Baltic accent

2023 Vol. 14 №3

Back to the list Download the article

The language of muteness: examining the work of Gazdanov and Salkazanova in Paris



The article examines the principles and methods of constructing discourse that emerges through a unique combination of socio-cultural and linguistic factors in the context of a European metropolis. Participants involved are representatives of the first and second wave of Russian emigration: Gaito (Georgy Ivanovich) Gazdanov, a prominent writer of the Russian diaspora, and Fatima Salkazanova, an aspiring journalist who crossed paths with Gazdanov in the 1960s in Paris while working in the Russian service of Radio Liberty[60]. Salkazanova's oral memoirs provide valuable insights, revealing that Gazdanov remained completely silent in her presence for a period of six months until he unexpectedly spoke to her, advising her to purchase a new watch. The primary focus of this study is to elucidate the strategy employed in constructing this ‘wordless’ discourse, as well as to explore the conditions that facilitate its occurrence, underlying mechanisms, and its historical background. The analysis encompasses linguistic, historical, cultural aspects, and aims to determine its linguistic classification and overall significance. The discourse itself is interpreted as a revival of the archaic ritual of silence practiced in Ossetian patriarchal families, serving as a form of speech etiquette. This relic language practice, rooted in Indo-European archaic traditions, represents a manifes­ta­tion of the rite of passage and allows individuals of Ossetian origin, who may have lost their na­tive language due to external circumstances, to demonstrate their cultural identity. It is suggested that the occurrence of such speech behaviour is strongly influenced by the specific time and place, where forced emigration to Europe not only contributes to the preservation of archaic speech etiquette patterns but also involuntarily activates them.


Abaev, V. I., 1973. Istoriko-etimologicheskii slovar' osetinskogo yazyka [Historical and etymological dictionary of the Ossetian language], Vol. II. Leningrad (in Russ.).

Abaev, V. I., 1989. Istoriko-etimologicheskii slovar' osetinskogo yazyka [Historical and etymological dictionary of the Ossetian language], Vol. IV. Leningrad (in Russ.).

Ambartsumyan, A. A., 2000. Magician Sarastro (Zoroaster) in The Magic Flute by W. A. ​​Mozart (magic instruments, Zoroastrian ordeals and Freemasonry)]. In: Vop­rosy instrumentovedeniya: sbornik referatov IV mezhdunarodnoi instrumentovedcheskoi kon­fe­rentsii «Blagodatovskie chteniya», 4—7 dekabrya 2000 g. [Issues of instrumental science: col­lection of abstracts of the IV International Instrumental conference “Blago­da­tov­sky readings”, December 4—7, 2000], 4, pp. 47—51 (in Russ.).

Bakhtin, M. M., 1990. Tvorchestvo Fransua Rable i narodnaya kul'tura srednevekov'ya i Renessansa [Francois Rabelais’s oeuvres and folk culture of the Middle Ages and the Re­naissance]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Dienes, L., 1982. Russian literature in exile: the life and work of Gajto Gazdanov. München.

Dzagurova, G. T., 1992. Pod rossiiskimi znamenami [Under Russian banners]. Vladikavkaz (in Russ.).

Dzutsev, Kh. V. and Smirnova, Ya. S., 1993. Zhizn' osetinskoy sem'i. Etnosotsiolo­gi­ches­kiy aspekt [Life of Ossetian family. Ethno-sociological view]. Vladikavkaz (in Russ.).

Gazdanova, V. S., 2007. House on Kabinetskaya, 7. Memoirs of O. V. Abatsieva-Salkazanova. In: Zolotoi dozhd'. Issledovaniya po traditsionnoi kul'ture osetin [Golden rain. Studies in the traditional culture of the Ossetians]. Vladikavkaz (in Russ.).

Gennep, A., 1999. Obryady perekhoda. Sistematicheskoe izuchenie obryadov [Rites of passage. Systematic study of rituals]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Lingvisticheskii entsiklopedicheskii slovar' [Encyclopedic dictionary of Linguistics], 1990. Moscow (in Russ.).

Pajitnov, E., 2015. Pis'ma materi [Letters to the mother]. Available at: https:// [Accessed 10 December 2022] (in Russ.).

Propp, V. Ya., 1999. Problemy komizma i smekha. Ritual'nyi smekh v fol'klore (po po­vo­du skazki o Nesmeyane) [Problems of comedy and laughter. Ritual laughter in folk­lore (about the tale of Nesmeyan)]. Moscow (in Russ.).

Salbiev, T. K., 2019. Тhe sacredness of the ossetian fire-place chain (the origins and semantics of the cult). Vestnik of Vladikavkaz Scientific Centre, 19 (4), pp. 23—29, (in Russ.).

Tmenova, Dz. G., 2000. Osetinskie narodnye zagadki [Ossetian folk riddles]. Vla­di­kav­kaz (in Russ.).