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Leokadia Drobizheva

Doctor of History, Head of the Research Center of International Relations, RAS Institute of Sociology

Any society comprised of different elements seeks integration, mutual understanding and consensus among the people who live within the boundaries of the country. Recent speeches by A. Merkel, D. Cameron, D. Medvedev and V. Putin about the policy of multiculturalism have once again proven that different countries are facing issues related migration. There is no doubt that these problems are of great relevance to our country, since public opinion towards migrants arriving in Russia is closely related to attitudes towards the old diasporic groups (Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis who have lived in the Russian Federation for a long time) and can be extrapolated to other nationalities.

Any society comprised of different elements seeks integration, mutual understanding and consensus among the people who live within the boundaries of the country. Recent speeches by A. Merkel, D. Cameron, D. Medvedev and V. Putin about the policy of multiculturalism have once again proven that different countries are facing issues related migration. There is no doubt that these problems are of great relevance to our country, since public opinion towards migrants arriving in Russia is closely related to attitudes towards the old diasporic groups (Armenians, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis who have lived in the Russian Federation for a long time) and can be extrapolated to other nationalities.

In this chapter, the target of the research question is the host population, first and foremost its majority: Russians with their various social and demographic characteristics. The subject matter of this research is attitudes towards migrants and factors that shape these attitudes and orientations.

The problematic situations analyzed in this chapter are related to the extent to which our host society is ready to choose tolerance over mass xenophobia and to the factors that determine the balance between tolerance and intolerance in Russian society.

Various methodological approaches

Attitudes towards migrants are almost never exclusively determined by an encounter with something unknown and unfamiliar. They are shaped by the specific aspirations of stakeholders or interest groups. Myths or other special features, stemming from historic descriptions and accounting for stigmatization between groups, are formed by the forces interested in creating them.

Anatoly Vishnevsky:
The New Role of Migration in Russia’s
Demographic Development

Today, as the federal government attempts to repair the post-conflict situation in Chechnya, Russian citizens no longer see Chechens on television waging war or dancing a mobilizing Zikr dance; they see hardworking Chechens rebuilding Grozny and enjoying melodic, and not at all military-esque,music [1]. Another pattern shows that attitudes towards migrants change in line with the social environment.

The first all-USSR opinion polls showed a “rather low level” of intolerance towards migrants. About 20% of the USSR population demonstrated open intolerance, while 6-12% displayed aggressive ethnophobia. In Russia, these indexes were significantly lower than the all-USSR average. At the end of the last decade of the USSR, migrants were not perceived to be a problem by the general public. The union had not yet disintegrated.

In-flows of migrants were modest: they were mainly victims of earthquakes in Spitak and interethnic conflicts (such as the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict) and clashes (such as those occurring in Central Asia). The host population still believed in the ideologically dominant idea from the Soviet era about the inadmissibility of interethnic hostility. Newcomers were regarded as victims and treated with sympathy.

The situation changed dramatically after the dissolution of the USSR. The secession of republics, national movements that accused Russians as being occupiers, regime changes in the new states, increased ethnic discrimination, and economic chaos in Russia itself all shifted public opinion.

The influence of the overall situation in the country on attitudes towards migrants has not once been witnessed in post-Soviet Russia. As soon as internal difficulties emerge or the frailty of federal or regional government rises to the surface, authorities consolidate the majority by pointing out who the “internal” or “external” enemies are.

Migrants are usually “suitable material” for these motives. This is the case not only in Russia but in other countries as well. At the beginning of the second decade of the 21th century, this was obvious during election campaigns in Russia and in France. Political parties as well as presidential candidates included issues related to strict regulation of immigration in their election campaigns.

In Russia, the ethnic backgrounds of migrants became a problem starting from the first years after the collapse of the USSR, and the reader can see it when reading this chapter. There was a special policy towards Russians who were returning to Russia - they were welcomed as compatriots - whereas people of other nationalities were “different” and, to put it bluntly, many regarded them as “strangers”. A different nationality was added to and combined with the stigmatized image of a “migrant”. Specific stereotypes are in place regarding people of a different culture and lifestyle. And one particular phenomenon discovered long ago in research both abroad and in Russia argues that when the majority - and in Russia, this is mainly the Russians - have economic difficulties, the minorities are to blame for social mobility, access to limited resources and goods. They are basically made “scapegoats”. Therefore, when analyzing attitudes towards migrants, it is essential to always look at the current socioeconomic state in the host population and its identity.

