Models of Cultural and Civilizational Identification among Residents of Russian and Ukrainian Border Regions
Babintsev VP*, Reutov EV, Babintseva HI, Bykhtin OV and Yurkova ON
Belgorod National Research University, Russia
- *Corresponding Author:
- Valentin Pavlovich Babintsev
Belgorod National Research University
Belgorod, 85 Pobedy Street, Russia
Received date: May 06, 2016; Accepted date: June 20, 2016; Published date: June 24, 2016
Citation: Babintsev VP, Reutov EV, Babintseva HI, et al. Models of Cultural and Civilizational Identification among Residents of Russian and
Ukrainian Border Regions. Global Media Journal. 2016, S3:09
Copyright: © 2016 Babintsev VP, et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited
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The paper analyses the models of cultural and civilizational identification among the residents of Russian and Ukrainian border regions formed under the crisis in Russia-Ukraine relations. The cultural and civilizational identity is understood here as an open or latent identification of an individual or a group of individuals with a socio-cultural matrix, or the historically developed complex of cultural patterns (frames) which entails typification of the value systems, social practices and individual life trajectories. The historically developed socio-cultural community of the border-regions residents illustrates the influence of ideological and political factors on the emerged diversity of cultural and civilizational identities. The model of cultural and civilizational identification prevalent among the residents of the Russian border regions is autonomous, with the axiological and institutional components of the national culture having enough power and attraction to become the basis for integration and socialization. The “alien” culture is frequently regarded as a threat for the cultural and civilizational originality. The model of cultural and civilizational identification, which is currently dominant in the Ukrainian border regions, is eclectic, with the significant objects searched for beyond the national culture, and the culture has no internal integrity. In this sense, the border regions of Ukraine differ from the cultural core, where the autonomous model of cultural and civilizational identification has a confrontational nature and is based on the absence of a common civilizational identity with Russia.
Cultural and civilizational identity; Border
regions; Cultural and civilizational identification models;
Russia-Ukraine relations crisis
For a long time, the territory of modern Russia-Ukraine
border regions has been a zone of intensive ethnic, sociocultural
and political bonds. As a result, they have formed a
limitrophe with an elaborated communication system and a
complex of common identifiers (dialects, place names, etc.)
which were sometimes more important than the national
political self-determination. Prior to the crisis in Russia-
Ukraine relations in 2013-2015, that had been the case with
the border regions. The majority of the residents viewed the
state border as an annoying, yet temporary, limitation, and the
relations with the neighbor country were more intensive and
comprehensive than contacts with other regions within the
state. The most widespread types of communication were
family contacts, as well as cooperation in the fields of
education, economy and tourism.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict not only brought to the fore the
political contradictions between the states, but it became a
trigger for cultural and civilizational demarcation which started
at the turn of the 1980s-1990s and was embodied in the
slogan “Ukraine is not Russia” .
A cultural and civilizational identity represents one of many
forms of social identities, yet it has a number of peculiar
features. The specific cultural environment is the core of any
society. A special place in the complex of cultural patterns, or,
according to T. Parsons, in “the cultural system of action”, is
held by stable constructs formed in the course of the historical
development of the society under the influence of the systemforming
factors. Such factors have usually two and more levels.
The first level comprises the natural/climatic, geopolitical,
linguistic, demographic and other factors which determine the
fundamental specificity of certain communities and their
relations with the surroundings. The second level constitutes a
group of factors forming the political, axiological and religious
idiosyncrasy of the said community. Over time, such
idiosyncrasy evolves into the “cultural matrix” of the
The cultural and civilizational identity is understood here as
an open or latent identification of an individual or a group of
individuals with a certain socio-cultural matrix, or the
historically developed set of cultural patterns (frames). Such
identification leads to the typification of axiological systems,
social practices and individual life trajectories. Therefore, the
level of individual or group cultural and civilizational
identification: 1) is an empirically proven fact; 2) manifests
itself in the form of a frame of the individual or group
consciousness; 3) is embodied in social practices. Under the
collapse of social and political institutions the cultural and
civilizational identification safeguards the social and
psychological stability of individuals and groups .
The cultural and civilizational identification is built on a set
of orientations concerning the national culture as a whole, the
axiological system, ideology, religious, social and political
institutions and symbols.
