Tuesday, March 17, 2020

National Pride Not Social Characteristics Drives Attitudes on Individual Choice in Post-Soviet States, New Study Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, March 11 – In most countries, attitudes toward abortion, divorce and extra-marital sex vary according to the education, age, religiosity and social status of groups in the population, but in post-Soviet countries, this pattern doesn’t hold and attitudes on these issues depend heavily on the level of patriotism individuals have, according to a new study.

            That study, based on the 2014 World Values Survey, has been published as Sofia Lopatina, Veronika Kostenko, and Eduard Ponarin, “National Pride and Values of Individual Choice in Post-Soviet Countries” (in Russian), Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsialnoy antropologii, XXII: 4 (2019): 166-201 at publications.hse.ru/articles/331015230. It is now summarized at   iq.hse.ru/news/337339833.html.

            According to modernization theory, the three Russian scholars say, “egalitarian values quickly spread in rich and politically stable societies,” while in countries with a lower standard of living or stability, people focus on “values of survival” and seek to preserve the status quo by fighting change.

            “In post-Soviet countries,” they write, “the transition from a planned economy to the market has been accompanied by instability and economic stagnation.” And as a result, these countries manifest the spread of patriarchal values and nationalistic ideologies, albeit in different degrees depending on their path of development.

            Regimes typically employ “primordialist rhetoric” about ethnic membership and oppose a constructivist vision of ethnicity. In this situation, the three continue, they devote great importance to family values and fertility and treat abortions, divorce and extra-marital sex as “dangerous for the nation and the state.”

            The article bases its conclusions on data from ten former Soviet republics: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan; and it points to the enormous gap between the practices of the population and what they say about things like divorce, abortion, and extra-marital sex.

            In practice, these countries in many cases are leaders in the amount of such behavior; but in contrast to other countries, their populations express negative attitudes about all three. This hypocrisy, the authors suggest, is typical for residents of the former USSR, “in which views different from those generally accepted were persecuted.”

            As Veronica Kostenko, one of the authors puts it, “people are accustomed to live in a system of double standards when they say one thing in public, and in the kitchen quite another.”

            According to this research, “the most significant predictor of conservative attitudes turned out to be national pride. Gender, age, religiosity and education, if they had any influence at all, did not have as much or in every country.” Thus, higher education “softened” conservative attitudes in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus but not elsewhere.

            Gender played a significant role only in Armenia. Age affected responses in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Religiosity had an impact in Estonia, Russia and Ukraine but much less so in Azerbaijan and Belarus.

            “The influence of national pride is especially significant in Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and to a lesser extent in Estonia and Ukraine. In these countries, the higher pride in one’s nation, the stronger was the rejection of values of individual choice,” the authors say.

            “At the same time,” the scholars report, “in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, and Azerbaijan, militarism is more important than national pride. There respondents who do not approve abortions, divorces or extra-marital sex consider that military might must be the chief goal of their states.”

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