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Multiculturalism aids the development of Russian society

The broader the ethnic diversity, the greater the level of tolerance to people from other cultures. Multiculturalism has a positive effect on societal development in Russian regions. This is evidenced by research into the relationship between heterogeneity and socio-psychological capital of personality, that was carried out by Leading Research Fellow at the International Scientific-Educational Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Research Alexander Tatarko. The report was presented at the XVI April International Academic Conference.

The socio-psychological capital of the personality is a new concept in contemporary social psychology, including indicators such as micro-social and macro-social trust, tolerance regarding cultural diversity, expressions of civic identity and social support from friends and relatives. Essentially, it forms the psychological basis of society’s social capital.

Research indicates that it is characterised by an inequal distribution in polycultural societies, Tatarko notes in his report, presented at the XVI April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development.

A state’s cultural diversity can have an impact on the socio-psychological capital of the personality, he argues. For Russia, as for any multi-ethnic state, this is a particularly acute issue. In order to better understand how ethnic diversity correlates to the socio-psychological capital of the personality, Alexander Tatarko carried out research into Russia’s regions. The results were published in a new monograph on The Socio-Psychological Capital of the Personality in a Polycultural Society (Tatarko, 2014), and in the upcoming preprint “Does Ethnic Diversity Affect Social Capital in the Russian Context?”

The basis for this research was a 2012 psychological survey and data from the latest census (2010). This survey was carried out in 25 districts of two Russian federal regions – the Central and North Caucasus, and involved 2,061 respondents.

Cultural diversity and social capital

The hypothesis that socio-psychological capital can be influenced by cultural diversity is based on academic research into the theory of social capital, focusing on migration, cultural diversity and social capital. However there is no single view on this among academics. Researcher Robert Putnam argues that immigration significantly slows social integration. He writes that ethnic diversity destroys social capital, by lowering trust in the government, and social and volunteer activity among citizens.

Putnam’s idea is that in an ethnically diverse society there are fewer people with whom an individual can identify and in whom he trusts. Consequently, social links are weakened. However, there is an alternate view. ‘Putnam’s theory comes down to the fact that the majority of his empirical research is based on data collected in North America and, therefore, these results have limited applicability in other geographies. Second, similar studies have been carried out that did not confirm this North American data: no correlation between social capital and the level of cultural diversity was found. And then I became interested – what is it like here? Alexander Tatarko said. ‘Russian society is polycultural, therefore there is an outstanding field for carrying out this kind of research.’

As an originally polycultural society, Russia is the second country, after the United States, in terms of the number of immigrants, Tatarko’s report states. Analysing how this ethnic diversity impacts social-psychological capital should serve to help foster understanding of the development prospects for Russian society.

Heterogeneity as a stimulus for social development

The research results demonstrated that cultural diversity has a statistically negligible impact on some indicators relating to socio-psychological capital of the personality. For example, regarding trust and civic identity. However, the researchers established that ethnocultural heterogeneity exerts a statistically significant and positive influence on ethnic tolerance as an indicator of the socio-psychological capital of the personality. Therefore, the more ethnically diverse a society, the greater its tolerance to members of other cultures.

Alexander Tatarko also highlights the positive impact of polyculturalism. ‘It involves the mutual enrichment of cultures, raised social competition, social development as a result of the successful overcoming of inter-cultural differences,’ Tatarko notes. But this all raises the question of the collapse in Europe’s multiculturalism policy. This issue should be viewed in conjunction with the sources of cultural diversity, Tatarko says.

Virtually all research that looks at the influence of cultural diversity on trust and socio-political activity has been carried out in countries where cultural diversity is a result of external migration (United States, Europe, Australia), he notes. Russia’s cultural diversity has other sources, it resulted over the course of its history, and over centuries the cultures that inhabit the territory that is now Russia stayed on and developed.

In addition, even external migrants hail from former Soviet states, and Russian culture cannot for them be called completely alien. They and the local population do not view each other as completely ‘alien’ Tatarko stresses. Therefore, he argues, the perspective put forward by Hooghe et al., 2006 is closer to the truth – they posited that it is not ethnic diversity itself, but the inflow of a great number of migrants with a different mentality that can erode trust and social cohesion.

The results of this research indicated that the cultural diversity of Russia’s regions enjoy a positive correlation with ethnic tolerance among the people who inhabit it. This, Tatarko notes, could aid progress in social development, as diversity makes society more complex, and tolerance enables people to find a common language.

 

Author: Marina Selina, April 14, 2015