The cultural and civilizational identification works through
the processes of self-attribution or self-identification of an
individual or a group of individuals with cultural values,
institutions and symbols and in certain cases though the
distancing and open rejection of similar objects of another
origin. As a rule, the crucial for identification values,
institutions and symbols come from the national and cultural
environment which is native for the individual or the group
and whose contemporary elements are based on the longlasting
tradition. This is the classic model of the cultural and
civilizational identification which can be called autonomous. In
this model, the axiological and institutional components of the
national culture have enough power and attraction to become
the basis for socialization. Yet, depending of the specific
situation, the autonomous model can become both nonconfrontational
and confrontational, or conflict-oriented.
At the same time, certain objects, though external to the
autochthonal national and cultural environment, can for some
reasons become equally or even more appropriate for selfidentification.
At this point, values, institutions and symbols of
a different cultural and civilizational origin can be relatively
uncontroversial and even, to a certain degree, complementary.
The model, where autochthonal and external in their
cultural and civilizational origin objects co-exist and
complement one another, can be named synthetic. If these
objects are controversial in their contents, but equally
attractive for an individual or a group, they lead to the
axiological dissonance. This case is an example of the eclectic
model of the cultural and civilizational identification (a case
which Lev Gumilev called a chimera).
Finally, external in their cultural and civilizational origin
objects can fully substitute the native values and institutions
of the national culture. It is the extreme possibility, and such
model can be named inverse.
Obviously, the above models are not necessarily actualized
in their pure form. It is often difficult to determine the cultural
and civilizational origin of the specific value or institution and
the degree of their specificity/universality. Globalization
processes add up to the dissolution of national cultures. On the one hand, there exists global expansion of cultural
patterns, originated from the European and North American
(Western Christian) culture. On the other hand, these patterns
tend to lose their cultural specificity and are unified under the
influence of the market economy and the mass consumption.
At this point, the societies of the Western Christian culture
witness the processes of social automation and axiological
differentiation. Besides, they undergo significant migration
pressure from the societies which belong to other cultural and
civilizational types. Moreover, the migrant groups also see the
similar processes of the identity dissolution which, according
to D. Bhugra and M.A. Becker, entail the rise of mental
As a result, the modern societies lose their cultural and
civilizational solidity and integrity. Firstly, it is due to the
development of cultural and civilizational pluralism
(multiculturalism). Secondly, in certain cases, the socio-cultural
matrices cease to form the basis for the behavioral frames for
a number of participants. They stop seeing the cultural and
civilizational identity as important, though it can penetrate
certain patterns of social behavior. We find it dubious that “the
solution for the problem of identity in the realms of the
professional life, socio-cultural dynamics, political relations
etc. can be derived from the solution of the problem of the
civilizational identity” .
Besides, we should not overlook the virtualization, or the
creation of the global information space, which is an integral
part of globalization and which dismantles the problem of
socio-cultural and political borders. “Today the freedom to
move both physically, socially and virtually, to cross
geographical boundaries and cultural borders has changed the
“practices” of the human “choice” of themselves and their
attitude to events, processes, and institutions” . Therefore,
“the configuration of the identity is not constant, but it is
subject to changes depending on many factors” . At the
same time, the impact of the globalization processes on the
cultural and civilizational identity should not be regarded as
fully destructive. To a great extent, as noted by J. Tomlinson,
the cultural identity is not only the victim of globalization, but
also its product and consequence .
This is totally true for the processes of cultural and
civilizational identification in Russia and Ukraine, including
their border regions. The specificity of the current state of the
Russia-Ukraine relations and the global state of affairs,
characterized by the increased confrontation gives a natural
push for actualization of the autonomous identification model,
frequently, in its confrontational form.
Based on the sociological data, including the results of an
opinion poll conducted in eight Russian and Ukrainian border
regions in 2015 (the research project “Study of processes of
cultural and civilizational identities formation in border regions
of Russia and Ukraine”, N=1,000 respondents, headed by Prof.
V.P. Babintsev), this paper endeavors to depict the major
models of cultural and civilizational identification of the residents of Russian and Ukrainian border regions. The
processes of socio-cultural disintegration in these regions,
where the cross-border relations have been traditionally
intensive, are the most vivid and help reveal the main trends
of the Russia-Ukraine relations.
