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Social cohesion and personal autonomy in values and identities

Priority areas of development: sociology
Head: Magun, Vladimir
Department: Laboratory for Comparative Studies in Mass Consciousness
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Goal of research: to reveal the opposition between social cohesion and personal autonomy in Russians and inhabitants of other countries; to define factors affecting its specific modifications.


The main methodology of achieving the research goal is statistical and econometric analysis of the data of international and Russian surveys.

Empirical base of research

The data of the 6th and 8th waves of the European Social Survey (2012, 2016), the data of the International Social Survey Programme (2013), the data of the Russian national survey conducted by the Institute for Comparative Social Research, the data of the Russian national surveys conducted by the Levada-Center (formerly VCIOM) in 1992-2017.

Results of research

1. It was discovered that Russians’ demand for living in a great country that does not imply any comparison with alternative options is stronger than the demand including an explicitly formulated alternative as “a country with high standard of living”.

During the 25-year long period of observations between 1992 and 2017, the  uncontested demand for greatness increased considerably compared to the already high initial level: in 1992 the fraction of those agreeing that “Russia should retain its role of a great country” was 72%, and by 2017, it increased to 82%. Over the whole period under scrutiny, this fraction never fell below its initial score and in 2008 reached its maximum of 86%.

The contested demand for greatness displays a different dynamics. In the beginning of the series of observations in 2003, the fraction of those preferring greatness was 43%, by 2006 it fell to the minimum of 36%, then started to increase and in 2008 reached 48% and for the only time matched the alternative option of “high living standards” in popularity. Then, however, the fraction of those preferring greatness decreased again and by 2017 decreased by 42% and nearly returned to the initial score.

At the same time, the estimation of Russia’s greatness increased considerably: the initial fraction of affirmative answers to the question “Is Russia at present a great country?” was 31%, and in the end of the period, 72%. The maximum reached 78% in 2016.  

These indicators of greatness are in general weekly related to the standard sociodemographic characteristics. The availability of compatible data in 17 survey waves allows testing these effects for consistency also. Of all the characteristics, only gender and education level consistently affect demand for greatness and the estimation of greatness.

The estimation of the country’s actual greatness is lower for those who understand greatness as well-being of the population and the country’s economic potential and higher for those who view greatness as rich natural resources, the country’s vast territory, and its heroic past. 

2. The research includes a cross-country comparative analysis of critical attitudes towards one’s country and its factors. The critical attitudes were measured by three indicators from the international survey ISSP-2013 – National Identity. One of them operationalizes the actual relevant individual activity: “There are some things about Russia [the country where the survey was conducted varied] today that make me feel ashamed of Russia [the country where the survey was conducted in each case]”. Two other questions measured the normative dimension of critical attitudes “The world would be a better place if Russians [citizens of each country where the survey was conducted] acknowledged Russia’s [a country where the survey was conducted] shortcomings” and the opposite norm of unconditional support for one’s country: “People should support their country even if the country is in the wrong”.   

Russia compared to other countries displays a medium shame for the country, low belief in necessity of acknowledging the country’s shortcomings, and very high level of belief in the necessity of unconditional support of one’s country. It means that many Russians may have critical attitudes towards their country but refrain from expressing them in public as a matter of loyalty.

The GDP per capita is found to have a nonlinear quadratic effect on the shame of the country and on the belief in the necessity of unconditional support for one’s country. The effect of the GDP pc on the belief in the necessity of acknowledging one’s country’s shortcomings is linear and negative: the recognition of this necessity is higher in less affluent countries. Thus, the extent of this normative critical attitude apparently matches the country’s objective state.

3. The regression analysis on the all-European dataset allowed to reveal interrelations between phenomena of political consciousness, namely, the interest in politics, estimation of one’s own opportunities for political participation (as dependent variables) and basic values (as independent variables). 

The most robust effects are found for the negative effects of Conservation values,  those with higher scores on these values have lower estimations of their political efficacy, i.e. they see fewer opportunities for personal participation, believe themselves to be less capable of such participation, and consequently have less interest in politics.

The values affecting the political involvement in the opposite direction by boosting the belief in favorable external circumstances and own abilities for political activity are Universalism and Achievement.

The research results show that in Russia, people to a less extent feel that the political system offers opportunities for citizens’ political participation and influencing their own government’s decisions. At the same time, Russians have medium scores on interest in politics and supersede 9 (out of 22) European countries, mostly Southern European and post-Socialist states. Russians therefore have relatively lower subjective prerequisites for political participation and relatively higher interest in politics that can exist even without active personal participation in politics.  

4. The results of a representative Russian survey show that a part of Russian respondents have a tolerant attitude towards euthanasia and are ready to permit its implementation upon the patient’s request.  Depending on a patient’s condition described in the questionnaire and the suggested procedure of euthanasia, from 15% to 34% of respondents agreed that euthanasia is permissible (“may the doctor be allowed to perform euthanasia?”). Basic values are found to be among the factors affecting the attitudes towards permissibility of euthanasia. The value of Benevolence has a robust negative effect and the value of Stimulation, robust positive. The role of Benevolence is of interest considering the debate on euthanasia in the public and professional circles in the European countries where permissive attitude towards euthanasia is positively affected by the values of Self-Direction and Autonomy substantively opposite to the social oriented value of Benevolence. For Russian respondents, the euthanasia issue is therefore not an issue of individual freedom and the patient’s wishes but an issue of the respondent’s readiness to make personal efforts in providing life-long care for this patient.

Spheres of implementation of the obtained research results

The conclusions on the characteristics of various kind of Russians’ demand for living in a great country enable better differentiation of seemingly similar yet structurally different phenomena of mass consciousness, namely, the demand based on the “pleasure principle” and expressing idealistic wishes  and the demand involving a realistic assessment of the opportunity costs and the price of fulfillment of these wishes.  

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

The research results were used:

1) in the university course “Data Analysis and Visualization in R” taught to the 4th year bachelor’s degree students at the Department of Sociology of the NRU HSE, and also in supervising undergraduate and graduate students’ research for their final qualification works and theses;

2)  in public lectures and speeches given by the project participants;

3) in a number of publications and comments by the project participants in Russian mass media.


Rudnev M., Lytkina E., Davidov E., Schmidt P., Zick A. Testing Measurement Invariance for a Second-Order Factor: A Cross-National Test of the Alienation Scale // Methods, Data, Analyses. 2018. Vol. 12. No. 1. P. 47-76. doi
Fabrykant M. Why Nations Sell: Reproduction of Everyday Nationhood through Advertising in Russia and Belarus, in: Informal Nationalism After Communism: The Everyday Construction of Post-Socialist Identities. L. : IB Tauris, 2018. Ch. 4. P. 83-103.
Rudnev M., Magun V., Schwartz S. Relations Among Higher Order Values Around the World // Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 2018. Vol. 49. No. 8. P. 1165-1182. doi
Rudnev M., Savelkaeva Aleksandra. Public Support for the Right to Euthanasia: Impact of Traditional Religiosity and Autonomy Values Across 37 Nations // International Journal of Comparative Sociology. 2018. Vol. 59. No. 4. P. 301-318. doi