The notion of identity will appear several times in this chapter. What is meant here is the ethnic identity of the receiving majority - the Russians and migrants of different identities. This notion is ambiguous. In various social sciences that use this concept (such as sociology and psychology), ethnic identity is believed to be self-identification with a group and the image of one self - an auto-stereotype.

Sociologists and ethnologists use this notion in an even broader sense, not only as self-identification and as a stereotype (kind, hospitable, patient, etc.), but also as a vision of the language, culture, history, territory, interests, and emotional attitudes towards them and to a certain extent –the readiness to act in the name of these interests.

Apart from ethnic background, the existing state-national identity (the identity of a political nation) has an influence on the attitude towards migrants. In countries such as France and Great Britain, this type of identity is called civic identity. But in Russia this identity is only now taking shape and,according to some research [2], given the situation in our country, it is more appropriate to speak about state-civic identity, or the identity of the Russian Federation.

This identity is usually defined as the ability of the population to take responsibility for the state of affairs in the country, a readiness to act in the name of their interests, trust towards others, participation in politics, and a sense of solidarity. There are no naturally impenetrable walls between state identity and civic identity, and most importantly - our compatriots do not always distinguish the two. That is why the notion of state-civic identity is often used.

The identity of the Russian Federation as well as the Russian identity, the Armenian identity, the Azerbaijani, Kirgiz, Tajik, Ukrainian identities and identities of other nationalities can be normal (a positive image of one’s own people and other peoples) and blown out of proportion (an aggrandized image of one’s own people and negatively stigmatized image of others). The identity where others are regarded as hostile is referred to as a negative identity. This is this identity linked to malevolent attitudes to migrants. It is this identity that contributes to migrants being perceived not only as people who have come to a country, a city or a village, but as people of a different identity, not only “aliens” but “strangers”, migrants of another ethnicity, or a national minority.

Janna Zayonchkovskaya:
Migration in Modern Russia

The notion of a national minority has undergone many changes throughout different historic periodsin our country. In pre-revolutionary Russia, it had a pejorative meaning of an “ethnic person” (“natsmen” in Russian). The Soviet authorities borrowed this concept and the notion itself from the public sphere. In Soviet times, the concept of national identity, if it was used at all, had a quantitative meaning. It is not surprising that Soviet researchers wrote reports about the peoples of the North for international conferences devoted to problems of minorities, whereas their colleagues asked questions about the fate of the Ukrainians and Georgians. The fact is that scientists all over the world using the term national or other kinds of minorities most often are referring to groups that are discriminated against and not the groups comprised of fewer members. In the post-Soviet era, this notion was revived, but in everyday life it is used both to speak about an ethnic group that consists of fewer members and to define a group that requires assistance and protection from discrimination.

A normal positive identity of the host population is key to friendly attitudes towards migrants. On the contrary, a negative identity is linked to hostile feelings towards others. It is no coincidence that negative attitudes to migrants began appearing itself precisely at the time when the crisis of Russian identity and identity of the Russian Federation started at the beginning of the 1990s. It had to do with the loss of the previous Soviet identity, the collapse of the USSR, a critical reevaluation of the past, and changes in territorial boundaries as well as forms of government and values, which for many were accompanied by a loss of dignity and traditional forms of solidarity.

A negative ethnic and civil identity is a foundation for nationalism and its aggressive manifestations. In the Soviet past, nationalism was perceived as negative and hostile attitudes to other nationalities, as ethnic egoism. It was condemned by official propaganda and by society. In other countries and in Russia today, nationalism is believed to be a more sophisticated phenomenon. It has many definitions, but the definition accepted by almost all of the “classic authors” writing about this topic is the following:

  • Recognition of the existence of an entity such as a nation (ethnic nation) that has special features;
  • A claim that its interests and values are superior to those of others;
  • The ideas that the nation has to have as much political independence as possible.

If we speak about nationalism of the majority, this aspiration usually takes the form of demands to make political decisions that take into consideration the interests and wishes of the majority and that deny others access to privileges and resources. According to E. Gellner who developed a comprehensive theory, nationalism is a political principle that requires that the boundaries of a national community and boundaries of a state coincide [3].

Nationalism can have different types: political, when ideas of political independence (secession) are dominant, for example in Northern Ireland, in the radical wing of the Basque nationalists, among the Estonian and Lithuanian nationalists during the last years of the Soviet power; economic nationalism which refers to how natural resources are used economically; and cultural nationalism where the main demands are aimed at protecting language and cultural identity. There can be other types of nationalism as well.

Nationalism can also take different forms. There can be aggressive, radical forms that result in armed clashes and activities aimed at expelling people of those nationalities regarded as hostile or forcing them to move.

