I’m reading Vera Tolz’s Russia’s Own Orient: The Politics of Identity and Oriental Studies in the Late Imperial and Early Soviet Periods (you can read a review by Denis V. Volkov here [pdf]), and I found this passage (on p. 37) of interest from a linguistic point of view:
In the 1870s, Russia’s size and underdeveloped systems of communication began to be depicted in the Russian press as an obstacle to the consolidation of the Russian national core. Russia, it was argued, was far too large and diverse for people to be able easily to identify with the state (otechestvo) as a whole. The proposed solution was to start national integration by fostering people’s particular affinity to their so-called ‘small native homeland’ (malaia rodina)—the region and the immediate locality where they lived.
The footnote says “In the discussion of the relationship between local and national identities, authors constantly use the expressions ‘rodina’ or ‘malaia rodina’ to refer to a particular locality and the word ‘otechestvo’ to describe Russia in its entirety.” I confess I had thought of otechestvo and rodina as pretty much synonymous, with the latter having more emotional force (“Родина-мать зовет!”); this use to mean ‘small homeland’ reminds me of French pays. A little later Tolz refers to the comparable German Heimat movement of that period; we don’t really have a comparable word in America — being more urbanized, we talk about one’s hometown. At any rate, I was wondering if the Russian use she describes still seems valid to my Russian-speaking readers.