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Identity and Intercultural Interaction on the Post-Soviet Space: The Experience of Russia and Former USSR Countries

Priority areas of development: humanitarian
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Aim of the project

To identify social psychological factors (identity, interethnic attitudes, social representations, values) that enhance mutual integration of ethnic minorities and an ethnic majority in the former Soviet countries.


Social psychological survey (self-administered; paper-based face-to-face interviews), in-depth interviews (cognitive interviews, expert interviews), factorial survey.

Empirical base of the project:

  • Survey data collected for studying the relationship between intergenerational (parents-children) transmission of collective identity and satisfaction of life in North Ossetia-Alania (N=430);
  • Survey data collected for studying the role of group disidentification in the acculturation strategies of the minority (Russians) and acculturation expectations of the majority (Kabardians and Balkars) in Kabardino-Balkaria (N=534);
  • Survey data collected for studying the effect of motivation for ethnocultural continuity (2 generations, parents-children) on intercultural attitudes and subjective well-being of Russians in Latvia and Azerbaijan (N=428);
  • Survey data collected for studying the effect of the institutional sphere perception on social capital and ethnic tolerance in the Central and North-Caucasian Federal Districts in Russia (N=2046);
  • Survey data collected for studying the relationship between Russians’ political values, their acculturation expectations and acceptance of multiculturalism policies (N=128);
  • Survey data collected for studying the psychological factors that enhance discrimination of migrants in the socioeconomic sphere in Moscow and Ulyanovsk (N=241);
  • Survey data collected for studying the assertiveness in school students (migrants and host population) in Yaroslavl oblast’ (N=2003);
  • Transcripts of 8 expert interviews and the factorial survey data (N=541) collected for studying the mediating role of perceived similarity with an outgroup member and attitudes towards this member;
  • The transcripts of 7 cognitive interviews and survey data (N=307) collected for the empirical test of methods of strategies for identity maintenance.

Results of the project:

We analyzed and empirically tested the role of various social psychological factors in the integration of ethnic minorities and an ethnic majority in the former Soviet countries. Our findings allow us to conclude that several factors such as social identity and disidentification, motivation for ethnocultural continuity, importance of the outgroup member’s perceived characteristics as well as their perceived similarity, strategies for identity maintenance, perceived ability to influence the political situation, civic activism and institutional trust, political values, ideological attitudes and social distance are the most significant predictors of integration. Below we present the results obtained for each factor.

