The Image Of "The Other" In The Social Consciousness Of The Citizens (Based On A
Sociological Research Of International Relarions In Perm)
Опубликовано на портале: 31-12-2010
Former social institutions are crashing now, so people need a different kind of social
bearing. Their need for social identification has been forming spontaneously, first
of all, on the ethnical basis. Identification with an ethnic or a national group
provides people with a necessary feeling of connection with somebody of the same
or related origin. Getting to know national myths is a method people use to adapt
to a new dynamic, open and conflict reality, an opportunity to reconcile, a way to
reveal noble, not routine, means in daily behavior. National myths can be used by
citizens as a decoder of the surrounding social world.
The mentioned-above sociological research centers around the problem of international
relations in Perm.
We selected a quota sample of 946 people which fully reflected the ethnic, age and
gender structure of the city population. We conducted the research at country houses
in the second half of June of 2000 using the standard face-to-face interview method.
It is quite a difficult task to explore the image world of citizens. Here we have
to deal with the collective unconscious and mental depths formed by tradition, social
and personal experience, unclear and unstable emotional experience. The collective
unconscious is biased. It evaluates and labels.
The research was designed to reveal the sociocultural essence of international relations
of the citizens: the image of “the other”, ethnic self-appraisal, the
readiness for international contacts, the ability to understand and accept different
A person distinguishes himself or herself from “the other” and credits
both with certain qualities. Our interviewees were supposed to name these qualities
as well as those which, from their point of view, fully characterize certain nationalities.
The respondents were offered open-ended, not structured, questions. This made the
survey and the evaluation procedures much more complicated, but at the same time
gave us a chance to reconstitute the existing national myths.
Evaluation of personal qualities of different national groups. The citizens imparted
ethnic groups with antroph-amorphous characteristics, attributing individual traits
to the group conscious and behavior. The collective conscious of the citizens contains
positive images of the following ethnic groups: the Russians, the Komi-Permyaks,
the Udmurts, the Ukrainians, and the Uzbeks. This scale reflects the deepest level
of social self-conscious, where judgments are made on the basis of unreflexed feelings
of likes and dislikes of certain nationalities (nationalities in general, not separate
Evaluation of the status (intelligence) of different national groups. The citizens
express an opinion that ethnic groups possess not only a soul, but also intelligence.
Recognizing the fact that a certain person or a national group possesses “intelligence”
means recognizing a relatively high status this person or group holds if not in real
life, then, at least, in social mythology. In fact, “intelligence” is
just a different name for a high social or economic status. The so-called stupidity
is the sign of poor social and economic achievements, lower than those of the silent
city majority. It is interesting to note that only Russians, Germans and Jews feature
a positive difference in the comparison of “intelligence” and “stupidity”
of different nationalities. The Russians identify themselves as intelligent, “an
older brother must be more intelligent than a younger one”. The Germans and
the Jews are “successful” nations, according to the social mythology.
Evaluation of professional qualities of different national groups. Now let’s
take a look at economic traits, attributed by the citizens to different nationalities.
In their self-conscious, the Russian citizens attribute economic merits to other
nationalities. Their judgments reveal the national economic inferiority complex –
stated in other words, lack of business traditions, economic freedom and rationality
– which is quite widespread in daily verbal practices. The back effect of this
complex is alienation from the national groups with economic superiority traits.
Some nations are accused of nationalism, but this may be considered a modified form
How national images are formed. We have been generally talking about national images
consolidated in the city culture, but we haven’t mentioned yet the sources
of such judgments. In theory, the Russians as the dominating nation here –
85% of Perm population, the same in the sample population – are supposed to
be “setting the pitch”. We proved this suggestion through the use of
some additional techniques.
In the self-conscious of other national groups the image of the Russians is influenced
by self-appraisal of the latter, but at the same time certain independence of critical
judgments is preserved.
Note that the Russians are attributed with varied professional qualities, but attributed
personal qualities are practically the same. In general, the Russians are described
as friendly, kind and open-hearted, but professionally poor.
National minorities tend to treat the Russians as “nice neighbors”. The
Russians attribute national minorities with “positive personal qualities”
(kindness, friendliness, simplicity, hospitality) and “positive professional
qualities” (diligence) much rarer than the minorities themselves. It is curious
that the image of the Jews and the Germans is quite different from others. Perm citizens
attribute them with more neutral professional and “cultural” qualities.
The research revealed the existence of boundaries between different ethnic groups
of Perm. These boundaries are open and permeable but still they exist. The known
alienation of ethnic groups in a big city shows in the existence of the national
mythology and settled stereotypes (how people see other nations). Each citizen has
certain images of the ethnic world around him.
It concerns, first of all, the “closeness” of other nations. So Slavic
nations – the Belarussians, the Ukrainians – are the closest for the
Russian population of Perm. This stereotype is very strong because there are actually
no personal contacts with representatives of these nationalities. So the source of
such stereotypes is TV, historical tradition and educational system which emphasize
the commonality of fate, culture and religion.
The image of “close” nations consists of qualities, many of which are
characteristic of the Russians. But still it is not the question of a full identification
of the national groups, because other nations make less positive references than
The Turks and the Finno-Ugrs are the second “closest” nations. They have
been living in the Ural region for many years. Of course, not everybody considers
them to be “close” nations. That’s why it is more relevant to be
talking about neighborly, a peaceful, though not fully integrated coexistence.
We failed to reveal a clear and consistent image of other nations in the collective
conscious of the citizens. The qualities attributed to them are split up, multiple
and unclear, depending on different combinations. And the relations themselves are
diverse and complicated. In Perm the national mythology and personal experience are
constantly clashing in numerous business and personal contacts. They clash but still
preserve their identity. Due to that, a citizen, accusing everybody and everything
of nationalism, greed and selfishness is willing to marry his daughter to a man of
a different national background and to work for a multinational company without realizing
the contradictoriness and duality of his position. Maybe the cause of that are undeveloped
social instincts in their primitive, ethnic form. So in his relationships with other
people a citizen follows the simplest pattern, without taking into account their
social characteristics and status, on the basis of personal likes and dislikes or
from the point of worthiness or uselessness. In this situation social and ethnic
myths are not called for. They live in a different cultural space, which differs
greatly from everyday life in judgments, narration and practices of transferring
On the whole, we can state that national tensity in the city is not heightened. It
is centered in the economic field. The ethnic factor plays a specific role in the
world of hard competition. Some citizens are agitated with extreme economic activity
of certain national groups, attributing them with thrift, national selfishness and
Sometimes the Russians are trying to find their identity in the faces of representatives
of other, dissimilar national groups. And here the mass media as well as folk traditions
of city culture play a very important role. On this base the “Russian myth”
is formed. It consists of pieces of the Russian classical literature, Russian movie
images and modern forms of oral folk art (jokes, anecdotes).
The main issue here is incongruity between aspirations of the national minorities
to assimilate the Russian city culture and the position of the Russian majority which
is not ready yet to accept such claims.