ema culik

Director's Statement

Why should Scotland separate from the United Kingdom? What makes us different? In a time when borders are so open and people travel so easily from place to place, what does it mean to us to live in one country or another? Do we still define ourselves by our nationality?

National identity has always been a muddy concept for me. I was born in Glasgow and lived there until I was 17 but my father is Czech. I spent my summers in the Czech Republic, where I was the Scottish girl, in school I was noted for being different, the Czech girl. In the end I felt sortof like neither. And finally I ran off to Russia, where I have lived on and off for almost nine years. I came to think of myself as a 'generic foreigner' – stranger wherever I went.
 I am less unusual than you would think. Mixed race families are becoming more and more common. Immigration (and emigration) is a huge issue in almost every country in the world. When borders are open and cultures are mixing, what does national identity mean to us now?

       

And what does it mean to be British? For years Russians were taught at school about London and the Queen and afternoon tea and Sherlock Holmes. I spent my teaching years trying to break these stereotypes and show that the UK is drastically different from the country it used to be.

I believe the independence debate is vitally important for everyone in the whole of the United Kingdom. Not because we should necessarily vote yes or no, but because it gives us the chance to examine our own society. What is our national identity? How does our society work? Is it headed in the right direction? Discussions on the referendum inevitably come down to politics and romance. Are these justified reasons to vote one way or another?

On the one hand Scots living in Russia do not have full access to the independence debate. We don't have as much information, and at the end of the day we don't live in the country. However, being abroad gives you a unique perspective on the differences between societies. National identity becomes an issue that you live with on a daily basis. And after all, even this foreign land, we never stop being Scots. Voices from the far east, we are the Independent Souls.

independent souls