In some cases ,these may be the actions of the majority against certain minorities. In other cases, this can emerge as regional separatism. Such actions are aimed against members of a dominant community as what happened, for example, in the case of radicalized people from Karabakh feeling resentment towards the Azerbaijanis.

Political nationalism manifests itself in passing discriminatory laws against minorities, including migrants of different nationalities. But it can also manifest itself in the form of ideological, cultural and finally psychological influence. Pressure on people of other nationalities is often exerted psychologically in everyday life: they are not allowed to rent property or they are not accepted into educational or medical facilities. This phenomenon is called ethnic negativism; if it is nurtured and guided by the ideas of ethnic dominance, the threat of “dissipation” of the cultural majority, the disturbance of an ethnic balance (the Russian language can no longer be heard on the streets) and particularly of the gene pool in cases of mixed marriages, then scientists and political journalists call this phenomenon cultural racism. Cultural racism is a phenomenon that is not equal to nationalism since nationalism is an ideology, a policy and a social practice at the same time. Cultural racism most often manifests itself in ethnic negativism and ethnic resentment.

In this regard, we should clarify how the term xenophobia is used. Instinctive xenophobia may be a subconscious, irrational, and social reflex (T. Luckmann) that is determined by “archaic models regulating the life of a society” assome psychologists believe [4]. “Xenophobia from below” is regarded as a reflexive fear of what is unknown and alien. However, another level of xenophobia appears when this reflex is accompanied by ideological ideas. B. Cilevičs, a researcher who often deals with practical aspects, argues that “xenophobia from above” i.e. an ideology of fear and hostility - uses “xenophobia from below” but it is evident that the reflexive reactions of “underlying fear” are also being regulated. They can be mitigated by clarifications, education, and condemnation of others and on the contrary, they can become the “construction material” for the “ideology of hatred”. Such an ideology and beliefs do not appear out of nowhere. P. Bergerand, T. Luckmann, authors of the concept of constructivism, wrote precisely about it in the following way: “a construct of ideologists is a construction of constructs” [5].

Social scientists have taken notice of a special situation within empires; for the purposes of discussion, this societal feature can be called an “empire syndrome” when there is no threat or real danger coming from ethnic separatism, but the “defense reaction” is still present in the ideology and ideas of the majority afraid of losing their status and resources.

Politicians who pass laws that spur interethnic resentment and those who develop ideologies are to blame. That is why it is necessary to keep in mind that the term “xenophobia” should be used when speaking about so-called “grassroots xenophobia”. As for feelings towards migrants, it is more reasonable to use the word ‘attitude’, which can be positive, neutral or negative. The extreme manifestation of the latter are hostile feelings.

The notion used to describe a positive attitude to migrants is tolerance. Some of our compatriots perceive it as a foreign word and believe it is translated as “patience”. But in this case the notion of tolerance acquires another meaning.

Because of the adoption of the UNESCO Declaration on Tolerance, this word started to be used in public politics, and people of some nationalities said in plain terms - “we have tolerated things for a long time”, and if this word is tolerance, it should not be used in order to guide people.

Meanwhile tolerance is a readiness to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from one’s own even if one does not agree with them.

In democratic countries, tolerance is believed to be a norm of the civil society. It guarantees a person’s right to be different, as well as creates conditions for the normal coexistence of different confessions, cultures, social, ethnic and political groups. Tolerance is not perceived as love for each and every one. It means a readiness to understand and organize a conflict-free interaction with people of different language, culture, beliefs and looks. Intolerant attitudes towards people from different cultures are called cultural racism. Tolerance is a precondition for integration in multiethnic societies. It is important both for the host population and for the migrants who arrive.

Readiness to accept “foes” as “friends”: how it changed and what it is based on

We can identify two periods in the evolution of attitudes towards migrants. The first one relates to the last years of the USSR and the first years of existence of newly independent Russia. When describing this period, the author specially emphasizes its features: “a rather low level of ethnic intolerance” (more than half of the population condemned ethnic resentment and “offensive assessment of qualities of different peoples”), and attitudes towards migrants had not yet posed a problem to society in general. Another important feature: “the ethnic background of a migrant was not a problem at that time” (18% considered it necessary to only accept people of the same nationality back then), they were still regarded as “single people” and not thousands. Those were mainly refugees and people displaced from conflict zones.

Data from the Levada Center in 1992 (All-Union Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) at that time) showed that the situation was changing. Migrant in-flows were growing. The motives for migration were changing (as is also shown in other chapters), and the state of affairs in the host society was also changing.

