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Interethnic Relations and Ethnic Tolerance in Ukraine.

Interethnic Relations and Ethnic Tolerance in Ukraine.
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InDepth Analytical Report [1]

The transition from Isolationist (territorial, social, and mental) principles of social system functioning to principles of openness and cooperation is one of the most important preconditions of transforming a closed (traditionalcommunitarian or totalitarian) society into an open democratic society [2] .

A certain level of tolerance towards members of various social groups, to which an individual does not belong, is a psychological basis of any social partnership.

In a situation of heightened social tension (caused by an economic slump and a struggle of different political forces for power), tolerance of members of one ethnic group towards other ethnic groups is regarded as a most important factor, if not of societal stabilization then, at least of prevention of civil war or murderous interethnic clashes, which a number of republics of the FSU (Azerbaidzhan, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Tadzhikistan, Kirgizstan, Uzbekistan, the Ossetiyaningushetian conflict in Russia) failed to avoid.

Numerous sociological polls, conducted by the central Ukrainian branch of the AllUnion Centre for Public Opinion Research and the Institute for Sociology with Ukraine’s National Academy of Sciences in 1989–1991, included some questions which touched, to a varying degree, upon problems of interethnic relations. The data obtained did not reveal any widespread pronounced nationalist attitudes among the population of most regions of Ukraine. Despite this, however, and despite the absence of outbursts of interethnic strife in Ukraine, public opinion polls typically register a hrefigh level of anxiety among the population about the possibility of interethnic conflict: in all the polls on issues of utmost concern for the population, the problem of likely interethnic feuds figured most prominently among stresscausing factors.

The peak of concern about possible interethnic conflicts was registered in 1992, when almost half of Ukraine’s adult population (49%) named the possibility of interethnic conflicts as one of the major problems they were most apprehensive of. At the same time, the share of people who found themselves involved in conflicts triggered by disrespect for national/ethnic dignity, remained at the same level (about 3%). Discrepancies between the extent of personal experience of interethnic confrontation and the growth of concern about possible interethnic conflict seem to be explained, first and foremost, by outbreaks of interethnic strife in other regions of the former Soviet Union rather than by the way interethnic conflicts developed in Ukraine and policies pursued by the leadership with regard to ethnic groups. However, in order to prognosticate possible paths of development of interethnic relations in Ukraine and, most importantly, to be able to spot in advance probable factors of heightened interethnic tensions, one should have much more evidence than some fragmentary data obtained in response to a few individual questions, included, as a rule, into prompt topical public opinion polls on the most urgent problems.

1. Ethnic Tolerance Measuring Procedure

An indepth analysis of the problem presupposes special methods which make it possible to measure the level of general ethnic/national tolerance as an underlying psychological basis of interethnic behavior. One of such methods is Bogardus’ social distance [3] . It allows the measurement of a person’s social attitude towards members of other ethnic groups and nationalities — a certain psychological predisposition to affiliate with or, conversely, to alienate from other ethnic groups or nationalities, irrespective of their personal qualities and peculiarities [4] . A respondent’s answer to the question of the capacity in which he/she is ready to accept representatives of other ethnic groups or nationalities makes it possible to determine a measure of social distance he/she would per to be preserved between herself or himself and the group in question.

The scale is organized on a cumulative principle, which allows one to determine the index (in points) of social distance visavis a certain ethnic group or nationality: “ready to accept them as members of the family” — one point, “as a close friend” two points, “as a neighbor” — three points, “as a fellowworker” — four points, “as a resident of the country” — five points, “as a tourist/visitor” — six points, “I would not admit them to Ukraine at all” — seven points. Thus, one point signifies maximum tolerance, while seven points signifies extreme intolerance.

Using a list of 23 nationalities, the authors applied the Bogardus social distance scale in two studies (in Kiev in August 1990 and in July 1991), the outcomes of which confirmed the reliability of the information obtained by means of this method [5] .

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Реферат на тему: Interethnic Relations and Ethnic Tolerance in Ukraine.

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