Summary: The article is an overview of an empirical study, conducted in 2012-2013, of social distance between various ethnic groups in the Sverdlovsk District (oblast), Russia. Using an adapted form of the Bogardus scale we analyzed attitudes toward major ethnic groups in the region through the generational prism of local children and their parents. The personal migration experiences of respondents and the age of schoolchildren are seen as important and differentiating features in people’s attitudes toward ethnic minorities.
Keywords: migration, migrant children in school, experience of migration
Резюме (Константин Кузмин. Лариса Петрова, Дмитрий Попов: Миграция и социальная дистанция: как уральские школьники и их родители воспринимают разные этнические группы): Статья представляет собой обзор результатов эмпирического исследования, проведенного в 2012-2013 гг в Екатеринбурге и Свердловской области (Россия). Используя адаптированную форму шкалы Богардуса, измерено отношение к основным этническим группам в регионе (включая мигрантов) в поколениях детей и родителей, представляющих местное сообщество. Личный опыт миграции респондентов и возраст школьников – наиболее важные дифференцирующие признаки отношения к этническим меньшинствам.
Ключевые слова: миграция, дети-мигранты в школе, опыт миграции
Zusammenfassung (Konstantin Kuzmin, Larisa Petrova, Dmitry Popov: Migration und SozialeDistanz: Unterschiedliche Wahrnehmungen ethnischer Gruppen durch Schüler und deren Eltern im Ural): Der Artikel bietet einen Überblick über eine empirische Studie zur sozialen Distanz zwischen unterschiedlichen ethnischen Gruppen, die von 2012 bis 2013 im Gebiet Sverdlovsk (Russland) durchgeführt wurde. Unter Nutzung einer adaptierten Form der Bogardus-Skala wurden in dieser generationenvergleichenden Studie die Verhaltensweisen der ortsansässigen Kinder und ihrer Eltern gegenüber größeren ethnischen Gruppen analysiert. Die persönlichen Migrationserfahrungen der Befragten und das Alter der Schüler werden als wichtige und differenzierende Merkmale in den menschlichen Verhaltensweisen gegenüber ethnischen Minderheiten betrachtet.
Schlüsselwörter: Migration, Kindermigranten in der Schule, Migrationserfahrung
In today’s Russia, xenophobia is one of the most pressing social problems. Xenophobia has special status in cities with large flows of migration, such as Yekaterinburg, with 1.4 million inhabitants, and the Sverdlovsk region with 4.3 million people. In this paper, pupils and their parents became an object of study of their installations on to interactions with people of different ethnic groups. We focus on these two groups due to the special role that families play in the formation of children’s tolerant attitudes, and the small potential of institutional influence on family interaction between parents and children. The social background of our research was the active involvement of migrants from Asian countries in the socio-economic life of the Urals. There were areas of employment primarily represented by migrants such as public transport, cleaning of the territories and facilities, retail trade, etc. It is essential to examine these trends when studying the interactions (or social distance) among pupils, whose “adult” life will be accompanied by multi-ethnic contact in different environments due to the large number of labor migrants in the population.