The Russians, being the majority of the collapsed Soviet Union, suffered most because of erosion of the “Soviet identity”. Moreover, the social identity of many people disappeared or changed as well (in order to provide educational opportunities for their children, doctors and teachers became “suitcase traders”, while scientists worked in trading and could acquire a fortune within a month). Professionals, who used to be respectable members of society, became people who regarded themselves as those who “could barely make ends meet”. In a situation of crisis and disorganization, archaic (some call them primordial) bonds and ethnic and local identities were revived. “…Emphasis on one’s own or another ethnic background gradually becomes a routine manifestation of social and group barriers, collective privileges, rights and claims”. These ideas about collective rights, claims of privileges become the social factors that shape mass xenophobia regarding migrants of other nationalities.

The Russians are used to being the “older brother” - that is how representatives from other republics used to call them during Congresses of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, meetings of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union and in the press. In their perception, “the man is the owner of his vast Motherland” (over 80% believed that the USSR was their Motherland; these numbers were lower only in the Baltic States). But now, as it turned out, the man was not the owner of all the Motherland, and people from different republics that seceded were laying claims to be a part of the Motherland. Few people realized back then that not all the republics were in favor of secession, in any case not Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan - countries where the exodus of migrants started and who were the first to be attributed the image of being “black”. Migrants coming from Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan were not avid proponents of independence.

However, the composition of immigrants also became a source of developing social “fears”. “People driven mainly by economic interests headed for Russia”, - argues Lev Gudkov. As J. Zajonchkovskaya rightfully noted, in Soviet times people who stayed on in the Russian Federation were those who came there to study and having created a family or received a job offer, settled down; some stayed there after the military service and integrated into the receiving environment. Today the situation has changed. Possibilities for entrepreneurship and trade, as well as employment in the service sector, small industry, and private construction all appeared in Russia. At the same time, limitations dealing with the registration of official residence were lifted, while restrictions on employment recruitment and the purchase of residential property were removed. The nature of migration was changing. Economic interests became the driving force behind it.

Some were concerned with the mere problem of survival; others wanted to escape unemployment and upon arrival to Russia hoped to save enough money for themselves and their families; yet others found opportunities for starting a business or found a place in developing the service sector. Having studied the labor activities of migrants in Moscow, we have discovered that starting from the late 1990s, migrants most often landed in the service sector, taking jobs even in construction where many newcomers were traditionally employed. But it is in the service sector and in trade that the host population most often encountered migrants and they did not always have positive impressions from it. After all, migrants took up roles of sellers, restaurant owners, small shop owners and cleaners who are often people with whom people have legal difficulties.

Opportunities to provide permanent residents with guaranteed social advantages were not greater. Cultural factors started to play a more important role. In research done by ethno-sociologists, we have often come across different attitudes towards the status of those working in trade and the perceptions of the hierarchy of professions among Russians and Caucasians or Central Asians. The majority of migrants agreed to any job they could find, were grateful for the little they had, tried to live as close as possible to one another, cooperated and helped one another. Their ability to adapt and stick together in markets and in the construction sector caused concerns and discontent. Besides, given that the majority of migrants were young, success-oriented and ready to take risks, many of them often gained recognition. They used support from their family and their clan, especially those who earned enough to become wealthy. Thus, the host population regarded them as “successful players” and rivals. Even though there were in reality few such people, they stood out in the restaurant business, in the hotel business, and in trade. The local population believed these spheres to be lucrative. For the host population, however, it was more difficult to make a living in the new fields of activity. They suffered from a loss of recognition of their low-paid work and from financial difficulties. In the labor sphere, cultural peculiarities were intertwined with psychological ones.

Even unqualified Russians used to feel more “privileged” in some way. Moreover, there was respect for their labor - “the working class is the driving force of society” - but now these slogans were no longer broadcast on radio and television. Qualified specialists also felt at a loss. Education was losing its value in the 1990s. Idle brokers could become part of the “Russian nouveau-riche” in two or three months. Young people made more money working in small trade than teachers or doctors. Strong resentment set in because of lost hopes following “perestroika” and illusions about the future of new Russia. These exacerbated feelings of possession and fears of the population being controlled by “foes” - the migrants.

