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Social inclusion in the space of post-socialism: institutions, actors, values

Priority areas of development: sociology

Goal of research

To analyze social inclusion in the context of economic, political, and socio-cultural transformations in the post-Soviet space


Sociological survey, content and discourse analysis of text and visual material, case study, in-depth and semi-structured interviews, observation.   

Empirical base of the study

  • the second wave of the Life in Transition Survey 2010: 35 countries, sample for each country approx. 1110 people;

  • analysis of six cases of public scandals about disability, expert interviews with public persons, journalists, media experts, parents of children with disabilities (N=15), included observation of the Internet school of journalists and content analysis of stories of people with disabilities published on popular Internet resources ("Wonderzine", "Meduza", "Such cases", "Neinvalid.ru", "Miloserdie.ru", 2016-2019), in autobiographical projects ("Medical history" by I. Yasina and "History of one fracture" by E. Voskoboinikova) and publications of social media users and online forums (forum of the site Neinvalid.ru posts in the network Instagram, YouTube vlogs);

  • content analysis of printed materials from two Russian media: 218 articles, including “Russian Newspaper” - 90, “Komsomolskaya Pravda” – 128, the content analysis of textbooks Literary reading for children of migrants and refugees (grades 1-4) published by “Prosveshenie" (2018-19g.);

  • semi-structured interviews with regional administrators of the social sphere, social service providers related to various organizational and legal forms (N=19);

  • a questionnaire survey (May 2020) of parents/guardians of children with disabilities, teachers/psychologists working with children with disabilities, staff of socially oriented NGOs (N=303);

  • a questionnaire survey (April-May 2020) of students of Moscow pedagogical universities (N=77);

  • semi-structured interviews (N=16) with teachers of secondary schools, as well as with curators and teachers of the specialized educational project "Migratory children" (Lyceum "Ark of the XXI century");

  • a questionnaire survey (N=187) and interviews (N=17) with deaf and hard-of-hearing students of secondary educational institutions conducted in 17 localities of the Russian Federation, 4 expert interviews with specialists in the field of professional education of the deaf and hard-of-hearing;

  • open data on the websites of companies from the financial, oil and gas, metallurgical, pharmaceutical and food industries. The analysis involved data from the largest firms in each industry, selected based on the ratings of RBC (RosBusinessConsulting) and DiversityInc (Diversity Inclusion);

  • semi-structured interviews (N=30) with people from Nigeria, Ghana, and Senegal living in Moscow for at least three years;

  • data of the anthropometric survey of children aged 6-18 years in rural regions of the Komi Republic, Murmansk region, Komi-Permyak district of Perm Krai, Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug-Yugra (N=5760).


Consistent and synchronous implementation of the project tasks allowed us to obtain results that reveal the problems of inclusion in the conceptual framework “institutions-actors-values”:

a) Social security and welfare in the post-socialist space. The analysis of the data of the international project Life in Transition confirmed the hypothesis about the mutual enhancement of the effect of formal and informal institutions in the European advanced economies, for countries with economies in transition evidence either in favor of the theory of the crowding out effect nor in favor of the theory of mutual enhancing effect of formal and informal institutions is not found, and in the group of Mediterranean countries the effect of the crowding-out is discovered: the recipients of social benefits in these countries have, on average, lower levels of interpersonal trust.

b) Representation of socially vulnerable groups in the public sphere. Based on the theoretical resources of classical and modern concepts of the public sphere and public scandal, as well as the analysis of expert interviews and cases of resonant discussions around the topic of disability in the Russian media, a new theoretical and methodological approach to the sociological analysis of the category of disability in the modern public sphere has been created and tested. The constructed typology of discussions about disability in the modern public sphere shows that in the rhetoric of state institutions and media discourse, disability is understood through fragmented, rigidly defined definitions. Public organizations, socio-cultural and art projects reveal the potential of" non-conflict "participation of actors of the "grassroots" public sphere in prestigious public spaces, make the boundaries of established dichotomies of public understanding of disability mobile, or radically deny these dichotomies. At the same time, there is a space of "public silence" about phenomena that fall into the zone of double stigmatization. Analysis of the rhetoric and effects of the discussion allowed us to describe strategies for regulating scandals and the repertoire of public reactions.The study of the representation of orphanhood and the processes of deinstitutionalization of child care in the Russian print media allowed us to describe and analyze the differences between publications (Russian Newspaper/Komsomol'skaya Pravda) in the tools used, as well as to trace the dynamics of interest and emphasis in covering the topic of deinstitutionalization of children left without parental care in relation to changes in the general socio-political discourse in the country: from discussing high-profile cases to systemic problems and legislative initiatives, and to implementing new strategies for orphans. Analysis of the representations of the representatives of ethnic and cultural minorities and intercultural interaction in the educational book for children of migrants showed the complementarity of constructed images of those presented in textbooks for children of the host population, and overall adaptability of these images in the model formed by the opposition "guest-host". This observation brings to the level of broader theoretical generalizations, demonstrating the role of "binary pairs" in maintaining of the stable inequality.

c) Inclusive educational space: problems and prospects for the dissemination of inclusive culture and educational practices. The results of the survey "Education for children with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic: an all-Russian study" suggested that there are multiple problems of transition to distance education for families raising children with disabilities, including lack of access to rehabilitation, additional education and assistive technologies for the study and rehabilitation, lagging behind in learning due to inaccessible distance learning technologies, lack of available educational materials and skills to use online technologies, as well as lack of communication, especially with peers, problems with the Internet connection, lack of motivation for classes, problems with concentration and interest, etc. Services are also analyzed, including medical services that were restricted during the pandemic, access to training materials, to the support needed for students with disabilities to continue their education. General assessment of distance learning, time spent on training and the child's response to current circumstances, the quality of learning material for the child, difficulties expected after the end of quarantine measures are also explicated.