Effective interactions between migrants and members of the hosting community are possible through the development of attitudes that foster shorter social distance between different ethnic groups. There are many problems and points of view considered in modern scientific literature (Oberdiek, 2001; Salter, 2007; Köchler, 1995). Moreover, it is particularly important to study social distancing among schoolchildren since they, more than others, have a relatively limited yet modern experience of interacting with migrants. Yekaterinburg has high rates of labor migration from the main donor countries of Central Asia. In addition, the city has a large proportion of migrant children in educational institutions. This situation forms special social conditions for the analysis, planning, and implementation of policies related to the interactions between migrant children and children from the local community. We consider the influence of parents as one of the factors that form the installation on the interaction in a multi-ethnic society. Parents compete primarily with the media. However, we believe that everyday context and discussion of family relationships (cue, casual conversations, the naming of the migrant groups, assessing the interaction of domestic situations, etc.) play a more important role than the controlled flow of information (TV, news, websites) and the uncontrolled flow (the blogosphere). Methodological installation in this project is a big part of family interactions for the formation of social distance concerning migrants. The hypothesis of the effects of competition is not tested in this project. Needless to say, parents play a crucial role in the formation of attitudes toward and practices of these interactions. However, current Russian sociological studies are silent about the interactions between migrant children and children from local communities. Yet, today’s schoolchildren will, in a few years, encounter a dramatic decrease in Russia’s population and will therefore, in the near future, witness increasing migration flows. Our survey of schoolchildren and their parents conducted in 2012-2013 in the Sverdlovsk region was motivated by this very problem
Using an adapted form of the Bogardus scale (Bogardus 1926) we analyzed attitudes toward major ethnic groups in the region through the generational prism of local children and their parents. Using adapted methods based on his scale is common (Escalona 2011; Ethington 1997). The concept of social distance was introduced by the American sociologist E.S. Bogardus in the beginning of the twentieth century and describes the closeness or detachment of social or ethnic communities, groups, and individuals. The scale of social distance estimates the degree of social and psychological acceptance of other people, so the scale is also often called the scale of social tolerance. The scale is used to measure social distances associated with racial or national origins; with age and gender differences; and with professional, religious, and other indicators. It is also used to measure the generational distance between children and their parents. The Social Distance Scale indicates the degree of psychological closeness between people and this closeness enables comfortable interaction between people. In our study the Bogardus scale is used to estimate the social distance between members of different ethnic groups in the region (Bogardus 1926).
In the survey, we ask our respondents to mark their attitudes toward particular ethnic groups through a series of dichotomous questions. Our questionnaire for parents is slightly different in wording from the school children’s questionnaire due to the need to reflect meaningfully on the variety of interactions between migrants and the local community. Here is the list of questions, which reflect a greater degree of intimacy of interaction as one progresses through the questionnaire:
- “I agree to live in the same city, town with …”
- “I agree to live in the same building, on the same floor with …”
- “I agree to work together with …” (for parents) and “to study in the same school with …” (for schoolchildren)
- “I agree for my child to study in the same school, class with…” (for parents) and “to study in the same class with …” (for schoolchildren)
- “I agree for my child to be friends with …” (for parents) and “to sit next to in a classroom …” (for schoolchildren)
- “I agree for my child to marry …” (for parents) and “to be friends with …” (for schoolchildren)
Choosing and defining ethnic groups to assess was foremost in our research strategy. We created a list of ethnic groups for our respondents that (a) was plausible for our respondents to estimate, (b) reflected the reality of the migration situation in Yekaterinburg and the region, and (c) reflected not only the ethnic diversity of social interactions, but also indicated cultural differences.
As a result we suggested the following set:
- Azeris – describes a group of traditional migrants to the Urals (following the old Soviet patterns).
- Russian – describes the dominant ethnic group in the Urals (a kind of control group for evaluation).
- Kyrgyz – describes a major migration flow in Yekaterinburg and the region. This group presents considerable cultural differences when compared to the local population such as significantly different culinary traditions, typically Mongoloid appearance, and a “clan” mode of existence, which particularly affects the adoption of this group in multifamily apartment buildings in the megalopolis.
- Tatars – describes an ethnic group in the Ural region that belongs to another religious affiliation (Muslim).
- Moldovans – represents a minor flow of migration to the Urals. This group is associated with the stereotype of being European and is distinguished from the migration flow from Asia.
- Tajiks – describes the largest wave of migrants. This group is associated in the public mind with a prior image or stereotype (that they look dirty, smell bad, speak Russian badly, and are sheepish within the local community).
These classifications are not unique, but have regional specification when compared to similar studies (Arutynyan/Drobijeva/Kuznecov 2007).
The “Soviet” model of migration means movement of different ethnic groups within the country. This migration is much smaller when compared to today’s situation of socio-economic differentiation between the Soviet republics and the current states (the former Soviet republics). Furthermore, the ideology of friendly “Soviet people” does not suggest possible racist attitudes. Of course, there was xenophobia in the Soviet Union, but the modern Russian scale of this phenomenon is much more.
We should mention that, aside from criticism within the professional community, such categorization of ethnic groups was criticized by some of the respondents. For example, one parent accused the team of researchers of “being racist” and of “inciting hatred” among children. In our case, there was not concern about the formation of negative stereotypes, because radical formulations in the classical Bogardus scale were removed from the children’s questionnaire. The above-mentioned parent asked the principal to stop the survey. After his request, the already completed questionnaires were seized and destroyed. This is only one example of such a sensitive response to the research topic.
