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Socio-psychological consequences of changes on the post-Soviet space: values, identity, intercultural relations

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

Aim of the research: to study the social and psychological consequences of the adaptation to changes in cultural and socioeconomic conditions in the post-Soviet space.

Used methods: The main method of data collection was social psychological survey, and the additional ones were: in-depth interview, a quasi-experiment, and secondary analysis of social survey data in open access databases (WVS, Social Cohesion Radar).

Empirical basis of the research are the results of conducted surveys in the Russian regions and republics (The republics of Crimea, Ingushetia, North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, The Chechen republic and Moscow),as well as in the former Soviet countries (Georgia, Azerbaijan, Latvia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan). The total number of respondents was 4413.

In addition, we conducted a series of in-depth interviews (N=17) with representatives of three neighbor communities of migrant workers from Uzbekistan, Ukraine, and Belarus, an online factorial survey (on the platform www.1ka.si) using vignettes (N=30), and a series of cognitive interviews (N=6).

For analyzing secondary data, we used the sixth round data of the World Value Survey for the 2011 cohort. We performed an analysis of three groups of countries sorted by corruption perception index (CPI): countries with low CPI (i.e. Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, and Sweden; N=7398), countries with average CPI (i.e. Belarus, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Romania; N=7838), and countries with high CPI (i.e. Russia, Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Thailand; N=7908). As well, we used the Social Cohesion Radar (Bertelsmann-Stiftung, 2013) data, which included a data set of 34 Western countries and a data set of 22 Asian countries. Moreover, we employed Gallup World Poll database and regional surveys (i.e. Asia Barometer).

Research results

Our research on the role of multiple identities in intercultural relations of Russians with the ethnic majority in Russia and post-Soviet republics revealed the following results.

 We studied the role of multiple identities in Crimean Tatars’ acculturation and psychological well-being  in Crimea. Our results showed that Crimean Tatars’ ethno cultural identity had a positive relationship with integration attitudes and a negative one with assimilation attitudes, while Russian national linguistic identity had a significant positive relationship with integration and assimilation attitudes and a negative relationship with separation attitudes. Further, a positive association between ethnic identity and psychological well-being of Russians was detected in the republics of North Caucasus and Azerbaijan. Identification with the dominant ethnic group (national or republican) also contributed to psychological well-being in the republic of North Ossetia-Alania and Azerbaijan, whereas in Kabardino-Balkaria and Georgia religious identity served as such a contributor. In all four contexts (i.e. the republic of North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Azerbaijan, and Georgia) intercultural contacts promoted an increase in the significance of the identification of Russians with dominant ethnic groups. Moreover, in the republic of North Ossetia-Alania and Azerbaijan this identification of Russians served as a mediator in the relationship between intercultural friendly contacts and psychological well-being. The psychological well-being indicators of the dominant groups were related to ethnic identity (in Kabardino-Balkaria and Georgia), religious identity (in Kabardino-Balkaria, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) and republican identity (in the republic of North Ossetia-Alania). Intercultural friendly contacts of the dominant ethnic groups with Russians were positively connected with psychological well-being only in the republic of North Ossetia-Alania and Kabardino-Balkaria.

We also explored the role of perceived inclusiveness of social context in the preferences for different acculturation strategies. Our research showed that the migrants’ evaluation of the social context as inclusive was positively related to the choice of those acculturation strategies that assume acceptance of the dominant group and interaction with it, i.e. assimilation and integration. However, only integration strategy was connected with successful psychological and sociocultural adaptation, while assimilation linked to low life satisfaction. In case migrants perceived the social context as discriminative, they preferred separation. This strategy aimed at minimizing  contacts with the host society and at creating  insularity in the sociocultural environment where migrants from the North Caucasus’ republics felt comfortable. Therefore, successful sociocultural adaptation in such conditions was hindered. Furthermore, intercultural interaction had an important function for the migrants and a positive psychological effect for the host population. According to the results obtained in one of our studies, immersion of the Russian students in foreign cultural environment stimulated their creativity and ethno cultural competence.

Investigating the predictors of hypothetical behavior of Russians in case of imaginary conflict with the North Caucasus’ nations, we confirmed our assumptions about the role of basic values in the choice of conflict behavior strategies with the only exception of the accommodating strategy. The preference for collaboration strategies was related positively to Openness to change and Self-transcendence, and negatively to Self-enhancement. Further, Self-enhancement had a significant positive relationship with competing strategies. As it was expected, Conservation values were positively related to avoidance strategy.

We also studied  various aspects of intergenerational value transmission. In particular, we examined the relationship between intergenerational value transmission and psychological well-being of adolescents from both ethnic majority and minority groups in four different sociocultural contexts. Our results showed that context competitiveness served as a regional determining factor that explained intergenerational value transmission in ethnic minority groups. In ethnic majority groups, religious affiliation produced the same effect. The patterns of the link between value transmission and well-being of adolescents were different among Christians and Muslims.

Additionally, we investigated the role of intra familial social capital in value transmission. Our results allowed us to investigate the influence of intra familial social capital on the transmission of particular values. Specifically, we identified that the most important factors for the transmission of social values were psychological intimacy and parental support. Moreover, parental support was responsible for the transmission of the individualistic value Achievement as well. At the same time, the low magnitude of those components of intra familial social capital was associated with a more stable transmission of other individualistic values: Self-direction – Action and Power – Dominance.

The results of our further research devoted to social capital and social cohesion led us to a variety of interesting conclusions. We investigated the association of social capital, acculturation strategies and successful adaptation of migrants from Central Asia in Moscow. Our results revealed that the most important factor for the successful adaptation of migrants from Central Asia in Moscow was not bridging, but linking social capital. Relations with compatriots and their help also mattered but mainly for economic and partially for psychological adaptation. Further, bridging social capital tended to form negative links with sociocultural adaptation. However, this effect was not statistically significant.

In order to examine the associations between individuals’ psychological characteristics and social cohesion, we used the Social Cohesion Radar database. We found and analyzed relations between social cohesion and various predictors: economic, social, political, and cultural. Furthermore, an interconnection between social cohesion and well-being was revealed.  Our results demonstrated that some correlations (e.g. economic prosperity) might be perceived as universal, while others (e.g. income inequality, political freedom) function differently in Eastern and Asian countries. We assumed that those conclusions depend on the so called “Asian modernization theories” and specific Asian values. The practical significance of our conclusions highlighted that not all political recommendations on strengthening social cohesion can be easily adopted from other cultures.

Degree of implementation, recommendations for implementation, or implementation outcome of the research results. The research results can be used to predict the consequences of socioeconomic and political transformations and develop programs that improve intergroup (interethnic) relations.Further, they can be applied in the social policy sphere to assess the consequences of socioeconomic reforms and optimize migration policies, and in the legal sphere to predict social attitudes toward changes in migration policies. Research results related to value transmission can be utilized in the development of refresher courses for teachers and school psychologists.


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