  1. The results obtained in the study on the intergenerational (from parents to children) transmission of collective identity (including ethnic, regional, civic, and religious identities) in the groups of an ethnic minority (Russians) and the majority (Ossetians) in North Ossetia demonstrated that the transmission within those two groups takes different forms. More specifically, while in the group of Russians all the above-mentioned identities are transmitted, in the group of Ossetians only specific types of identities in parents and children are closely related to each other. Collective identity positively affects life satisfaction within generations. In addition, parents’ collective identity positively affects both parents’ and their children’s life satisfaction in both samples.
  2. The results obtained in our study on social disidentification as a predictor of acculturation preferences of the minority (Russians) and acculturation expectations of the majority (Kabardians and Balkars) in Kabardino-Balkaria demonstrated the significant main effect of social disidentification even controlling for the effect of different types of social identity. In the sample of Russians, republican disidentification leads to the choice of separation and marginalization and impedes integration and assimilation. At the same time, national disidentification with Russia enhances assimilation and marginalization. In the majority group (Kabardians and Balkars), national disidentification also enhances acculturation expectations of assimilation of Russians, as well as their exclusion and segregation, and impedes integration of Russians in the republic.
  3. The results obtained in the study on motivation of ethnocultural continuity with regards to its intergenerational (parents-children) and inter-country (Latvia and Azerbaijan) specificity showed that there are universal, as well as specific, relationships. Parents’ motivation for ethnocultural continuity is positively related to motivation for ethnocultural continuity of their children; and parents’ life satisfaction is positively related to life satisfaction of children. Negative relationship between motivation for ethnocultural continuity and assimilation in the generation of parents is also universal. At the same time, in Russian families in Latvia, integration is positively related to self-esteem in both generations, while separation, assimilation, and marginalization are negatively related to self-esteem. In Azerbaijan, those relationships are non-significant. Moreover, among Russian families in Latvia, parents’ assimilation is positively related to children’s assimilation, while among Russian families living in Azerbaijan, there is a positive relation when considering the integration strategies both in children and parents.
  4. The results obtained in the study on the political activity as a predictor of social capital and ethnic tolerance demonstrated that the perceived possibility to influence political situation is the strongest predictor of civic activism; in addition, this factor positively affects ethnic tolerance. Furthermore, the perceived possibility to influence the political situation was also positively related to institutional trust, which in turn positively affects generalized trust and ethnic tolerance. Those relationships were found both in Central and North-Caucasian federal districts. In addition to the universal relationships, we found specific relationships for each federal district. For instance, the negative relationship between the perceived possibility to influence the political situation and generalized trust was only significant in the respondents from Central federal district. At the same time, in the North Caucasus, neither family ties nor friendly contacts enhance ethnic tolerance.
  5. Our results on the relationship between political values, acculturation expectations and attitudes towards multiculturalism showed that “acceptance of migrants” has the strongest effect on acculturation expectations. This political value positively relates to integration and acceptance of multiculturalism, and negatively relates to assimilation and exclusion. Political values such as civil rights and law and positively relate to integration. At the same time, blind patriotism positively relates to exclusion.
  6. Our results on the effects of psychological factors on socioeconomic discrimination of migrants showed that ideological attitudes (right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation and support for multicultural ideology) and social distance significantly predict socioeconomic discrimination of migrants. Specifically, we found that discrimination in socioeconomic sphere positively relates to right-wing authoritarianism, social dominance orientation, and social distance, while it is negatively related to support for multicultural ideology.
  7. The results of the study conducted in the Yaroslavl’ region demonstrated that migrant status of students did not affect the level of educational attainment. At the same time, the level of assertiveness had a significant positive effect on educational attainment even when controlling for other variables, such as gender, age, school level, family, etc. Thus, assertiveness can be considered one of the key factors explaining educational attainment of students.
  8. Our results on the mediating role of the perceived similarity with outgroup members in the relationship between the perceived characteristics of the outgroup members and attitudes towards them demonstrated that the perceived similarity indeed mediates that relationship for all eight dimensions of categorization (ethnic and religious affiliation, gender, age, status of migrant, level of Russian language proficiency, level of education and qualification). However, in some cases, the perceived similarity fully mediates the relationship, and in some – partially. For instance, in case of ethnic, gender and age dimensions, ingroup favoritism can be fully explained by the perceived similarity. At the same time, in case of all other dimensions, favorable attitudes towards outgroup members can be explained by both the perceived similarity and the fact of being included in one of the other groups of categorization (for instance, the level of education).
  9. The results of the study on the strategies of identity maintenance showed that the designed technique is reliable and valid. Besides, for the Russian context, we identified a third-level factor, which organizes seven strategies of identity maintenance in two groups (the desire to enhance the group status and group avoidance). Strategies aimed at the desire to enhance the group status positively relate to different types of social identity, attitudes towards minorities regarding their integration. Strategies of group avoidance negatively relate to different types of social identity, and result in indifferent attitudes to minorities.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results.

The results have been used to develop and elaborate training curricula for enhancing migrants’ and host population’s ethnocultural competence in the North-Caucasian Federal District.

Scope of application:

The results can be useful for:

  • The development of specialized courses for civil servants working in the sphere of interethnic relationships;
  • The development of social programs aimed at the harmonization of interethnic relationships in Russian society;
  • Teaching at universities within the courses of ethnic psychology, cross-cultural psychology, ethnic sociology, and psychology of conflict.


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