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Young Russians’ Values Influence Feelings of National Pride and Shame

While young Russians are proud of their country’s victory in the Second World War, they’re prouder still of its literature. However, they seem to be indifferent to certain other historical events

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Situation: Young people are traditionally considered to have similar views on social and political events and different values from other generations.

In fact: The values of young people differ a great deal. These differences affect attitudes to events and inform feelings of national pride or shame.

Now in More Detail

Researchers from HSE University, Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, and the Shukshin Altai State Humanities Pedagogical University have investigated the causes of national pride and shame among young Russians aged 18–25 and how these causes relate to their values. They found that different values have different effects on young people’s feelings of shame or pride in their country. Over 400 Russian students took part in the survey. The authors point out that the conclusions could be used to understand young people’s response to various social and political events and to develop social programmes. The results of the study have been published in Social Psychology and Society.

What Is It All about?

Studies support the idea that the Russian youth is not a homogeneous group. For instance, millennials fall into urban and rural categories, as well as into ‘older’ (born in 1982–1990) and ‘younger’ (born in 1991–2000) categories. ‘Younger’ millennials are mainly characterised by digital progress (having smartphone or using social media) and facing an economic downturn during their adolescent socialization period.

As the authors point out, sociological surveys indicate heterogeneity in young people's views. For example, according to polls conducted by the Levada Center (listed among the NGOs registered as foreign agents according to the Russian Foreign Agent Law), over half of young Russians aged 18–24 believe that Russia must follow its own path, while 21% believe that it should model itself after European countries and 18% believe it should emulate the Soviet Union. Sociologists note that values and perceptions of the world have been changing in Russia since the 'reform generation’ matured after the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

According to a study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation and the Levada Center (listed among the NGOs registered as foreign agents according to the Russian Foreign Agent Law), the main values of young Russians aged 14–29 today are human rights (76%), security (57%), and work (52%). About half of young people (45%) say that democracy is the best model for Russia, and just over half (51%) are certain that there should be political opposition in the country. Meanwhile, 63% of young Russians aged 18–24 agree with the idea that the Soviet era was the best period in Russia's history, while 37% disagree or have no opinion.

The authors say that differences within the same generation can be explained by psychological, social, and economic factors. The aim of their study was to find out how young people’s values affect their attitudes to social affairs.

The study is based on Shalom Schwartz's classical theory of basic personal values, in which human values exist on a continuum of motivations determined by the basic needs of the human body, the desire for social interactions, the need for belonging, etc.

The theory posits 19 basic values categorized according to their orientation around:

 personal or social gain

 growth and self-development or avoiding anxiety

 openness to change or maintaining the status quo

 orientation towards one's own good or the good of others

This produces four high-level values: conservation, openness to changes, self-enhancement, and self-identification.

For example, previous surveys of young Russians show that the value of conservation positively correlates with the belief that private property can be taken over by the state if necessary or that religion should be a core national value. On the other hand, the value of openness to change negatively correlates with these perceptions.

 
 

The current research focuses on feelings of pride and shame among young Russians and the relationship between these feelings and value orientations. The authors point out that there are psychological methods of measuring attitudes to various events not only in terms of direct attitudes to specific events and groups, but also in terms of the emotions these events evoke. Pride and shame are major social emotions. ‘These emotions are closely related to a person's identity, including the need to maintain a positive one,’ the researchers write. 

How Was It Studied?

The survey sample consisted of 402 Moscow university students aged 17–25, 31% of whom were male and 69% were female. The survey was conducted online from March to April 2019.

According to the authors, the age of the respondents was limited to 17–25 because this is a very important period in the political socialization process. These ‘impressionable years’ play a critical role in the formation of political attitudes. In addition, some researchers consider the age of 21–22 to be the peak of human sensitivity to various political events.

