Abstract

Abstract:

Since the outbreak of the war in Donbas in 2014, the term opolchenie (insurgency) has become firmly associated with the militant groups controlling parts of eastern Ukraine. The word emerged as their preferred autonym, adopted by the progovernment Russian media and snubbed by Ukrainian outlets. Historically applied to the Russian volunteer military formations, "opolchenie" foregrounds the contentious idea of the grassroots nature of Donbas militias. Politically, it gestures towards the symbolic totality of the "Russian World" ("Russkii mir") mobilized to fight off foreign invaders. Using multimodal discourse analysis, I scrutinize the myth behind the name, examining how the image of the "opolchenets" ("insurgent") is cultivated as a transhistorical embodiment of heroic and virtuous Russianness in contemporary popular songs about the war in Donbas. I argue that songs serve to construct and popularize the new "opolchenets" identity in the Donbas region, simultaneously as an alternative to and extension of extant complex local identities.

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