The Description of Data
The population of the Sverdlovsk region is approximately 4.3 million people, of which 1.4 million (32.2%) live in the city of Yekaterinburg. The most common ethnic groups in the Sverdlovsk Region are Russians with 90%, Tatars with 3.5%, and Ukrainians with 1% (National census 2010). The ethnic composition of our sample is almost identical to the composition of the population of the Sverdlovsk region and minor differences do not exceed the error of representativeness: Russians (90%), Tatars (3%), and Ukrainians (2%). This allows us to extrapolate results from our sample to the age group of people from 30 to 48 years old in the region as a whole. It is also clear that the dominant, in a quantitative sense, Russian ethnic group “dominates” the data set. Additionally, if we consider the social and economic characteristics of Yekaterinburg and the region, it might represent a metropolitan area and the region in the Russian Federation.
We surveyed 1342 people: 828 schoolchildren and 514 parents. The survey involved schoolchildren enrolled in grades 6-11. The average age of schoolchildren respondents was 14-15 years. Gender differences: 46% girls and 54% boys.
Among parents, 26% were men and 74% were women. The specific features of the survey caused this gender shift in the adult population of the sample. The survey was conducted in schools in the Sverdlovsk region. After the schoolchildren completed the questionnaire, they were requested to give a questionnaire to their parents and ask them to fill it out. It is known that Russian mothers have more of the responsibility for the upbringing and education of their children. Despite the fact that boys were asked to give the questionnaire to their mothers and girls were asked to give it to their fathers (to avoid gender asymmetry), the majority of parents who responded turned out to be women. We also encountered certain methodological difficulties throughout our research. The achieved sample of schoolchildren was 86%. We assume that this percentage represents the average attendance of children in classroom. However, only 54% of parents took part in the survey. This, of course, indicates limitations in the process of extrapolation of the research data. We assume that the most responsible and reliable parents answered the survey questions, and perhaps those were also people who had a particular experiential affinity with the research problem.
Migration Experience Among Schoolchildren and their Parents
We began our research with several hypotheses related to the factors responsible for creating different social distances between various ethnic groups. We were especially interested in the role of migration, at the level of personal experience, in dealing with potential migrants. The extrapolation of personal experience can serve, in our opinion, as a key criterion in evaluating a particular ethnic group. For instance, one out of six schoolchildren, interviewed in the schools of Yekaterinburg, experienced migration in his or her lifetime because he or she was born outside of Yekaterinburg in one of the satellite settlements of the Sverdlovsk region, or in towns or villages outside of the Sverdlovsk region. In general, about a quarter of the schoolchildren surveyed in the Sverdlovsk region had experienced migration to some degree because the place of the survey did not coincide with the place of their birth. Approximately 12% of the schoolchildren replied in the survey that their families had migrated to the Sverdlovsk region from other regions. Half of the surveyed schoolchildren had experienced interactions with migrants, from other countries outside the Russian Federation, with whom they studied in the same class or school. About 6% of the respondents were themselves migrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
It is clear that parents had a richer experience of interaction with migrants and other ethnic groups. Only 53% of the surveyed parents were natives to the Sverdlovsk region. This indicates that nearly half of the adult population in the Sverdlovsk region had experienced migration to a certain degree in their lives. About 28% of the surveyed parents migrated to the Sverdlovsk region from another region, and about a third of these migrants (8.2% of all the parents) moved to the Sverdlovsk region from one of the former Soviet republics.
Most of the parents (75%) had interacted with people who arrived in Russia from abroad. The most common types of these experiences are listed below:
- Working collaboratively with – 64% had experienced this type of interaction (half of all the respondents)
- Living in the same building, on the same floor with – 39% had experienced this type of interaction (one third of all the respondents)
Less common, yet representative types of interactions were also:
- contact with a friend who arrived in Russia from abroad, situational interactions in a public place, or interaction in the workplace – 4% of the respondents;
- contact with relatives from abroad (spouse or spouse’s relatives) – 3% of the respondents;
- studying at school, college, in professional courses with – 2% of the respondents.
