she is trying to live the life of a German housewife, getting used to German way of life?
And the most important question i asked myself is can we at all judge about these things from people talking about lingerie on the forums? From the other point of view, we shouldn’t judge about anything like ethnicities at all from the sites than, because all the things people discuss on the sites are not so serious and we never can be sure if they are truth and if this woman, talking about the underwear, is a woman at all?
I just found the statistics on ma site (it was rather difficult, considering the fact, that I am still not successful with finding administrators of the site).The number of people being on line at the moment is 241471 and, as far as I understand, that is rather impressive. But people don’t look like very nice – I had been trying to participate in chat for half of an hour , but I’ve got just a few answers. Anyway, i am trying, because i am one of them at the moment – Russian person living in Germany and trying to find some nice Russian people to chat about this.
First of all i would like to say that i mentioned a very interesting thing: during the hollidays, Christmas(even two of them : )) and New Year some life appeared on the site i have been observing. That happened because everyone congratulated each other! I was surprised to get an email with „best wishes“, but i was surprised even more to find some congratulations for me on forums, although i am not the most active participant, i should say. That was very nice and i had even changed my point of view about online communication and forums a little bit.
There is one important issue I want to write this time time about. I had already mentioned it before, it has to do with the fact, that although the site I am trying to observe is considered to be the one for russians, living ig germany, i found many users and participants from the other post Soviet Union countries, for example Belarus, Ukrain, Moldavia and some of the Baltic Republiks.
Some time ago i found a forum about Belarus. I learned that many people I had a chat before twhach i was sure were russians, turned out to be from Belarus. I was really surprised and when i looked for some other of their lines on old forums, i learned that i was sure – one would certainly have the impression they are russians. And here I go again about the problem i discussed before. It seems to me, that maybe it can be said that online communication of people from post Soviet Union countries is somehow specific. When I had a trip to Russia some years ago, people always asked me if I am from Belarus, because, they said, I had an accent. Moreover, the remarks like “Oh, we like people fron Belarus to rent our house, because they are much more reliable than Ukranians“, or „you, belarussian people, are much more optimistik, than russians“ What i want to show here , is that the differantiation between russians, belorussians, ukranians and so on always took place.
But now, when i am talking to someone, who is originally from Russia, but is living in Germany for a rather long period of time, they are talking to me like we are the closest neighbours, like we are from one country. And that is obvious, that it happens for two reasons:
- first, is that we are living in Germany now, that menas something like that we have changed our nationality a bit
- second, is that we communicate not in our everyday life , but online.
What is very interesting, is the question, is it possible, that someday there going to be no distingshion between those nationalities i am talking about online? And why is it like this, are people more tolerant when they live abroad, or when they visit the sites for people, living not in their homecountries, or both of these reasons?
Does diaspora play a role on the website and can hybridity can be seen on it ?
It has been two weeks since i have started observing the site about russians living in Germany. I must say that i was rather surprised to find out that this site is rather lively and friendly. I am trying to participate in forums and chats, but i did not place anything about the reasons, why i am there, since i remember the conversation on our last semniar about not so friendlly responses some of my friends got after saying that they are doing some kind of research and so on. But, from the other hand, i feel very interested in going to this site and talking to people just to get some news and have a chat with someone, experiencing the same thing as i do – living in Germany as a russian.
Right now it is not so easy to say, wether one can find the features of diaspora and hybridity by observing this site. I will try to explain why.
There are a lot of various parts and links at this site, which show that people are interested in communicating and that this communication is rather helpful. There are many forums that discuss the problems of integrating into German society, for example. There are some participants who are very nice to newcomers, explaining how , for instance, „Krankenversicherung“ works and what one should do to make friends wwith their new German neighbours. As far as this site is considered to be the one for russianns, living in Germany, the participants claim that ones come from Russia, others from Ukrain and Baltik republiks, from Mongolia and Kazachstan even! I believe that thais has it´s roots in the history of thse countries, of the history of the USSR. But that is another problem, the one i tryed to describe in my first observation. What was my point, is that on this site i found forums, dedicated to the elections that recently took place in Ukrain and about the political situation around the government of Belarus. And, what is very interesting, the participants on these forums are often the same, and that they sound very concerned about , for ex., both of these issues. For me, it sounds, like they really form some kind of community, and the question is, wether we can name it `diaspora` ? Because one can easily find some traits of it, as deep concern with everything, going on in places they lived before, some kind of hope for return, but, at the same time, they are discussing all the possible ways of stayng in Germany, even the marriages for money! ( (i am really sorry for not knowing the specific word for this). From my conversations with some visitors of the site i learned, that even they cant say, what are they waiting for from this country, wether they know if they are going to stay here at all, but they are working in Germany and their children attend German schools, what means that theaý are really can use german language in thir everyday life. So, are they butterflies or bees? Maybe the main thing about the definition of diaspora is the tendency of ethnic community to identify itself as a diaspora, not the other way around. From this point of view, the people on the site cannot be called a diaspora, only because they never think about themselves in these terms. When I asked one of the users, who says that he is 27 and 10 of these years he has spend in Germany, if he can say something about his belonging to russian diáspora, he laught and answered something like: you know, once a month or so, me and some ather guys from this site gather to share some drinks and we are always making jokes on us being a diaspora. But it is very funny, because i am the only russian of us 5.
I think that cultural hybridity can be found on any of the sites of this kind anyways and it can be easily seen oh forums. Conserning the question of diaspora, it seems one needs more than two weeks of observing the site and more than one month of living abroad to say anything about it for sure.
For a rather long period of time i had been observing the site about russian people in London. but since i wasn´t participating in the part of course, dedicated to writing the reports, i did not know that this particular site has already been observed. That was not such a pleasant discovery, because i really enjoyed studying it.
So i had to look for another representative of virtual community, that can be reliable and interesting and is also can possibly provide me with the neccesary materials for the research. While surfing through the internet I discovered that one can face a distinct problem while attemting to become a part of some virtual space - there are a great amount of sites, dedicated to russians living all over the world, that are really interesting, but, unfortunately, they are not at all live, what is very good seen through the intensivety of communicating and participating in forums.
This time I decided to concentrate my attention on the site about russian people living in germany, www.germany.ru, wwwhich is considered to be one of the best sites german-russsian sites.
I´d like to name some reasons of my choice.
I come from Belarus and think of myself as a belorussian, but this site is about the russians abroad. Why russians? The reason is quite simple, but not so easy to understand for the other people. That has to do with our history and culture, but we, i mean belorussians, often consider ourselves as a part of russian...culture, hitory, national identity and so on. And that is one of the reasons, why this course is very interesting for me. Espesially `ethnicity part`. So, that is why i ´ve chosen the site about russians(and, of coarse, the russian language, which is the main language of this site, helps me to understand its structure and contents).
Why in Germany? The answer is very simple - because that is where i am now, so I am really interested in problems, good and bad sides of russian people, trying to or succesfully living in Germany. And, of course, i thought that it could be useful for me from `pragmatical` side.
this site has a great amount of very interesting links to sites about russians, living all aver the world.
I can not yet say if it´s structure is ergonomic, but it seems to me that it is not so hard to find one´s way through the different parts of it.
i really hope that my work with this site can be productive and useful in my studies of the course.