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Socio-psychological consequences of changes on the post-Soviet space: cross-cultural and cross-regional analysis

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

Project Aim

Examination of the changes in values, identities as well as intercultural, economic, and ecologic attitudes and representations in Russian regions and the post-Soviet space as socio-psychological consequences of economic and socio-political transformations along with their cross-cultural and regional comparison


Social psychological survey was implementedas a main data collection method, whereas the additional methods were in-depth interview, semi-structured interview (including expert interview), quasi-experiment, and secondary open-access data analysis.

Empirical research data

Consists ofsocial psychological survey, interview, and experiment results obtained in various socio-cultural contexts. The variety of samples includes the following sample pairs: two generations of Russians (N=310) and Georgians (N=297) in Georgia, representatives of three family generations in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, represented by109 Russian and 106 Ossetian families (N=645), Russians (N=410) and Germans (N=373) in their own cultural contexts, Latvian Russians (N=109) and Crimean Tatars (N=122). Furthermore, empirical results were obtained using samples of Russians from the Central Federal District (N=225), Russian students (N=272), and Russian citizens (N=395). Migrant data comprised migrants in Russia from Central and Middle Asia, i.e. Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kirgizstan, Kazakhstan (N=122), and Korea (N=136). The research data was expanded by conducted interviews with citizens of Kyrgyz Republic (N=2 000 households, including 6 356 personal interviews) and collection of statistical data in 30 rural areas; interviews with Russian citizens (N=15), and experts in ecology and climate policy and practice (N=10). Moreover, empirical database incorporated online social psychological experiment (N=460) and online factorial experiment (N=137) data; case study, secondary analysis of data previously collected by the ILSCR associates in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, and Tajikistan (N = 1145 Russians), and analysis of the Unified Interdepartmental Informational and Statistical System database for 2016.

Research results

The project included a series of studies carried out within five research tracks.

1. Transforming values and identities in the post-Soviet space

Empirical research aiming at intergenerational comparison of values among Russians and Georgians in Georgia showed the presence of universal intergenerational differences. Therefore, we argued that the transmission of investigated values was successful. Intragenerational value analysis demonstrated value dispersion among older generations and rather high value homogeneity among Georgian and Russian youth. However, we observed a trend of intercultural differences in both generations characterizing Georgians as more “tradition oriented” compared to Russians, while Russians appeared to hold Face and Security values, typical for ethnic and cultural minorities.

As a part of this first research track, we investigated the influence of perceived cultural threat/security on intergenerational value transmission and wellbeing of two cultural groups: Russians and Ossetians in the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. Data analysis indicated differences in the associations of perceived cultural security with intergenerational value transmission and psychological wellbeing among younger generations of Russians and Ossetians. Nevertheless, perceived cultural security within Ossetian youth led to psychological wellbeing by decreasing the transmission of values with social focus and increasing the transmission of values with individual focus. Among Russian youth, perceived cultural security reduced value transmission, and therefore, contributed to self-esteem decline. Moreover, intergenerational value transmission favored the preferences of Russians for acculturation strategies that promote support for one’s own culture (i.e. integration and separation).

In the framework of value transmission, we analyzed various approaches of studying social identity in the post-Soviet space. Hence, our results allowed us to highlight and justify the main theoretical and methodological requirements resulting from the specificity of research fields of changing identities, multiple identities and identity crisis, “normal” and “abnormal” identities, and revival of religious, civic, and regional identities in the former USSR countries.

2. Intercultural attitudes and relations. Adaptation and acculturation of minorities

A research on the role of various intergroup ideologies in maintaining authoritarian and ethnocentric attitudes of Russians revealed some interesting findings. Firstly, assimilationism was positively associated with intergroup ethnocentrism. Secondly, ethnic colorblindness was negatively associated with intra and intergroup ethnocentrism, authoritarian aggression, conventionalism, as well as dominance and anti-egalitarianism. Thirdly, multiculturalism was positively associated with intragroup ethnocentrism and conventionalism. Finally, multiculturalism was negatively associated with intergroup ethnocentrism.

Further, we carried out a cross-cultural comparison of the predictors of behavioral strategies in intercultural conflicts among the majority groups in Russia and Germany. Therefore, obtained results allowed us to justify the necessity to consider intercultural conflicts at various levels, as well as to verify empirically the role of intercultural communication values ​​and concerns in choosing a behavioral strategy in situations of intercultural conflict and in the specific cultural context.