Russians about themselves
As we have already indicated, the majority of the respondents identified themselves ethnically as Russians. The dominance of the opinions of this particular ethnic group explains, for instance, why the attitude toward the Russian ethnic group is more positive than the attitude toward other ethnicities (see Table 1 and 2). Therefore 99% of the respondents claimed that they would agree to live in the same settlement with a Russian person. At the same time intolerant statements were characteristic of the dwellers of Yekaterinburg (here 98%). Among the inhabitants of the Sverdlovsk region, 100% of the respondents were willing to live in the same settlement with a Russian person. This could be explained by the characteristics of the infrastructure of a megalopolis such as Yekaterinburg. The population of the city is approximately 1.5 million people, which makes Yekaterinburg one of the most densely populated cities in Russia. This, in turn, creates difficulties in terms of public transport, lack of job opportunities, etc. This situation, in short, opens a window for negative attitudes toward people coming to the city and for the perception of newcomers as competitors.
Table 1: Social distance in the responses of parents
|I agree to live in the same city, town with||53%||99%||59%||78%||65%||51%|
|I agree to live in the same building, on the same floor with||46%||99%||48%||73%||58%||40%|
|I agree to work together with||48%||99%||49%||72%||56%||44%|
|I agree for my child to study in the same school, class with||55%||99%||54%||77%||63%||48%|
|I agree for my child to be friends with||47%||99%||48%||70%||57%||41%|
|I agree for my child to marry||16%||97%||18%||32%||28%||14%|
Table 2: Social distance in the responses of schoolchildren
|I agree to live in the same city, town with||50%||99%||45%||58%||57%||37%|
|I agree to live in the same building, on the same floor with||38%||99%||36%||49%||48%||28%|
|I agree to study in the same school with||49%||99%||44%||54%||52%||35%|
|I agree to study in the same class with||40%||99%||35%||47%||44%||26%|
|I agree to sit next to in a classroom||29%||98%||26%||39%||35%||20%|
|I agree to be friends with||36%||97%||31%||45%||40%||25%|
Pupils experienced much less institutional interaction with members of other ethnic groups, and they extrapolated from their personal experience in order to understand their institutional interactions. Probably, public tolerance of migrants will increase as far as entry into a variety of institutional interactions. The low level of social acceptance is partly due to the current system of education. The former Soviet system aimed at the formation of internationalism but it withdrew from school textbooks. And now the idea of inter-ethnic tolerance is not so common in textbooks. In contemporary Russia, there is a problem with national identification because ethnicity is the basis of an emerging “new” identity.
The majority of the respondents agreed to work collaboratively with members of other ethnic groups regardless of any factors except education. Thus, reluctance to work with members of the dominant Russian ethnic group was recorded mainly among respondents with a higher education.
Surveyed parents agreed to allow their children to attend the same school or to be friends with Russians. No social or demographic differences affected this opinion. Most respondents also agreed to allow their child to marry a Russian. In the context of other received answers, this response was expected. In general, the relatively close social distance toward the Russian ethnic group can be explained, above all, by the quantitative dominance of this group in the Sverdlovsk region. Among the surveyed schoolchildren, this social distance is even than their parents, and generally ranges from 96% to 99% of positive responses.
Social distance in the generational context
The large amount of data and the relative novelty of our research approach (we have no other data derived from colleagues with comparable methodology) have sometimes put us in a difficult situation. Not all the results are easy to interpret. We will continue this work and we will also use an alternative research strategy—qualitative methods. The overall perception of social distance is almost identical among representatives of different generations and can therefore be represented as three levels of social distance:
1. Tatars and Moldovans. This level can be characterized as cultural affinity. In particular, among the generation of adults the nature of the attitude toward the Tatars and the Moldovans is a certain cultural acceptance of these ethnic groups. The maximum permissible intimacy is expressed in the agreement to a marriage of his or her child with a representative of these ethnicities (in 30% of cases). This phenomenon can be explained by the fact that Tatars are one of the indigenous ethnic groups in the Sverdlovsk region, and the Moldovans are perceived as representatives of European culture. This perception determines a more positive attitude toward the Moldovans. The core values of Europe are the values of liberalism, civil society, lawful state, market economy, and quality of life. In usual mind Europe is not perceived geopolitically but purely geographically.