The study of educational inclusion of migrant children allowed us to explicate the value-normative attitudes of teachers towards foreign students, as well as to consider a set of issues related to teachers ' ideas about the conditions, prospects and barriers of their professional activities in contexts aimed at adapting migrant children to the conditions of Russian schools and integration into Russian society. The structural barriers are based on the gap between the declared multicultural ideology and the possibilities of educational activities in the real classroom: teachers note the lack of institutional support, primarily in the field of professional training, methodological support and organizational and legal support for teaching activities, feel isolation in their daily work, and therefore they are forced to use situational practices that develop in the course of daily professional activities, insufficiently reflexive and therefore "unpredictable", both for children and parents, and for teachers themselves.

A package of methods was designed and implemented for conducting research on inclusion in educational institutions. The novelty of the proposed research approach is due to the principles of complexity and participation, as well as the inclusion in the target group of not only children with disabilities, but also of other categories of children, which makes the study comparable to major projects implemented in the EU and Eurasia. As of 1.12.2020, 997 parents and 385 teachers participated in the questionnaire survey in Russia, 62 parents and 61 teacher in Armenia, 84 and 6 in Ukraine, and 4 and 43 in Kazakhstan. The field research continues.

d) Inclusive employment. Approaches to sociological analysis. A study of secondary vocational education and employment of young people with hearing disabilities found that there are no mechanisms for institutionalized support for employment of people with disabilities. The introduction of an inclusive education system, the expansion of the list of available professions and other reforms in recent years, on the one hand, open up new opportunities for people with hearing disabilities, and, on the other, require a review of the main approaches to working with this group. The main problem is the narrow corridor of opportunities for choosing a specialty, which is narrowed in some cases artificially due to the desire of colleges to unite all deaf students in one direction, as well as due to the unwillingness of colleges to work with this group. Informants see the presence of an administrative barrier and the need to obtain an individual rehabilitation and habilitation program that defines individual restrictions when applying for a job as problematic. Informants also talk about the low quality of school education, the abolition of benefits, the lack of sign language interpreters, as well as the low level of readiness to work with the deaf and hard of hearing teachers. However, informants attribute the most serious difficulties to the lack of career prospects and mechanisms for institutionalized support for the employment of the deaf through a college or other organizations.

e) Inclusive processes in the context of social sector reforms. Analysis of the Russian specifics of the reform in the sphere of social services in accordance with the Federal low -442 allowed to reveal inter-regional differences in reform, but also political, institutional and economic factors of reform implementation in the regions of the Russian Federation. Elements of both centralist and decentralist views, barriers to compliance by regional leaders with federal requirements in the form of limited institutional resources, as well as ways to overcome these restrictions in the form of increasing the visibility of regions and regional leaders at the Federal level are found. It was found that the process of social services market diversification has the character of social closure: to meet the criteria at the entrance, a "club card" is required, i.e. not only experience, staff qualifications and other basic conditions, but also proof of loyalty to the customer.

f) Discrimination against sub-Saharan African migrants in Moscow. The research allowed us to identify aspects of social and economic discrimination and describe problem areas and prospects for the integration of international migrants into Russian society.

g) Health of rural children in the Northern regions of the Russian Federation in the context of modernization changes. A critical analysis of methods for assessing the nutritional status of children and adolescents was carried out, and the inapplicability of traditional approaches for domestic hygiene based on the use of population average statistical values and indicators of variation was demonstrated. Using the evaluation criteria proposed by the WHO, and in recent years adopted and the Health Ministry of the RF, gave the opportunity to assess the extent and rate of spread of overweight and obesity in children aged 6-18 years from different groups of the rural population of the North of Russia, including the indigenous peoples – the Saami, Khanty, Mansi, and also to carry out a retrospective analysis to evaluate long-term dynamics of nutritional status of indigenous children of the North, in particular to detect a sharp acceleration of negative dynamics in the second decade of the XXI century

The whole range of theoretical, methodological and empirical tasks of the reporting phase of the project was solved, the study of social inclusion and integration of the society inscribed in the field of current Russian and foreign research, new challenges faced by post-socialist countries in the last decade were identified. We also outlined the key research directions, the development of which the next phases will integrate academic experience and in collaboration with partners to offer practice-oriented programmes, aimed at countering these challenges. A variety of used methods of data collection with justification for the methodology both quantitative and qualitative research and the methodology of mixed methods research is inscribed in the current trends of social Sciences and Humanities development, as well as the focus on the principle of participatory approach, the inclusion in the study sample of different social categories of the population of Russia and post-socialist countries and the use of modern methods of mathematical-statistical processing of the data outputs. These characteristics of the implemented approach bring the conducted research to a level comparable to the most prominent works of representatives of the international research community and give the conducted research not only academic novelty, but also practical significance.

Recommendations on implementation of research results

The results of the research can be used in the development of social policy programs, including the field of interethnic relations, health and education, also in the forecasting the consequences of social reforms for vulnerable categories of the population, the predicting the population's attitude to the measures taken and in the evaluating their effectiveness.


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