This study draws on ethnographic research conducted in a small village, Baltinava in Latvia, 2.5 kilometres from the border with Russia. The research examines how ethnic Russian women create a specific Latvian Russian identity by contrasting themselves from ethnic Latvians and Russians who live in Russia and identifying with both groups at the same time. To narrate their lives and to make them meaningful, real and/or perceived “attributes” are combined to draw boundaries between “us” and “them.” Thus, the same thing such as language can be used not only both to distinguish themselves from Russians in Russia or Latvians but also to form coherent identities and to emphasize similarities. This study suggests that ethnicities cannot be reduced to a list of set ethnic groups that are very often used in official government statistics. Ethnic identities have to be viewed as fluid and situational. Moreover, this study shows the dialectic nature of ethnicity. On the one hand, external political, historical and social processes create and recreate ethnic categories and definitions. Yet, on the other hand, the women in this study are active agents creating meaningful and symbolic ethnic boundaries.
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