2. Kyrgyz and Azeris. These ethnic groups could be characterized as institutionally acceptable. Respondents are ready to accept these groups as an objective given reality. They are ready to collaborate with them at work and live with them in the same city or village. Yet, the level of cultural penetration here is slightly lower. We associate this increasing social distance with the raising levels of nationalism in Russia and the very cruel attitudes toward ethnic groups from Asia and the Caucasus, incited by the new flows of labor migrants from these regions.
3. Tajiks. This is the most distant ethnic group. These people experience rejection not only culturally and personally, but also at the level of structural relationships. In particular, only half of the surveyed parents agreed to live with this ethnic group in the same city and among schoolchildren, only one out of three respondents agreed to do so. This phenomenon can be attributed to the effect of the double turnover of common stereotypes. Russians stereotypically imagine the Tajiks as a group with almost no social or cultural significance, and as a consequence, they prefer not to interact with them. For example, Tajiks carry out most construction and repair work but customers, individuals, and businesses try to find a broker (preferably a Russian foreman) when recruiting Tajiks. These stereotypes account for the wide social distance between Russians and Tajiks and enhance the stereotype responsible for this distance in the first place. Because of this large social distance, the Tajik ethnic group is sufficiently cut off from and rejected by the dominant ethnic group in the region. As the study of the Tajik ethnic group in Yekaterinburg demonstrates, both the labor migrants and the local community often seek to enclose their existence through ghettoization. As a policy measure to regulate the relationships between migrants and the local community, there is a proposal to allow guest workers to settle outside the city in a town not far from Yekaterinburg.
In the opinions of children and adults, social distance differs depending on the level of intimacy of the social interaction evaluated with the question. Thus, parents have demonstrated that social distance is greater when the social interaction is less “social” (more private). For instance, interactions such as residence in the same city, teamwork, etc., are perceived as the norm, while more personal contacts are evaluated with a smaller degree of proximity.
Schoolchildren assessed this differently. Because of the lack of a rich experience in dealing with other cultures and nationalities in institutional settings, schoolchildren extrapolated their experience of interpersonal communication onto the interactions with other ethnic groups. For example, while parents’ attitudes toward the Tajiks ranged from 51% to 14% of positive responses (from less personal to more personal interactions), schoolchildren’s responses decreased from 37% to 24% in more personal questions.
Another important factor was peer pressure and the prestige of a child in the eyes of his or her classmates. We believe that this is why the subjective willingness to make friends with children from other cultures or nationalities was often perceived more positively than the wish to sit next to this child in a classroom. Viewing the significance of the social distance to the “Other,” schoolchildren feared that sitting next to the “Other” could potentially exclude him or her from the community of peers in school.
Migrants and the assessment of social distance
As we noted earlier, one of the key factors in assessing social distance between the representatives of various ethnic groups is the subjective experience of migration. Almost half of the parental respondents had experienced migration, while among schoolchildren one in four had.
As noted above, Tatars and Moldovans have the shortest social distance from Russians. Everyday interactions (with the Tatars) and the perception of another ethnic group as complementary (Moldovans are seen as Europeans) are responsible for this short social distance. The current research data in Russia show that migrants tend to positively evaluate prospects for cooperation with representatives from their own religious affiliation, and then with their own ethnic group (Solodova 2011). For example, in evaluating social distance from the Moldovans, civil identity is prevalent among respondents and is based on shared history, religion, frequency of contact, etc. The assessment of Moldovans as Europeans creates the possibility for a closer distance with the Russians and is a clear cognitive and behavioral stereotype.
Teenagers do not draw from their own migration experience when evaluating the Tatars and Moldovans, whereas the parental generation tends to evaluate these groups more positively if they have experienced migration themselves (the difference is 3-4% for the Tatars, and about 7% for the Moldovans).
The groups of Azeri and Kyrgyz are the second closest group. It should be noted that the Kyrghyz is perceived as a more distant group. The interactions, on a personal and private level, are assessed as negative (an average of 4% of the schoolchildren and 10% of the parents). Schoolchildren differ in their perception of the Azeri and the Kirghiz. Schoolchildren with previous migration experience assessed these groups more positively (6-8% more positive responses to the Azeri group and 2-4% improvement rates for the Kirghiz). The responses of the participants revealed that the most distant or even excluded ethnic group was the Tajiks. This is particularly evident in the responses of schoolchildren. Less than a quarter of the respondents were willing to interact with the Tajiks privately, and only about a third of the respondents agreed to have institutional relations with them. Unlike the children, parents expressed more tolerant attitudes toward this group.
