Ethnic Identity and Intergroup Perceptions Among Post-Soviet Youth
Robinson, John P.
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This research examines theoretical concepts of ethnic identity using survey data from probability samples of about 13,000 youth from 11 countries of the former Soviet Union (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Russia, and Ukraine). The focus is on the combined impact of different micro and macro factors on ethnic attitudes and perceptions during a period of rapid social change. The dependent variable is ethnic distinctiveness, which describes a group member's distancing of themselves from other ethnic groups, an important consequence of ethnic identity. The variable was measured through evaluations of six personal characteristics of ethnic majority and minority groups in each country. The continuous nature of this variable allows detailed study of how ethnic micro factors (self-identification, parents' ethnic identity, ethnic language, level of interaction with outsiders), macro factors (ethnic conflict and level of ethnic homogeneity at the national, sub-national, and micro levels), and other social factors (parents' education, religious strength, gender, and family income) affect ethnic distinctiveness. Due to the nested nature of the data, the analysis was conducted on three levels--individual, sub-national, and national--using different techniques for each level. The results show that at the individual level, ethnic self-identification is the strongest predictor of ethnic distancing, followed by parents' ethnic identification and ethnic language; out-group interaction has only a weak effect. At the second level, the micro-level (school) ethnic homogeneity has the strongest effect, while the regional homogeneity effect is not significant. Both national-level variables (national conflict and homogeneity on the societal level) have strong effects on the dependent variable, while class variables (parents' education and family income) have no effect on ethnic distinctiveness (possibly a legacy of the egalitarian Soviet system). The original model which presumes that ethnic distancing is a product of the strength of ethnic identity, family ethnic background, and out-group interaction thus seems applicable mostly to societies (1) in which the majority and minority are significantly differentiated from each other, (2) where the minority is significantly large, and (3) where both groups are involved in a major ethno-social process. Thus, the study confirms that the individual ethnic processes of ethnic boundary formation are quite susceptible to the pervasive social dynamics of the larger society.