The “us” vs. “them”, or “allies” vs. “foes”, dichotomy is
obviously one of the most archaic forms of the society
categorization. Still, it remains important, which is evident
from the high level of confrontation in international, interethnic
and inter-faith relations. The collective consciousness of
Russians is another proof of this statement. According to a
monitoring research by the Levada-Center, the share of
Russians confident in the presence of foes of Russia has raised
from 65% in 1999 to 80% in 2015 with the peak value of 84%
in 2014. The same research shows that the share of Russians
who consider the major Western states (the USA, Germany,
Great Britain, Japan etc.) to be “the enemies of Russia who try
to solve their problems at its expense and when occasion
offers inflict harm to its interests”, has increased from 44% in
2010 to 75% in 2015 with the peak of 79% in 2014. The share
of the advocates of the opposite position, according to which
these states are “the partners of Russia sharing the same
interests (for example, in the war against crime and terrorism,
in ecological issues, in scientific, cultural and economic
advancement)” has fallen within the same period from 44% to
17%, and as low as 8% in 2014 . Therefore, the
consciousness of the majority of Russians has recently
witnessed a distinct demarcation between their native country
and most of the outer world.
Yet, the self-identification has not been totally negative or
reduced to the search for enemies. More distinct selfpositioning
of Russia in the world has evidently become in the
Russian mass consciousness the source of patriotic feelings
and pride for their state, though not always rational. A
monitoring research by the Levada-Center shows that during
the last two years the share of Russians who consider Russia to
be better than most other states has significantly increased
(64% in October 2014 vs. 48% in October 2012 vs. 36% in June
1996). The number of citizens proud to live in Russia has also
increased. While in October 2013 (just before the crisis) 70%
of the respondents confessed to be proud of living there, in
October 2014 this number reached 86% . Obviously, this
trend of the mass consciousness is attributed to the foreign
policy of the Russian government, for instance, to their
willingness to confront the USA and the European Union.
A proof of the ethno-cultural demarcation between
Russians and Ukrainians in the Russian mass consciousness is
the Russians’ opinions about the difference between the
national characters of the two nations, recorded by
sociologists of the Levada-Center in August-September 2014.
These opinions and observations fully reflect the ethnical
auto- and hetero-stereotypes (regarding the Ukrainian people)
present in the consciousness of Russians (they are actually
ethnical Russians, whose group makes up 77% of the
population according to the Russian Census – 2010, 2010). The
poll shows, firstly, the extent of the socio-cultural gap between
Russians and Ukrainians, as imagined by Russians, and, secondly, the degree to which the stereotypical thinking tends
to attribute positive traits of the national character to the own
nation and negative – to the alien, though ‘fraternal’ people
(in the opinion of the majority). We can observe a certain
offense, a grudge against Ukraine’s drift away from the
“Russian World” towards the “European values” and a
conviction that the Ukrainian economy is fully dependent on
Russian resources and consumers [10,11].
In its turn, the ongoing, though not at a stable pace, political
and socio-cultural drift of Ukraine from Russia in the post-
Soviet period has built the concept of originality and selfsufficiency
of Ukraine in the minds of the majority of
Ukrainians. Besides, which is even more crucial for
understanding of the processes of Ukrainians’ selfidentification,
a significant share of them have gained the
opinion that such originality can flourish only under full
autonomy from Russia. It would be an oversimplification to say
that the aggravation of the attitude of Ukrainians towards
Russian citizens is caused only by the political events of the
past two years. Even before this, Russia had been considered
as a threat by many Ukrainians. For instance, according to the
results of a telephone poll, conducted by the Razumkov Center
in the major cities of Ukraine in 2009, the share of the
respondents in Kiev and Lvov, who think that Ukraine is
threatened by Russia, reached correspondingly 29.2% and
38.5%. Yet, farther to the East, this share decreases, and
ultimately drops to 5.2% among Donetsk dwellers .
Therefore, while elaborating models of cultural and
civilizational identity of the residents of Russian and Ukrainian
border regions, it is necessary to keep in mind the significant
antagonism in their relations as a compensatory mechanism
which allows overcoming the lack of positive endogenous
factors of identification.
Obviously, the confrontational nature of the cultural and
civilizational identity, dominant in the Russian society in the
recent years, molded the mass consciousness of the residents
of the Russian border regions.
Our research goes in line with the above trend. The
presence of a significant degree of antagonism in the cultural
and civilizational identity is proved by a great number of
negative traits attributed to the neighbors’ national character
and serving to accentuate own positive characteristics.