 

A shortened version of the Shalom Schwartz questionnaire from the European Social Survey was used to assess basic values. Shame and pride in one's country were assessed using modified statements based on questions previously used in studies by the Levada Center (listed among NGOs registered as foreign agents according to the Russian Foreign Agent Law) on multiple occasions.

The respondents were asked to rate the degree to which a particular event evoked a feeling of pride or shame on a five-point scale. The authors explain that this methodology was chosen because it contains both well-known historical events and current affairs.

The events Russian young people are proud of include:

 Victory in the Second World War

 Russia’s leading role in space exploration

 Great Russian literature

 Russia’s scientific achievements

 Perestroika and the beginning of market reforms

The events Russian young people are ashamed of include:

 Poverty and insecure conditions despite the country’s material wealth

 The collapse of the USSR

 Rudeness, offensive behaviour, a lack of mutual respect

 The repression, terror, and forced resettlements of the 1920s–1950s

 Attempts to impose its regime on other countries and nations

 The legacy of Russian serfdom and the acceptance of slavery

The authors used correlation analysis, exploratory factor analysis, and multidimensional scaling to analyse the data obtained.

What Are the Findings? 

The results of the study showed that for young people, the most important sources of pride in their country are Russian literature, victory in the Second World War, and Russia's leading role in space exploration. The authors say that this correlates with the results of sociological surveys by the Levada Center (listed among NGOs registered as foreign agents according to the Russian Foreign Agent Law) conducted on the overall population. However, young people differ from the overall population in terms of which sources of pride take priority. For example, young people are proudest of Russian literature, while the overall population is prouder of Russia’s Second World War history. 

As for Russian literature, the researchers believe that this is one of the top sources of national pride among young Russians because they have just finished school or university and their memories of such cultural achievements are still fresh.

Differences between young respondents and the overall population can also be seen in the way young people rank sources of shame. Young Russians are mostly ashamed of rudeness, offensive behaviour, poverty, and the repression of the 1920s–1950s, while for the overall population, the collapse of the USSR is a more significant source of shame than repression. For young people, however, it is one of the least important reasons.

 

According to the authors, this is because today's students did not live in the Soviet era and do not see its destruction as something significant, unlike older generations. Therefore, they tend to look at the history of the USSR from a broader perspective and with a more sober attitude to the repression of that period.

The researchers highlight the process of changing values, which leads to differences between the attitudes of young people and other generations. Over the past decade, researchers have recorded an increase in the importance of ‘universalist’ values (tolerance, care for others, and care for nature) in Russia.

Russia lags behind most countries in terms of openness to change, but the authors suggest that the current generation of 18–25-year-olds is showing a gradual alignment in this area. ‘The 18–25-year-old generation may be more transformational in its values than the previous generation of “older” Millennials,’ the researchers say.

 

The authors’ assumptions about the connection between values and the causes of pride and shame were confirmed. The value of conservation in young people was positively associated with national pride, as well as with shame about the collapse of the USSR and a lack of military discipline. A negative relationship to conservation manifested itself as shame regarding the negative traits of Russians, repression and serfdom, as well as with the actualisation of Orthodoxy.

Conversely, the value of openness to change is positively associated with the actualisation of Orthodoxy and negatively associated with pride in the country, shame surrounding the collapse of the USSR, and a lack of discipline.

The value of self-identification is positively associated with pride in the country's contribution to world history and culture and shame regarding negative national traits, repression and serfdom.

Why Is It Important?

According to the authors, the results show that it is a mistake to perceive ‘the youth’ as a homogeneous group in terms of their socio-political views. ‘The results of the study can be used to understand the response of young people to various socio-political events and to develop various social programmes,’ the researchers say.
IQ
 

Authors of the study:
Andrey Nevryuev, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Psychology and Human Capital Development, Financial University (under the Government of the Russian Federation)
Oleg Sychev, Research Fellow at the Shukshin Altay State Humanities and Teacher Training University
Irena Sarieva, Senior Lecturer at the HSE School of Psychology
Author: Marina Selina, February 17