Staunton, April 14 – The more ethnically diverse a region in Russia is and the higher the level of tolerance for representatives of other cultures, the more positive are the consequences for the development of the society and the economy there, according to Aleksandr Tatarko, a scholar at the Moscow Laboratory for Socio-Cultural Research.
At a time when xenophobic attitudes and nationalism are leading to self-segregation of some nationalities, Tatarko’s research is a useful reminder that diversity and tolerance for it in and of themselves make important contributions to a nation’s well-being, whatever some leaders and some in the population think.
“The socio-psychological capital of the personality is a new term in contemporary social psychology which includes within itself such indicators as micro and macro social trust, tolerance for cultural multiplicity, expressions of civic identity and social support from friends and relatives, the Moscow scholar says.
In Russia these are differentially distributed, and their impact on society and economics can thus be studied. Tatarko has written a monograph on the subject, “Socio-Psychological Capital of the Personality in a Multi-Cultural Society” (in Russian) and is preparing a pre-print, “Does Ethnic Diversity Affect Social Capital in the Russian Context?” (in English).
Tatarko and his team carried out a survey of 2061 people in 25 regions in the North Caucasus and Central Federal Districts. They tested the proposition suggested by US investigator Robert Putnam that ethnic diversity produced by immigration “destroys social capital by lowering trust in the government and the social and volunteer activity of the citizens.”
Putnam’s argument has been challenged by those who say that it is overly broad in its interpretation and insufficiently cross cultural in its base because it relies almost exclusively on studies of immigration to the United States, Tatarko says. The Russian Federation is thus a useful test case.
He found, he says, that “cultural diversity has a statistically insignificant influence on…trust and civic identity.” But it found that there was “a statistically significant and positive influence of ethno-cultural heterogeneity on ethnic tolerance,” that is, “the more ethnically diverse a society is, the higher the level of tolerance to representatives of other cultures.”
One of the reasons for this finding, Tatarko suggests, is that “the cultural diversity of Russia has different sources, having come into existence historically over the course of centuries” rather than by immigration at any one time. But another reason for this pattern, he suggests, is the nature of immigration into Russia in recent decades.
Those who have come to Russia, he points out, are mostly “from the countries of the former USSR, and [therefore] the culture of Russia for them is not absolutely alien. They and the local population do not see each other as absolutely ‘other.’”
And thus Tatarko says that he believes that it is “not ethnic diversity by itself but the flood of large number of migrants with a different mentality which can lower trust and social cohesion in society.” If the influx is slower, it will be easier for people “to find a common language” and take advantage of what diversity can offer.