The present article attempts to describe the social evolution of the community of Vershina, a village founded in the beginning of the 20th century by voluntary settlers from Little Poland, from a cultural island to the stage of assimilation. The social, economic, cultural, political and language situation of the community changed several times. The most significant historical moments of Russia and the Soviet Union set the borders of three main periods in Vershina’s history. During its first two-three decades Vershina consisted a homogenous Polish cultural and language island. The migrants preserved the Roman Catholic religion, Polish language and traditions as well as farming methods and machines. Collectivization and the communist system with its repressions made the Polish village assimilate to its surroundings. With the flow of time, the generation of first settlers died and some of the traditions of Little Poland vanished or got modified by the elements of the Soviet, Russian or Buryat culture. After the Perestroika the minorities gained some rights, which strengthened in the 1990s. Thanks, to the political changes and the collapse of the SU the inhabitants of Vershina can found cultural organisations, cultivate their religion, and learn Polish in local schools. However, in spite of the regained rights, over the decades of mass sovietization and ateization, the culture and customs of the Polish community became similar to other Siberian villages. Young people from the group of our interest abandon their mother language and are not eager to leave Russia and move to Poland. The process of assimilation is intensifying while there are practically no factors protecting the local culture and language.
In the year 2018, marking the anniversary of their original releases, the main of the article is to discuss the question concerning the applicability of The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918) by William Isaac Thomas and Florian Znaniecki and Młode pokolenie chłopów [The Young Generation of Peasants] (1938) by Józef Chałasiński, two crucial works in rural and general sociology to other areas of humanistic disciplines, with examples drawn from linguistic research. Here, we both characterise and justify the historical and contemporary relationships between sociology and linguistics both on a general level and in their rural varieties. Cooperation between representatives of the given disciplines is possible on the ground of structuralism and, in fact, is being implemented in many joint research projects.
Rural sociology has established itself as a subdiscipline of sociology and has developed its specific thematic and methodological autonomy within the major scope of the field. The existence of ‘rural’ linguistics is not so obvious, but there are certain phenomena and processes observed in rural conditions which justify the use of such a term. However, it is not the officially accepted name of the subdiscipline which, in the present article, is defined as ‘linguistic (and sociolinguistic) research in rural area’ with constant references to dialectology.
Hence, methods such as the personal documents method and the biographical method are already present in linguistics and sociolinguistics, although direct references to sociological works (both in general and specifically to both Thomas and Znaniecki’s and Chałasiński’s texts in detail) are rare. Still, some popular linguistic approaches – e.g. language biographies or the use of personal documents as a source of linguistic data – are very close to the ideas postulated by the precursors of rural sociology. There are also authors who have so far used Thomas and Znaniecki’s as well as Chałasiński’s theoretical achievements, while they refer consciously and directly to The Polish Peasant in Europe and America and The Young Generation of Peasants.