Postmodern Ethnicity: Comparative Analysis (Interpretation) Of European And Eurasian Paradigms


This article is an interdisciplinary research on postmodern social subjectivity that is developing on the ethnicity metamorphoses basis. In the euphoria of the expected globalisation benefits at the turn of the century, the world community has discovered a new(old) phenomenon – the awakened ethnicity. The issues connected with coexistence of ethnic communities and their relations with the statehood have changed the global civilisation way of life over the past 30 years. The research is based on comparative methodology and comparative analysis of European and Eurasian forms of ethnicity. It considers the issues of defining the designated varieties of ethnicity comparison bases and gives the nature of diversity, originality and similarities within diversity an interpretation. In both Europe and Eurasia ethnicity found its realisation in a classical form, based on the idea of the peoples’ self-determination, and at the same time ethnicity features not typical for industrially developed countries appeared. Europe faced separatism that used the idea of the peoples’ self-determination, and a new crisis form of ethnicity (the immigrant ethnicity) appeared. The issues of ethnic and political identity, ethnic integration and discrimination, ethnic separatism and nationalist extremism became vital. The article provides an interpretation of the phenomena of transformation of cultural boarders and processes of European identity modification. Against this background, ethnicity transformations are considered and the solution to the problem of the cognition of causes, forms, and characteristics of the existence of ethnicity and the prospects for its ‘revolt’ in the civilisational identity of Europe and Eurasia is proposed.

Keywords: Ethnicitypolysubjectmigrationcivilisation statenation


At the beginning of the 21st century the problem of the nature and social role of ethnicity had become relevant. Numerous centres of interethnic contradictions, clashes and wars that arose during the collapse of the Soviet Union or the events in the Afro-Asian world were perceived as understandable and natural processes. The emergence of neo-nationalism and neo-fascism, ethnic subjectivity and migration ethnicity in modern times was unexpected and frightening. The image of the future constructed by this time was in the form of a global social community, which emerged on the basis of political, socio-economic, cultural and religious integration and unification. However, the world faced the growth of ethnic and religious fragmentation and differentiation and ethnisation of mass consciousness. Ethnicity is now one of the cornerstones of postmodern sociality and requires to be analysed in a theoretical aspect. The problem of ethnicity transformation perspectives, its possible forms of existence and role in postmodernity has become relevant.

Problem Statement

The problem revealed is the result of contradictions between the ideas and forecasts about the nature and fate of ethnicity, prevailing in the twentieth century, and the arising, atypical and unexpected conflicts on the basis of ethnic processes. It is based on the existing reality, and makes it possible to fix the phenomenon of crisis in the structure of modernity and the emerging features of the emerging postmodernity at the same time. Different civilisations have their own modernities and features of possible postmodernity, and ethnicity manifests itself in special forms. Comparative analysis of European and Eurasian ethnicity in crisis is a way of theoretical understanding of the problem.

Achieving certainty in understanding the nature and functionality of ethnic communities, their place and role in the structure of sociality is a prerequisite for solving the problem. It is necessary to focus on the issues of the research subject, the material of synthesis, on following the principle of analysis of the real, undeniably accepted factual material of a particular era and forms of sociality.

The ethnicity of the last three decades exists under the pressure of globalisation ideology. The key element of the globalisation transformations is the attempt to change the planetary socio-historical subjectivity phenomenon. The consequences are: the destruction of the national states existence and coexistence system; reformatting of the Eurasian socio-cultural space; the destruction of the stable Islamic world. The crisis of sociality caused an explosive growth of ethnic subjectivity in different forms. There is a practical need to determine the origins and logic of ethnic activity and mobility.

The migration ethnicity phenomenon appeared. Immigrant groups based on the ethnic identity formed. There is a form of ethnicity of the newcomers developed from the elements of the past life and structured by the existence in the new conditions, created by the globalisation processes. In relatively mature forms these processes are typical for European countries, but can also be noticed in Eurasia. Modern European societies with an established way of life based on the ideas of education, tolerance and democracy, are becoming societies with ‘broken’ identity. It is necessary to conceptualise the process of generalisation of ‘aliens’ (immigrants) in ethnic communities.