Russians are more willing to attribute negative traits to their
neighbors comparing to Ukrainians, which proves the assertion
that this phenomenon of the mass consciousness has a
compensatory nature helping overcome the feeling of guilt.
Among Russians, the share of those speaking of not a single
positive trait in the Ukrainian national character reached
36.2%. The corresponding share of Ukrainians evaluating the
“representatives of the Russian culture” was significantly
lower – 17.6% (Table 1).
||57.4% - 1
||53.2% - 1
||45.2% - 2
||33.8% - 2
|Trust to people
||31.8% - 4
|Enjoyment of life
||3.,8% - 4(5)
||26.0% - 7
||36.8% - 4(5)
||29.8% - 5(6)
||36.4% - 6
||33.0% - 3
|Desire for change
||33.6% - 7(8)
||29.8% - 5(6)
|Tradition, preservation of the usual way of life
||34.4% - 7(8)
||24.2% - 8
||34.2% - 9
||22.2% - 9
||26.2% - 10
||20.0% - 10
|Community affiliation, observance of common norms
||27.6% - 11
||17.8% - 12
||27.2% - 12
||19.0% - 11
Table 1: Dominating value
The results of our research reveal the basic set of values
underlying the self-identification of the border-zone residents.
The first group is formed by the values defining the national culture and manifested as such in the mass consciousness. This
category comprises characteristics, noted by 30% and more of
the respondents. The second group of values is the regulatory
values underlying the social behavior. This group comprises the
values which have gained the highest scores (9 and 10 points
out of 10 among no less than 40% of the respondents).
The residents of the Russian border regions see the Russian
national culture as built around three positive traits
“industriousness – generosity – friendliness” (mentioned
correspondingly by 39.4% - 36.4% - 38.2% of the respondents),
and a high frequency of one negative trait – laziness (39.4%).
These traits can be considered the core of the reflected
Russian national culture.
The basic regulatory values in the collective consciousness
of the residents of Russian border regions include: safety
(57.4% of the respondents mentioned its high importance,
giving it 9 or 10 points), personal success (45.2%), and trust to
For the residents of Ukrainian border regions, the top
regulatory value was safety (53.2%) – which was the only value
mentioned by over 40% of the respondents.
Thus, we can speak of a significant similarity between the
cultural and civilizational identities of the residents of Russian
and Ukrainian border regions in terms of values, as both
groups have similar values hierarchy. Still, the mass
consciousness of the Ukrainian citizens can be described as
rather disorganized and frustrated, having lost its
traditionalistic ideals without having formed a set of values
inherent to a modern society.
The split in the self-identification of the residents of Russian
and Ukrainian border regions is also accentuated by a rather
significant difference in the image of their state as an object of pride. While the share of the Russian respondents who are
proud of their country reaches 76.6% (the opposite opinion is
shared by 8.4%), the corresponding shares of Ukrainians are
63.8% and 25.0%.
As is was mentioned above, the all-national identity in
Ukraine is by far more complicated due to constantly
actualized socio-cultural (and currently geopolitical) splits.
“The strive for autonomy of a part of the Ukrainian society still
has traits not of a conscious political ambition to achieve
certain aims with the help of autonomous power, but of the
self-protective reaction to the failure to solve the problems of
their cultural and civilizational self-identification” .
According to the Institute of Sociology of NAS of Ukraine, in
1992-2013 the level of the all-national identity did not exceed
54.6%. That peak was likely to be a reaction to the euphoria
after the “Orange revolution”, when the people, represented
by the nationalistic and pro-Western counter-elite, defeated
the party in power. At that period the ratio of the respondents
with a regional or local identity totaled 33.9%. In 2013, the
share of the respondents with the all-national general civil
identity increased to 36.4% . According to the Razumkov
Center, in 2012 the question “It is recently said that the
Ukrainian society is split into two almost antagonistic parts
according to the regional distribution. Do you think that such
split in the society exists?” divided the respondents into two
almost equal groups with 41.9% of them acknowledging such
split and 42% not believing in its existence. The highest
number of the respondents confirming the split between
regions (59.5%) was recorded in the Southern part of Ukraine
(including the Crimea) “It is recently said that the Ukrainian
society is split into two almost antagonistic parts according to
the regional distribution. Do you think that such split in the
society exists? (regional distribution)”, 2012). At the same
time, even in January 2014 the idea of federalization of
Ukraine was opposed by the vast majority of the respondents:
61.4% vs. 15.8% (Razumkov Center). A relatively small share of
the respondents supported the secession of their region and
gaining independence (4.5%) or accession to another state
(5.5%). Moreover, the corresponding shares in the Southern
and Eastern regions were also not critical. In the South, the
idea of creation of an independent state was supported by
12.7% of the respondents, and the accession to another state
– by 13.1%. The corresponding shares of the respondents in
the East reached 4.7% and 8.6% (“Attitudes of the population
of Ukraine towards different variants of the territorial division:
The results of the sociological research”, 2013) .