We must note that not only power and natural wealth should be perceived as a resource, but also jobs and social values rooted in cultural traditions. An example might be the place of “my people” in the hierarchy of social groups, or the “popular depiction of my people” (there is good reason for researchers to point out that the Russians will not agree to their nation being renamed an ethnic community, that is why some do not approve of the term “the nation of the Russian Federation.”They believe that the nation should be the Russians). The motherland of one’s ancestors can also constitute such a value, according to data of the Levada Center and opinion polls conducted by our Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The feature of the migrants that is most resented by the host population is that “they behave as if they were the masters of our land”, as 63% of the respondents acknowledged in opinion polls conducted by the Institute of Sociology in 2011 [6]. Other quotes include: “They are everywhere, there are too many of them”, “they are foes, they have a strange and odd lifestyle, they speak a foreign language”.

When considering social and psychological factors that determine attitudes towards migrants, it is necessary to mention the significance of mechanisms of social perception. Amid tensions, including tensions emanating from interethnic interaction (we have witnessed this vis-à-vis migrants starting from the 1990s), positive emotional attitudes are shifted towards one’s own group (in this case, towards citizens of the Russian Federation, or the Russians). Information begins to be perceived in another way: the negative features of “one’s own group” and the positive features of migrants are disregarded.

Ideas about interethnic differences are gaining traction: former friendly relations and cooperative victories are forgotten, while cultural differences, previous ingratitude and old stereotypes are recalled. The return of characterizations of Caucasians by political writers and poets serves as a vivid example.

The extrapolation of negative qualities is unacceptable to one’s own people to any other nation. It was Ivanov who started the riot, but it was a Caucasian who beat up a boy next door.

People believe that their misfortunes stem not from their own mistakes or miscalculations, but from the actions of hostile external forces, which in our case are migrants. As a result, the so-called mechanism of attributional inversion (transposition) comes into play: peoples who were regarded as “fraternal” in the recent past are perceived as “the ones trying to overrun the country”, or as “aliens” [7].

Psychological factors behind attitudes to migrants are closely linked to historic factors, which contribute to maintaining a certain level of tolerance.

Russia developed as a state that annexed territories. This is grounded in the so-called national colonization of neighboring nations, when territories were annexed because the inhabitants of the central provinces of Russia or entrepreneurs were looking for an easy life or escaping unbearable taxes by moving to these lands. Russia annexed some territories which voluntarily chose to join the empire, while other lands were conquered.

Russia was an empire with internal colonies. Although the fundamental identity in the Soviet Union, as we have already pointed out, was the Soviet identity, as the identity of 80% of citizens of the USSR , the USSR also inherited the historic memory of the Russian empire. Besides if we consider reality and not just declarations, few could believe that the structure of relations between the government and its citizens was constructed in such way that the state would serve the people and not vice versa, which is one of the key features of an empire. It is important that citizens of the new Russia have usually regarded themselves as successors of the former state.

This is why to a certain extent (most often in a latent form), the imperious attitude towards migrants from the neighboring states, i.e. the former USSR republics, has remained. This can be proven by the fact that attitudes to migrants (those supposedly causing “irritation”) in regions with a Russian majority is worse than in more multiethnic Russian republics. According to data from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences entitled “20 Years of Reforms as Seen by Citizens of the Russian Federation,” in 2011 68% openly admitted that they “felt irritation or resentment towards people of certain nationalities” [8]. Meanwhile according to our data, 36-40% of the population of Sakha Republic, Bashkortostan and Tatarstan shared this point of view. The viability of the empire syndrome is sustained by traditional images propping up the identity of the host society. The pragmatist orientations of migrants from the so-called periphery (even though not all of them manage to win a place in the privileged strata), their orientation towards success, and their desire to become equals is perceived in public opinion as a disruption of the customary hierarchy for the majority in relation to ethnic communities (“they are the periphery, the outskirts, we have always helped them”, “they used to be the periphery of the empire”). Unfortunately, we rarely notice the archaic features our own daily behavior but we can easily identify them in migrants.

Maybe the historic experience of cohabitation of Russians with other nationalities plays an important role in different republics. We have studied the municipal district of the resort city of Sochi, which is an area with a considerable influx of migrants from different nationalities. Russians are the majority there as well, but historically were not indigenous to these territories; neither were Ukrainians, Armenians or Greeks. These groups settled there after the Tsarist government expelled the indigenous population - the Ubykhs, the Saza and the Shapsugs - after the end of the Caucasian war in 1864. The major ethnic groups cannot claim to be indigenous or their historically inherent rights. Over the years, everyone tried to live amicably. Among newcomers are many Armenians, as well as some Georgians, Abkhaz, Chechens and members of other North Caucasian ethnic groups. The interesting thing is that 76% of Russians and 89% of people of different nationalities (in 2008) agreed with the statement that “anyone is entitled to come to Sochi in order to live and work there”. 80% of Russians did not agree with the statement that Sochi should be closed off and no migrants should be allowed in. We know that in Moscow and Saint-Petersburg, over 60% are ready to support radical measures to deny the right of entry to migrants and the idea of deporting people of certain nationalities. According to data from the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 2001, 59% shared this opinion.

