HSE University Collaborates with University in Southern Russia to Compare Values and Identities across Generations and Regions
Is there a system of values that is common to the whole population of Russia? Do values differ across generations? Is it possible to carry out research among refugees? HSE University researchers joined forces with their peers from Kuban State Technological University to study values and intercultural relations across Russian regions as part of a Mirror Labs project. The HSE LooK talked about this cooperation to Nadezhda Lebedeva, Director of the HSE Centre for Sociocultural Research, who heads up the Mirror Lab project, and project participant Victoria Galyapina, Leading Research Fellow at the same Centre.
Director and Chief Research Fellow at the Centre for Sociocultural Research,
head of the project on ‘Values and intercultural relations in the context of a transitive society: a cross-regional analysis’
Finding Peers to Begin the Project
As part of the internship programme for employees of Russian academic institutions at HSE University, we hosted Oksana Tuchina from KubSTU, who was very proactive and eager to cooperate and take part in joint research. Thus, when there was an open call for mirror laboratories, we offered her a chance to work with us. Although there was no laboratory at KubSTU at that time, they received support from the university administration. Victoria Galyapina, our leading research fellow at the Centre for Sociocultural Research, is curating the project, as she is from the North Caucasus herself and knows the region well.
Expanding International Experience to Russian Regions
For many years, first as a laboratory, and then as a centre, we have considered values and identities as well as their transformation, intergenerational and interregional comparisons. We are proud that one of the leading cross-cultural researchers, Shalom Schwartz, who developed his own theory of basic human values, worked with us on creating a Russian version of his methods.
Within the framework of this project, we work with values. We seek to find out whether the population of Russia share common values and, as such, we compare two federal districts—the Central and Southern Federal Districts. Another issue is how a system of values is upheld given the current situation—whether the present social and political polarisation is superficial and whether it only concerns attitudes and not core values.
In addition to values, for the current project, we research common social identities (eg, ethnic, religious, and civic identities) that influence the behaviour and intercultural attitudes of a person.
This area is of particular importance as it concerns the preservation of intercultural peace in our multicultural and multi-confessional country, especially in the south of Russia, where there are many migrants, as well as refugees from the southeast of Ukraine.
Leading Research Fellow at the Centre for Sociocultural Research
Research by Two Teams in Two Regions
Both teams are involved in data collection since research is carried out in both regions at the same time. We collect data in the Central Federal District and our colleagues gather data in the Southern Federal District. We then exchange our databases for further analysis and a cross-regional and cross-cultural comparison. While we focus on values, identities and intercultural relations, our colleagues, even though they are interested in the variables and indicators that we explore, are more into philosophical aspects, ie, who a person of culture is and how the prototypical image of a person of culture differs among various ethnic groups.
Both of our project teams include doctors and candidates of science, as well as postgrads. The involvement of younger specialists is essential as project work teaches methodology and techniques for qualitative and quantitative research.
Systems of Values: Cross-Generational Differences
One of our findings is that there does exist a system of values (at least among the Russian population of our country).
While young people tend to express such values as openness to change and self-enhancement, older generations lean towards socially focused values, such as self-transcendence and conservation (security, group harmony, and unity).
Another interesting finding is the manifestation of different identities through values. For Russians in both regions, for instance, civic, ethnic, and religious identities are equally significant. The representatives of ethnic minorities, who live in the south of Russia, cherish ethnic and religious identities that distinguish them culturally and allow them to retain their ethnic uniqueness. What our colleagues noticed while interpreting the data is that religious identity strongly influences tolerant attitudes of ethnic minorities in the south of Russia, as well as contributes to the formation of tolerance at the regional level.
One of our accomplishments is that we jointly published two articles in 2021: one about acculturation of Armenians in Russia in Central Asia and the Caucasus journal, and the other about perceived security and social identities in the context of adaptation of Central Asian migrants in Gumanizatsiya Obrazovaniya journal (Humanisation of Education). In 2022, we published a paper on the role of social identities and intercultural attitudes in psychological well-being of residents of the Krasnodar Krai in a collection of papers called ‘Positive experience in regulating ethno-social and ethno-cultural processes in the regions of the Russian Federation’.
Working with Refugees: Departing from Formalised Approaches
As a continuation of our research on values and attitudes, we would want to explore perceptions of recent events by the local population and refugees from Ukraine, and include their narratives into our analysis.
We do not want to use a formalised approach like a questionnaire, but would like to look them in the eye, support them and catch something between words.
This would require establishing close contact and more of a psychological approach.
The mirror labs project also triggered other initiatives. For instance, we were invited to provide our expertise interpreting and analysing the data (over 400 surveys and 35 in-depth interviews) for a study conducted by Victoria Mukha from KubSTU. This study concerns refugees from the southeast of Ukraine and covers the problems of their acculturation and adaptation in the Krasnodar Krai. The initial two stages of the research were devoted to cross-regional and intergenerational comparisons, as it was important to determine core values. Now, we are looking at those values that determine certain identities among different generations in various regions and how identities and values determine attitudes in terms of threat or tolerance in a multicultural context.
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