Studying the interrelations between perceived collective continuity and various types of identity and intercultural attitudes of Russian ethnic majority, we obtained new empirical data; in particular, we found that perceived cultural continuity was positively associated with ethnic and civil identities and attitudes towards migrant integration, while perceived historical continuity was negatively associated with civic identity and attitudes of the majority group towards separation.

We were able to identify acculturation profiles of Russians living in four post-Soviet countries (i.e., Azerbaijan, Georgia, Latvia, and Tajikistan) and demonstrate a higher prevalence of separation profile compared to biculturalism profile. Moreover, we obtained very compelling results that question the universality of integration strategy’s effectiveness and successfulness: Russians who had biculturalism (integration) acculturation profile were far less satisfied with life compared to those who had separation profile in some countries.

Findings attained in studying the relations between creativity, acculturation expectations, and multicultural experience of Russian students allowed us to conclude that multicultural experience (i.e., time spent abroad in the past and intensity of intercultural friendships) was positively linked to students’ creativity. Furthermore, integration and separation acculturation expectations (i.e., expectations supporting cultural diversity) were positively associated with creativity, while assimilation and exclusion expectations (i.e., expectations of social environment homogenization) were negatively associated with creativity.

3. Social capital as an adaptation and acculturation mechanism

In a study on the role of bridging and bonding social capital of migrants and its relation with acculturation strategies and sociocultural adaptation we compared migrants from Korea and Central Asia. Thus, we modelled the relation between those two kinds of migrants’ social capital and acculturation strategies and sociocultural adaptation. As a result we found that acculturation strategies were more likely to depend on migrants’ social capital rather that the other way around. Besides, we discovered that acculturation strategies were related to sociocultural adaptation across both groups of migrants in a similar manner, while the effects of social capital on acculturation strategies varied. Bridging social capital turned out to be more important for sociocultural adaptation: Bridging social capital was associated to sociocultural adaptation directly across South Korean migrants and through the integration strategy in Central Asian migrants.

4. Social cohesion and inclusion

The research of interrelations between personal factors and social cohesion at the state level revealed a significant link between high levels of social cohesion and personality traits such as Openness, Conscientiousness, and Agreeableness.

In addition, we studied the relations between attributes of poverty and helping behavior toward individuals of low economic status. Consequently, we concluded that judgments about person’s responsibility for economic insecurity significantly varied depending on the accessible information about poverty reasons and the poor’s behavior types. In those cases when available information referred to dispositional poverty causes and person’s passive behavior, responsibility was attributed to internal factors. Contrariwise, when information referred to situational causes and person’s active behavior, external factors were considered responsible for poverty. 

5. Environmental psychology in cross-cultural perspective

As a part of this research track, we conducted a social psychological analysis of the ecological culture and policy in Russia in the conditions of deteriorating environment. Research results suggest high levels of ecological (biospheric) values and ecological concerns among Russians. At the same time, ecological standards and behavior remained on middle and low levels. The study also displayed that biospheric values, personal standards and ecological concerns served as predictors of ecological behavior. Interviews with citizens showed that Russians sensed acute shortage of ecological and environmental policies and initiatives and considered the necessity to develop separate waste collection and environmental education. Interviews with experts emphasized the need to enhance ecological education as a mean to increase the environmental awareness of the population. 

Studying the role of climate and economic features of all 85 Russian regions in the formation of collectivistic orientations among Russian citizens, we revealed that people were more prone to demonstrate collectivism in more favorable climate conditions rather than in rigorous ones. We also found that the importance of the regional economic well-being in the formation of populations’ collectivistic orientation decreased in more severe climate conditions, whereas in more favorable climate conditions it increased. Moreover, in more congenial climate conditions citizens of economically disadvantaged regions were more likely to develop collectivistic orientation compared to citizens of economically advanced regions. Our findings partly contradict the Theory of climate and economy, and therefore, require further investigation.

Degree of implementation, recommendations as to implementation or implementation outcomes of the research findings

Research findings could be used to predict the outcomes of social, economic, and political transformations and to develop programs of interethnic relations optimization. They are applicable to social policy sphere as they might be used to evaluate the consequences of social and economic reforms and to optimize migration policies. As for the legal and legislative spheres, they could be implemented to predict people’s attitudes towards alterations in migration, economic and ecological policies.


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