It is natural that people of different ethnic backgrounds who live in Sochi have certain rivalries, but they are equal rivals who count only on their own ability to earn money and find strength in their own profession (66-70%). They have little hope that the state will support them (15-12%). They have almost the same level of satisfaction with work and conditions for professional growth. All of this does not mean that there are no conflicts with migrants. 54% of Russians and 40% of people of different nationalities experience competition in the employment sphere and believe that “migrants get the best jobs.”But this is not a symptom of the empire syndrome. Locals do not believe that they have special privileges. The situation in Sochi, where the Russians interact with and assist a significant part of population of different nationalities in successfully adapting, disproves the concept of “destructive proportions of representation of population of different nationalities” and the so-called “balance of representation of different nationalities”.

The historic experience of interactions to a certain degree determines attitudes to specific groups of migrants. The image of unwelcome migrants is most often attributed to newcomers from the North Caucasus republics and in practice, Chechens first and foremost fall under this category. This is the result of conflicts in the 1990s and early 2000s and historic memory of the Caucasian wars and repressions of the Stalin era. The Chinese, who are feared as well (73% believed so in 2005), have been for a long time believed to be aspiring to take over the Far East territories of Russia. Obviously there are historically entrenched perceptions of compatibility or non-compatibility of cultures that mostly target newcomers from Central Asia.

Undoubtedly, both historic memory and perceptions of cultural differences lose importance or regain it under the influence of notions elaborated by regional or central governments.

The political regime in a country, as in its openness and upholding of universal and civil rights in society, usually has a significant impact on interethnic relations related to migrants. “A society free of xenophobia is a utopia of a profoundly closed and isolated island community… However the scope of xenophobia and its role in the life of a society can be very different”. There is less xenophobia in societies where after the collapse of an empire, an ideology and migration policy are developed which are aimed at sustaining a united civil society with a common history, common interests and values shared by all the inhabitants of the country. In totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, xenophobic ideas are more often used by authorities in order to achieve national consolidation, and in this case both external and internal forces could be regarded as “foes”.

Democratic societies are also not free of isolationist ideologies and negative perceptions in the population. The example of the success of the French right wing serves is one example. Everyday ethnic negativity and even Nazism is constrained, among other things, by the use of repressive methods, even in authoritarian societies in order to demonstrate the necessary unity or the success of the ruling elites. The difference is that in a civil rights based society, there are non-governmental organizations helping to vocalize moods of protest, and authorities engage in a dialogue in order to clear up problematic situation.

Creating an ideology of a “common home” also plays its role in nation-building. We received unsatisfactory data from the above-mentioned research of the Institute of Sociology. In 1995, 65% shared the opinion that “Russia is a common home for many peoples”, “all peoples of Russia should have equal rights and no-one is to have any advantages over the others”. In the 2000s, this number fell to 61% in 2001 and to 47% in 2011. This said, the number of those who believe that “Russia is a multiethnic country but as the majority, Russians should have more rights” increased from 14% in 1995 to 31% in 2011, and the number of those who believe that “Russia should be a country for the Russian people” today amounts to 45% (25% in 1995).

Data from the Levada Center and the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences conclusively demonstrate the popularity of isolationism in its “mild forms” among well-educated groups, which is even a little higher than among less-educated groups (the lower social strata). However, zero tolerance of different forms of negativity towards migrants is also more frequent among high-status groups. A more complex negative attitude to the idea of a common home can also be found in big cities.

There is no doubt that trying to define isolationism using questions about people’s attitudes to the motto of the Congress of Russian Communities “Russia for the Russians” reflects general trends, but does not take into account different meanings ascribed to the slogan. An examination of opinion polls about popular understanding of the slogan has shown that respondents frequently comprehend this motto in the following ways: “Russians live in Russia, and that is the reason this motto exists”, “yes, Russian resources should be used for the sake of the Russian citizens and not bureaucrats”, “we live in the periphery but the majority of Russians live in the center and undoubtedly Russia is first and foremost for them”. This motto was often understood as describing remoteness or the independence of republics and regions (Kaliningrad, for example). During one opinion poll, in Moscow we asked respondents to give their opinion about the statement that “Russia is only for the Russians”, and back then fewer respondents agreed with it. Their number was approximately the same as that obtained by the Levada Center when its specialists asked respondents whether the Russians should receive privileges in applying for employment or entering an educational establishment (20-40%, but not more than 50% as was the case with responding to the statement “Russia is for the Russians”).