Nevertheless, the crisis of 2013-2014 changed the situation
drastically, having influenced, specifically, the factors of the
cultural and civilizational identification and reinforcing its
political component. For the Ukrainian society, the conflict
with Russia became, on the one hand, a factor of consolidation
around the images, values and institutions of the ‘independent
Ukraine’ and on the other hand, it strengthened the
centrifugal forces in the mass consciousness. The latter trend
was particularly prominent in the minds of the residents of the
border regions of Ukraine which remained at the periphery of
the axiological core cultivated by the Ukrainian government. The residents of Ukrainian border regions have extremely
diverse cultural and civilizational identities. For instance, the
question “With which cultural tradition do you associate
yourself?” produced a high degree of dispersion in answers.
Only 15.8% of the respondents associate themselves with the
Ukrainian culture, and 11.8 – with the Russian one. The
cultural and civilizational identity of other respondents
transcends the national boundaries but remains highly
differentiated. Comparing to the residents of Ukrainian border
regions, the Russian population of the border zone is almost
solid in its cultural and civilizational identity with relatively
small inclusion of other substrata. 70.8% of the respondents
declared their belonging to the Russian culture, which proves
the high degree of both cultural and civilizational and national
and state identity. The second top cultural self-identification is
“global”, or, in our terms, “cosmopolitan” (9.42%). Almost the
same share of the respondents (8.8%) associate themselves
with the European culture. The share of the cognitively
incompetent respondents (8.6%) is slightly smaller than that of
the Ukrainian respondents, which also testifies to a larger
extent of cultural integration among the residents of the
Russian border regions comparing to their Ukrainian
The interpretation of the complex of these rather
ambiguous and sometimes contradicting empirical data
obtained by our research and by national monitoring surveys
in Russia and Ukraine in terms of the models of cultural and
civilizational identification gives grounds to certain
First of all, we observe a certain similarity in the axiological
portrait of the residents of Russian and Ukrainian border
regions. It testifies to the existence of a common cultural and
civilizational matrix. In the case with Russians, this matrix is
likely to remain more authentic thanks to the conservative
policy of the last decade and preservation (recreation) of the
common ideologemes, patterns and symbols (Empire,
paternalism, Great Past etc.). On the contrary, in the recent
decades, the mass consciousness of Ukrainians underwent the
processes of differentiation and fragmentation which
deepened the existing cultural splits.
Nowadays the prevailing model of cultural and civilizational
identification in Ukraine-Russia border regions is eclectic,
characterized by the fact that the significant objects are
searched beyond the national culture, and the culture itself is
not intrinsically solid. The relatively common autonomous
model is realized predominantly in its confrontational variant.
Moreover, contrary to Russia, in Ukraine this variant was
dominant from the beginning and was not triggered by the
Russia-Ukraine conflict. The inverse model is more widespread
in Ukraine than in Russia and has an obvious anomic reason:
the lack of formed integrated axiological system and the
disappointment in the ideologemes imposed by the national
At present there exists a certain misbalance in the sociocultural
space of the border regions in both states. In Russian
regions, which are adjacent to Ukraine, the prevailing
orientation is that towards cultural and civilizational (and
political) self-sufficiency [16,17]. The Ukrainian regions witness
fragmentation of the mass expectations and an evident loss of
the national identity. This hampers the proper selfpresentation
of the Ukrainian and Russian regions as mutually
interested subjects with sovereign resources. Such misbalance
significantly impairs the renewal of comprehensive relations
between the border regions.
This paper was written as part of Commission No.
2016/2459 for the state work in the field of scientific research
within the project part of the state commission of the Ministry
of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (headed by
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