In our analysis we differentiated between the schoolchildren in middle school (grades 6-9) and the schoolchildren in high school (grades 10-11). The principal difference between these two groups was due to the difference in possible life trajectories in the near future, since those who graduated from high school were faced with educational and professional choices. Academic and work environments of potential intensification of the interactions with migrants.
The social attitude toward the ethnic group of Tatars varied markedly and depended on a child’s grade in school. High school schoolchildren were more tolerant of the Tatars than the middle school children, specifically with regard to the private nature of the interaction (e.g., friendships or sitting next to a person). Almost 50% of high school students assessed private interactions with the Tatars positively and the difference in positive responses, when compared to the middle school students’ responses, was about 20%. Similarly, less positive responses toward the Moldovans were observed among middle school students. The difference in positive responses, when compared to high school students, was about 20%. The difference between high school and middle school students’ attitudes toward the Azeri were less significant, yet still about 15%. The difference in the attitudes toward the representatives of the Asian countries were 10% or less among schoolchildren of different grades. For example, consider differences in responses to questions regarding the private nature of interactions with the Kyrgyz and Tajiks.
|Middle School (% of positive responses)||High school (% of positive responses)||The difference in responses in %|
|I agree to sit in a classroom next to a Kyrgyz||18||34||16|
|I agree to be friends with a Kyrgyz||27||36||9|
|I agree to sit in a classroom next to a Tajik||15||26||12|
|I agree to be friends with a Tajik||23||27||4|
There are certain trends in the assessment of social distance. In particular, there was a difference of about 20% between the middle and high school students’ evaluations of public interactions with other ethnic groups. High school students were more tolerant in their assessments. In our opinion, this tolerance is partly due to prior life experience and partly due to a more realistic assessment of the prospects for interaction with other cultures and ethnic groups in their adult lives. Moreover, a strong indicator of social distance is the gradual change in the evaluation of private interactions. When the total distance increased and the number of positive responses decreased, the difference in responses between middle and high school students also declined from 20% to 9% and, in with regard to the attitudes toward Tajiks, to 4%.
1. In the responses of schoolchildren, social distance has a more personal nature because of the children’s lack of institutional communication practices. In the context of parental responses, in which the social distance increases as the interactions become more private, we estimate that in the future, the current generation of schoolchildren will be more tolerant to other cultures and nationalities, especially if the interpersonal interactions remain the same and the level of institutional interaction rises.
2. In the everyday perceptions of the inhabitants of the Sverdlovsk region, there is a clear identification of the various ethnic groups, which can be expressed through the following levels of territorial assessment:
“One of ours” – residents of the region, city, and country whose culture is acceptable and understandable and with whom private relations are welcome (Russians, Tatars)
“The West” – representatives of the countries of western and eastern Europe, sometimes incomprehensible, but acceptable as fellow citizens, neighbors, and work colleagues. Such a perception allows for close relationships (Moldovans).
“The South West” – representatives of these groups are treated with tolerance. Yet tensions rise when relations with these groups become more intimate. Schoolchildren are more likely to consider the members of these groups to be representatives of the West (the Azeris).
“The South East” – the representatives of these cultures and ethnic groups are assessed with the largest social distance and treated with a very suspicious attitude. This attitude is further intensified by the objectively low social status of migrants from Central Asia. However, it is impossible to determine whether the large social distance caused the low social status of these groups or vice versa.
3. The experience of migration (even at the regional level, from a town or village to a large city) has the most significant impact on the demonstrated social distance. Reducing social distance is more clearly associated with the parents’ experiences, rather than with the experiences of schoolchildren. However, the subjective experience of being the “Other” and being “Alien” leads students to reconsider some of their attitudes and to rethink a variety of ethnic and cultural prejudices, which they inherited from their parents.
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About the Authors
Prof. Dr. Konstantin Kuzmin: Head of the department of social work of the Ural State Medical University (Russia), contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prof. Dr. Larisa Petrova: Associate Professor of Sociology and Political Science USPU (Russia), contact: email@example.com
Dr. Dmitriy Popov: Sociologist, independent researcher, Yekaterinburg, (Russia), contact: firstname.lastname@example.org