Citizens who believe that “Russia is a common home for many peoples” have a more loyal attitude to migrants. Among them, 30% fewer people have resentful feelings towards those of different nationalities. They are also less inclined to believe that violence is admissible “even if justice regarding their own people is violated” and among them, there are fewer people who would approve of involuntary displacement of people of certain nationalities. The number of the latter reaches over 40% according to research from 2011. Russia is one of the countries that is more ready to adopt severe measures towards migrants. Hungary, Portugal and Spain have a similar or an even worse attitude to migrants than that in Russia [9].

But if our home is “half open” to newcomers, then what do its inhabitants think about how newcomers should live in it? What type of inclusion in our society can our state offer? What are Russian citizens likely to support?

What integration model is Possible in Russia

It is widely known that J. Berry has identified the following ways of including migrants into a society: assimilation, segregation, separation, marginalization and integration. Assimilation suggests that migrants renounce their culture, habits, traditions and everyday practices of public behavior and accept the norms and values of the majority. However, few researchers note that the strategy for assimilation itself can vary. In some cases, the receiving environment is ethnically homogenous (newcomers account for just 5-8%, for example in Armenia). In other cases, the host society is ethnically and culturally heterogenic. In this case, a relevant layer of the receiving culture, most often built on the basis of the prevailing group, is formed. And migrants are incorporated into this very culture.

The US model of a “melting pot,” an officially declared strategy until it was replaced by the strategy of integration on the basis of multiculturalism after ethnic and racial clashes in 1960-s and 1970-s, is the second type of assimilation strategy, albeit with some provisions. The everyday behaviors of ethnic groups combine and form new cultural models. However migrants’ traditions can remain, for example within the family. Society becomes diversified and ethnic groups, including the acculturated migrants, adapt to a broader social environment in which they live [10].

Under a state assimilation strategy, a host population expects newcomers to accept their new society’s habitual norms of behavior and does not tolerate aspirations of parity, let alone segregation.

France is one example of this assimilation strategy. This strategy is based on a historic tradition of shaping the society that exists in the country. Nevertheless even in France, the policy of adapting migrants especially of different cultures (for example, Jews, Germans, or migrants from the Maghreb) has varied across different historic periods, although from the time of the French Revolution, the only policy that has been officially declared is that of a recognition of a civic identity.

Photo: DAPD / David Hecker
Natalia Bolshova:
German non-profit organizations to help migrants

The process of adaptation is the most multidimensional within the cultural sphere, but the key factor is of course mastering the language of the majority. It is no coincidence that the naturalization process begins with programs aimed at mastering the language in every country. This strategy of assimilation suggests that ethnic minorities master the host’s language not only in order to get a job, but because they wish to gain access to information broadcast on television and radio and wish to join the social networks of the majority. Societal orientations and even the preferences of migrants themselves are not always reflected in the real-life linguistic practices. First generation migrants obviously face a language barrier that hinders acculturation even if the migrants seek to learn it themselves. Naturally, migrants’ motives for studying the language can be instrumental and integrative. They are undoubtedly instrumental when the migrants are looking for a job, but if the migrants study the language in order to better understand the majority, their motives become integrative.

Of course cultural adaptation cannot be confined to the linguistic sphere. It also includes an internalization of the norms, principles and values of the host society, which manifest themselves in business activities, in the non-productive sphere and in the political culture (for example, participation in elections, organizing public manifestations, and volunteering).

The assimilation strategy suggests that during the process of acculturation, migrants may eventually lose their former ethnic identity. Migrants identify themselves either with the dominant group or with a state and civic community. The strategy for integration is profoundly different. Integration suggests that migrants wish to become a part of the host society and that this society has a strategy aimed at cooperating with and accepting people of different cultures. Over the course of integration, mutual adaptation takes place: migrants who maintain their cultural diversity adapt to the host majority and the majority itself adapts to the new segment of the society.

When defining the process of integration, it is reasonable to use the term adaptation and not adjustment. Adjustment suggests only external changes in people’s behavior to fit with the norms of the environment that is perceived as an economic resource. For example, these may include norms of the legal culture and behavior that is controlled by the surrounding majority while the initial migrant’s culture remains the inner priority.

The integration model of adaptation suggests that migrants accept and make the norms and values of the host society their priority while this society accepts the identity of those migrants who wish to maintain elements of their first identity that do not violate the rights of others. The regulation of needs and motivations, knowledgeable behaviors, and actions that “best serve the interests of the stakeholders” play a key role in the process of adaptation [11].

