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Sociocultural Factors of the Mutual Adaptation of Migrants and the Host Population in Russia's Regions

Priority areas of development: sociology

Research Object: Sociocultural and socio-psychological factors of the mutual adaptation of migrants and the host population.

Research Goal: To study how sociocultural and socio-psychological factors (values, moral norms, religious identity, prejudice, etc.) impact the mutual attitudes of migrants and the host population.

The Empirical Base of the Research consisted of the following data:  a) the ILSCR database of intercultural interaction, collected in 2008-2009 in Moscow and the Southern Federal District (N = 1959); b) empirical data on the acculturation of Russians and Poles in Lithuania, collected in 2012 (N = 273); c) empirical data from a nationwide series of representative surveys conducted in 2008-2012 by the Institute of Sociology, Research Center “Demoscope”, Levada Center, etc; d) content from Internet sites, on which relations between Russians and representatives of the North Caucasus had been discussed; e) materials from the 16 focus groups we conducted in the North Caucasus and the Central Federal Districts.

Research Results:

1. An analysis of the results of the sociological surveys shows that the major portion of migrants in Russian regions consists of representatives of North Caucasian ethnic groups, mostly young adults, who are citizens of Russia and the former Soviet republics. More than one-half of the residents of the Russian Republics of the North Caucasus who intend to migrate are focused on temporary migration (to work or study), but one-third of them are willing to stay in other areas for permanent residence. Migrants from the North Caucasus republics are generally perceived negatively by the ethnic Russian population of of the South and Central Federal Districts. Most ethnic Russians believe that migrants do not respect Russian culture and the Russian lifestyle, deliberately behave defiantly and violate local customs and norms of behavior, and seek to spread their own customs and, ultimately, assume a dominant position in their host regions.

2. An analysis of materials from special online communities (where problems concerning interethnic relations are discussed) showed that users of sites popular with Caucasian youth generally speak negatively about Russians. We traced two tactics for forming an opinion in this case: the first one is a direct negative opinion (“Russians are bad ... that’s why we treat them badly”); the second one is an indirect negative opinion that looks like an attempt to justify their attitude (“Russians treat us badly, so we have to treat them badly too...”). An analysis of materials from similar online Russian communities showed that the host population perceives a so-called “realistic” threat (a perceived threat to welfare, health, and life), and a “symbolic” threat (a threat to Russian culture, Russian norms, and values) coming from the migrants's side.

3. Empirical studies, directly conducted by laboratory staff during the project, showed the following:

3.1. Cultural security, attitudes toward integration, and the frequency of interethnic contacts correlated significantly with ethnic tolerance, a positive attitude toward cultural diversity, and a level of life satisfaction between migrants and the host population.

3.2. Acculturation strategies for representatives of ethnic minorities are related to their individual values and the specifics of intercultural relations, as exemplified by empirical data on Russians and Poles living in Lithuania.

4. Focus groups conducted with Russians and representatives of the North Caucasus in the Moscow and Stavropol regions, revealed that the following factors (according to the respondents’ opinions) impede positive relationships between migrants and the host population:

4.1. Factors that can be attributed to “objective” ones: cultural differences (sex-role relationships, traditionalism, manner of behavior, etc) and characteristics concerning the circumstances of the interaction (the history of relations between the North Caucasus and Russia, the presence of supportive social institutions, the presence of open dialogue platforms, etc). These factors are indicated by both the migrants and the Russians and perceived by them almost equally.

4.2. “Subjective” factors, which differ the most different between migrants and Russians. These factors tend to be constructed on the basis of personal experience and under the influence of socio-political discourse. They include factors that describe subjects of interaction: the specifics of auto- and hetero-stereotypes, attitudes toward religion, perceived discrimination, perceived threats, etc.

Field of Application:

1. The research results may be used to develop special state programmes for assimilating internal and external migrants into Russian society.

2. Adapted and validated on the Russian sample, J. Berry’s questionnaire for researching MIRIPS (Mutual Intercultural Relations In Plural Societies) may be used to conduct sociological and socio-psychological research.

3. The research results may be used to develop training programmes on ethno-cultural competence for migrants and the host population.

4. The research results may be used for teaching courses in social psychology, ethnopsychology, and cross-cultural psychology, as well as for specialized research seminars in the master's programme in Applied Social Psychology, and other HSE master's programmes.


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