Assumption: Generalised trust in institutions, fellow citizens and strangers is, to a greater or lesser degree inherent in all people, but only deeply patriotic people feel pride in their country.
The reality: Both are basic factors of social cohesiveness. The only question is how national pride and generalised trust are inter-related.
HSE researcher Margarita Fabrykant studied the relationship between national pride (pride in one’s country) and generalised trust in Russia in comparison with other countries. The work drew on data from the World Values Survey and the European Values Study. It turned out that Russia differs little from other countries in this regard, but has a stronger relationship between national pride and trust in such social institutions as the army, church and government.
Much of the research on social cohesion focuses on the contrast between two mechanisms — identification with one’s ‘own’ group and generalised trust. In traditional societies, feelings of belonging to a narrow circle such as a family or familiar people then extends to a global group such as a nation, a nationality, etc. This is often described as macro-social solidarity.
In modern societies, solidarity is largely based not on perceived similarity and unity within a group, but on generalised trust — to various people, including strangers, and to institutions functioning in accordance with general principles of rationality.
Modernised societies, however, differ in that the two mechanisms of social cohesion are not mutually exclusive, but rather coexist. And, as Margarita Fabrykant notes, with the surge of nationalism in recent years, different aspects of the two have become intertwined.
‘Political rhetoric reveals a resurgence of nationalism as a tool for mobilising the masses,’ the researcher noted. ‘Moreover, this tool turns out to be quite effective in very different countries, including those that, according to the theory of modernization, have already “outgrown” nationalism.’
National pride, along with generalised trust, is one of the foundations of social cohesion. How they are linked is a reflection of, on the one hand, what and whom the inhabitants of a particular country trust and, on the other hand, what they perceive as worthy of pride.
In this regard, Russia is an interesting field for research, said Margarita Fabrykant. On the one hand, Russians are characterised by values that are common in modern Western societies. On the other hand, in recent years Russia has experienced strong and diverse changes in the level of national pride — changes that have not been observed among the populations of other states.
Thus, the study by Margarita Fabrykant and Vladimir Magun not only found that in the past two decades Russia has seen an increase in national pride overall and in Russia’s achievements in various fields, but also noted a connection between various indicators of pride and the belief in Russia’s superiority. In other words, national pride became more rooted in a sense of competitiveness with other countries.
National pride is a positive social attitude towards one’s country as a whole or towards its specific achievements. It is based on assumptions about what or whom people can take pride in before the citizens of other countries.
According to Fabrykant, it is important to understand how, given its unique historical path, Russia reflects the general idea of modernisation — the transition from the values of survival to emancipative values (freedom of choice, equal opportunity, etc.). Studying the relationship between national pride and generalised trust can help with this.
Researchers used data from the World Values Survey, including the newest released in 2020, as well as data from the European Values Study. The questionnaires of these surveys contain questions concerning national pride and generalised trust, among others. Researchers focused on the data from 78 countries.
One of the main hypotheses of the study was that national pride in Russia is connected most closely with trust in official institutions, or institutional trust. Also, according to another hypothesis, national pride has positive correlations with trust in relatives and acquaintances and negative correlations with trust in strangers and people of other ethnicities. In other words, the greater the national pride, the lower the trust in strangers — and vice versa.
As expected, there is a positive and statistically significant connection in Russia between national pride and trust in all types of institutions, according to Fabrykant. The connection between Russians’ national pride and their trust in international organisations, however, was weak.
According to the study’s findings, ‘The strongest correlation was found in trust in the armed forces. In second place is the connection between national pride and trust in parliament and political parties. In third place is trust in public organisations.’ Thus, the main hypothesis turned out to be correct. That is, the more Russians feel a sense of national pride, the more willingly they trust official institutions.
On the whole, according to Margarita Fabrykant, Russia follows a common pattern in terms of the connection between national pride and institutional trust. ‘The fact that national pride is most closely associated with trust in the government, army and church is typical of most countries. What is peculiar to Russia is that this connection between national pride and trust in these institutions and in everything else is somewhat stronger,’ the researcher commented. But, in her opinion, if to add the connection to trust in other social institutions, then national pride will become more ‘diversified’. She explained that this phenomenon is typical of many countries, including those that are multicultural and multi-ethnic.
The study’s results indicate that this country has no institutions that Russians consider ‘their own’, but it also has no institutions that are seen as ‘alien’. Although, Fabrykant notes, this connection is weaker than the average for the countries studied, it is nevertheless positive. But this is not the case everywhere. ‘For example,’ she said, ‘in some countries, particularly Turkey and the United Kingdom, a negative connection was found between national pride and trust in the European Union.’
Initial assumptions about the connections between national pride and interpersonal trust were only partially confirmed. For trust in family, neighbours and acquaintances, positive correlations were found, but for trust in people of another religion they were weak or insignificant, and for trust in strangers, negative. ‘However, it is surprising that the correlations with trust in people of other nationalities are positive,’ she said, suggesting it might be partly due to Russia’s multi-ethnicity. ‘In part, given the negative connection between pride and truest in strangers, people who are proud of their own country have greater trust for someone of any national identity, even a foreign one, than they do for someone whose nationality is uncertain,’ the author suggests.
In about one-half of the countries, there is a negative connection between national pride and trust in people of other nationalities. ‘What’s more, states in different regions and with different levels of modernisation are represented in in both positive and negative categories. According to the study, the Human Development Index does not affect this relationship,’ the researcher explained.
The nature and strength of the connection between national pride and various indicators of generalised trust are interesting in that they show which social institutions and which categories of people are perceived to a greater extent as ‘ours’, are more strongly associated with the country and, specifically, with its positive image — that is, eliciting pride and perceived as worthy of pride.
Margarita Fabrykant believes that the findings might also suggest that, despite Russia’s obviously unique features, nation-building and the transformation of national identities in modern Russia follow a common pattern and are part of the global trend. ‘Paradoxically, in this dimension — even if it is only one of many — the Russian national identity is, in a sense, international,’ she noted.