J. Berry who contributed significantly to the creation of a typology of models of adaptation of migrants believes that integration is the search of people who seek inclusion into a new society of the most useful elements in the “receiving and domestic” culture. By accepting the main values and behavioral patterns of the new culture, an individual creates strong ties with its representatives [12].

Acculturation is less strict in this model; it can be combined with a positive ethnic identity of the newcomer (i.e. the absence of hostile attitude towards others) that can be added to the civic, state identity and in some cases to the identity of the majority (multiple identities).

Multiple identities are a natural phenomenon. No one with several roles at the same time suffers from an internal conflict: those of children and parents who identify themselves with their family, as well as people who identify themselves with others of a similar profession. Problems appear when a social value is attributed to one of the identities. If you are not hired because you are a woman or have the wrong ethnic background, if you are an immigrant and you are not allowed to rent an apartment etc.: these cases exemplify the so-called “identity inconveniences”.

A more complicated situation takes place if migrants are acculturated not in accordance with the adaptation model, but are merely adjusting to the environment and perceive it as an economic resource. In this case, their initial culture remains a priority for the newcomers and there are various possible types of interaction that have been observed in many countries: separation (for example, the “Jewish settlements”) and segregation (Afro-American ghettos). It is important to make a distinction between the two and at the same time, it is necessary to understand that they themselves can take various forms.

Until recently the Russian government had the policy of “In Rome do as the Romans do”. In 2008, V. Putin urged migrants to assimilate, most probably meaning that they had to first and foremost acculturate. Targeted steps aimed at organizing the process of teaching Russian to migrants have been taken recently.

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At the same time, integration is historically customary for our country’s model of adaptation, i.e. specific steps are taken in order to promote understanding and accepting the influence of a different culture in society. The easiest aspect in this regard is food: restaurants and cafes with ethnic decorations and music fit in well into the scenery of Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities. The acceptance of unfamiliar behavioral norms is much more difficult. It is sufficient to recall the reaction of Muscovites to gatherings around mosques during Muslim religious holidays and to people dancing lezghinka on the main squares of Moscow.

We do not want to follow Europe’s steps and accept multiculturalism as an official policy in order to prevent the migrants from living in their own closed communities. However we cannot but accept cultural diversity as a norm of life in our society.

Accepting this diversity is obviously inevitable in our country. Historically Russia has developed as a multiethnic country, and there are millions of people who are more than representing those nationalities after which republics are named - there are Ukrainians, Georgians, Byelorussians and people of other nationalities who have lived in Russia for generations. Newcomers bring additional value and impassable boundaries should not be created between them; migrants adapt and many of them will become the citizens of our country. Our society is most of all prepared for the adaptation model of integration, although this is not an easy path.


1. Broadcast of the «Channel one» from Grozny, 02.06.2012.

2. The identity of the Russian Federation and tolerance in interethnic relations: the experience of 20 years of reforms // Bulletin of the Kennan Institute. Issue No. 20. 2011. P. 22–34.

3. Gellner E. Nations and Nationalism. Moscow, 1991.P. 23.

4. MuravievА. Xenophobia from an instinct to ideas // Otechestvennye Zapiski. 2004. № 4. P. 17.

5. InterviewwithProfessorThomasLuckmann // The Journal of Sociology and Social Anthropology. Vol. V. 2002. № 4. P. 7–8.

6. 20 years of reforms as viewed by the citizens of the Russian Federation. Мoscow, 2011. С. 226.

7. On the socially perceptive mechanisms in the situations of interpersonal and intergroup tensions ref. to Herron W. Development of the Ethnic Unconscious // Psychoanalytic Psychology, 1995. № 12 (2). Р. 513–520; Soldatova G. Psychology of interethnic tensions. Moscow: Smisl, 1998. P. 160–161. C. Jung wrote about the importance of eliminating mutual projections.

8. Researchwasbasedonanall-Russian sample, but it was conducted in the regions with the mostly Russian population // 20 years of reforms as viewed by the citizens of the Russian Federation/ Under the editorship of M. Gorshkov, R. Krum, V. Petukhov. Moscow, 2011.P. 226.

9. Data from the European Social Research 2006–2010.

10. Giddens A. Sociology. 2 edition. Moscow: Editorial URSS, 2005.

11. WeberM.Thefundamental concepts of Sociology // West-European sociology in 19th - early 20th century. Moscow, 1996.P. 461, 462, 482.

12. Berry J., Poortiga Y., Segall M., Dasen P. Op. cit. P. 306.

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