Multiculturalism Could Work in Russia
Contemporary Russian society is divided more along the lines of education and professional qualifications than nationality. So said researchers at the annual international conference at HSE’s Laboratory for Sociocultural Research on intercultural and interethnic relations.
Researchers and academics from Greece, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, USA and Japan came to the conference on Culture in society, between groups and across generations. Special guest, expert on interethnic relations, Michael Verkuyten of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, gave a lecture asking how a national identity is formed, on what basis, is it antagonism towards other countries or unifying historical events?
Fellow researchers from the HSE Laboratory for Comparative Social Research talked about their projects on trust and social capital, and colleagues from the International Laboratory of Positive Psychology of Personality and Motivation talked about their research in various countries including Russia, on how a sense of responsibility is related to feeling happy.
The International Laboratory of Sociocultural Research (ILSCR), presented the results of several of its research projects. One project showed ethnicity is not a major divisive factor for Russians. Professional qualifications and education are more significant. Which dispels any myths about the excessive influence of ethnicity on social interaction.
If a person feels their culture, language and life is protected they will be more tolerant to outsiders, but if they feel in danger, they will be hostile.
Nadezhda Lebedeva Head of the International Laboratory for Sociocultural Research
Nadezhda Lebedeva talked about another ongoing sociocultural research project at the laboratory on the transmission of values. ‘We are studying three generations of Russian families who live in various republics and countries, and comparing how their values and the values of the local population change over the generations,’ explained Professor Lebedeva. ‘Researchers carried out surveys in Azerbaijan, Latvia, Lithuania and the North Caucasus. The results show that Russians, living in Latvia for example, keep the same values within families. But young Latvians have almost no common values with their grandparents’ generation. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the tendency towards European values grew much stronger so the generation gap among Latvians is colossal. For Russians, as a minority, it is more important to maintain their cultural identity so the bond of shared values is much stronger between generations.’
Recently, the Laboratory for Sociocultural Research was awarded a research grant by the Russian Fund for the Humanities for its project Empirical testing of multiculturalism in Russia in the context of global experience. The project aims to test, taking a Russian sample, three hypotheses of multiculturalism using a series of empirical tests. ‘We want to understand to what extent the attitudes of the predominant group and minorities in regions correspond to the rules (hypotheses) of multiculturalism,’ explains Nadezhda Lebedeva. ‘The rules are as follows; first, if a person feels their culture, language and life are protected, they will be more tolerant towards outsiders, but if they feel in danger, they will be hostile. The second rule is that if a minority is intent on integrating and the predominant group, on accepting them, then accommodations will be made more effectively and both groups will be happier. The third rule is, the more intensive intercultural friendly contact there is, the more people will want mutual acceptance and cooperation.’
ILSCR researchers have already begun work and are currently running empirical tests on samples in the central Russian regions and North Caucasus. John Berry a specialist on the subject and one of the founders of the Canadian multicultural policy has been at the laboratory more than a year and is working on the project. The research results can be used to formulate recommendations for effective migration policy and develop sociopolitical strategies for multicultural interaction. John Berry believes there is a chance multiculturalism could work in Russia because unlike European states, it has been a multicultural country from the very start.
Marina Selina, especially for HSE News