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Racek, Daniel; Davidson, Brittany I.; Thurner, Paul W.; Zhu, Xiao Xiang; Kauermann, Göran (2024): The Russian war in Ukraine increased Ukrainian language use on social media. Communications Psychology, 2 (1). ISSN 2731-9121

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The use of language is innately political, often a vehicle of cultural identity and the basis for nation building. Here, we examine language choice and tweeting activity of Ukrainian citizens based on 4,453,341 geo-tagged tweets from 62,712 users before and during the Russian war in Ukraine, from January 2020 to October 2022. Using statistical models, we disentangle sample effects, arising from the in- and outflux of users on Twitter (now X), from behavioural effects, arising from behavioural changes of the users. We observe a steady shift from the Russian language towards Ukrainian already before the war, which drastically speeds up with its outbreak. We attribute these shifts in large part to users’ behavioural changes. Notably, our analysis shows that more than half of the Russian-tweeting users switch towards Ukrainian with the Russian invasion. We interpret these findings as users’ conscious choice towards a more Ukrainian (online) identity and self-definition of being Ukrainian.

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