Research Questions

The possible state of ethnicity in the conditions of postmodernity formation is manifested in the modification of interethnic relations and relations between ethnic groups and the state, as well as problems appeared on the basis of migration ethnicity. The analysis begins with the interpretation of the ethnicity existence content and forms. A priori, it assumes the existence of sociality as a wider system with ethnicity as one of the existence facets of the social. Sociality is considered as culture acquired by a person as an out-of-biological system of historically developing ways and forms of human activity providing reproduction and change of social life. Historicity in the existence of the human race is determined by the change of sociality. This process is carried out in organisational forms, i.e. the subject of sociality is a community of a certain type. The bearer and the creator of sociality in the initial period of history was a tribal community. Later, the tribal community was replaced by other ways of coexistence of people. In the description of the world history a state is usually considered as its subject. Popper (1992) highlighted this phenomenon in one of his work. He wrote that in people’s mind “the history of mankind is, rather, the history of the Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman empires, and so on, down to our own day. In other words: They speak about the history of mankind, but what they mean, and what they have learned about in school, is the history of political power” (Popper, 1992, p. 279). But the state is either mentioned together with the ethnic community, or the name of the state coincides with the ethnonym. Thus, the tribal communities are replaced by: a) states as power-political organisations possessing sovereignty and the means to manage, compel and organise social life; b) ethnic groups and ethnicity, i.e. the peoples emerge. The peoples and states emerge at the same time and in the same space in an interactive process. Later, such overlap was disrupted and became an exception. Political structures became decisive in the functioning of other spheres of public life, including the life of ethnic groups, which were considered as a secondary formation. In the 20th century, on the basis of these ideas the USSR creates the concept of overcoming national differences and forming a new historical, social and international community of people – the ‘Soviet People’. The Western countries ethnosociology at the same time maintains the idea of the disappearance of ethnic differences and ‘American melting pot’. But the realities of life forced the USSR to abandon the idea of the Soviet people and the American ethnosociology to develop a concept of cultural identity and multiculturalism policy as the basis of stability and progress. It is necessary to base the interpretation of ethnicity and ethnic groups on the primacy or independence of the phenomenon and its determining role in the sociality preservation and existence. Steinthal, the founder of ethnopsychology, noted: “The form of joint life of mankind is division into peoples, and the development of the human race is based on the differentiation of peoples” (Gumilyov, 1990, p. 371). The emergence of ethnicity was the result of the qualitatively different from the species forms mechanisms of existence formation. Sociality was localised in space and time in a specific form. Society in reality as a collective of people exists either as an ethnic group or as a set of ethnic groups. And this is a given, which is present in the history of Homo sapiens as one of the foundations of the identity and historical subjectivity self-consciousness formation. Ethnic communities play the role of the sociality subject. Ethnicity is realised on the basis of the created sociality, perceived at the existence of an individual level. A particular ethnic group provides the certainty of sociality formed on the basis of a natural and cultural environment of activity. History, as the past social being, is preserved and combined with the present in the ethnic group activities. Sociality is preserved and exists in historical memory, in written history as an ethnos’ reflection on its own past and in various forms and ways of orientation, behaviour and activity. Ethnos absorbs and develops history in the forms of spiritual culture, the phenomena of rational and unconscious, as well as in the natural structures of its existence. The existence of such phenomenon in the content of ethnicity is determined by the concept of mentality. Mentality is understood as basic elements of culture manifested in the consciousness and activities of many generations. They serve as a link for different historical epochs and form the comprehension of national history.

The subject role of ethnic groups is most evident in the statehood formation or transformation periods. The peoples remain definite, while the political system changes many times. And in times of qualitative changes in sociality the formation of new social life forms is based on the experience of ethnic groups and happens on their behalf. The substantial role of ethnicity is revealed when the basic ways of human life are investigated. Thus, the production of spiritual values, literature and art, the artistic development of the world is implemented in ethnic forms. And the statement of this phenomenon, as a rule, does not raise any objections. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the development of natural science in certain aspects is also experiencing the influence of ethnic group historical experience, and even the construction of extremely abstract, theoretical pictures of the world has long been under the irresistible influence of ethnicity. Gachev (1992) in a series of works proves the existence of national world images. Having analysed four hydrostatics treatises (Archimedes, Stevin, Pascal, Galilei), he came to the conclusion that there are “multinational basics of hydrostatics” (Gachev, 1992).

Modern Ethnology draws its attention to the fact that the political culture of peoples exists as part of ethnic specificity. An interesting conclusion is made in the study of the processes that took place during the decolonisation period. Despite the fact that many peoples had lived under an imported form of political power for several generations, they re-established traditional ethnic institutions of power and based their statehood on them once the colonialism was destroyed. There are sufficient grounds for asserting the subjective role of ethnic groups, the nation and the manifestation of such functions in the formation of a separate society and statehood (Kuchukov, 2017). The adoption of such understanding of the nature of ethnicity and ethnos allows us to create a model of their existence in the processes of globalisation, in the postmodernity of Eurasian and European civilisations. The state is always, behind all other relations and connections, the organisation of public life of an ethnic group or two or more peoples. Another option is to organise the social life of immigrant ethnic groups, in the first or in the second and third generations within the established state.

Eurasia has developed a cultural space, in which civilisation states, formed by many ethnic groups, some of them dominating, numerously appeared. For the last five centuries the Russian statehood has been in the role of the civilisation state in Eurasia. European civilisation is a model of the existence of many nation states, as a rule, competing with and fighting against each other. In national states, in addition to the host nation, different ethnic and other groups exist and coexist.

Russian statehood originally appeared adopting the legacy of the previous Eurasian civilisation states and including many peoples and different confessional communities. The most significant and specific feature inherent in the Eurasian civilisation states was the preservation of peoples as such in the conditions of coexistence in their historical forms. The peoples joined such communities as a result of conquest and wars and led to many changes in the life of ethnic groups, but at the same time, they had the opportunity to preserve the language, national customs and traditions. The upper classes of the annexed peoples became part of the imperial elite. For many centuries, different ethnic groups have coexisted preserving the feel of historical subjectivity and traditions of active and purposeful existence. In Russia ethnicity exists in a form of system of coexisting ethnic groups, each people having their own subjective identification. This ethnicity is one of the determining, substantial facets in the countries and civilisations existence. Ethnicity in Russia is polysubject, meaning that it is something that exists as a result of many peoples’ subjective claims and activities, and not something inherent in one. This feature of Russian civilisation is most vivid in the North Caucasus. This region has historically developed a sub-civilisational community, one of the main features of which is the complex interweaving of the destinies and interests of several dozen ethnically, religiously and socio-economically diverse peoples. Peoples with a pronounced historical and national identity, which was manifested its subjective qualities in times of crisis of the Russian state, coexist on a relatively small mountainous territory. The phenomenon of polysubject ethnicity formed on the basis of real problems accumulated in the process of life of peoples, the coexistence of ethnic groups and the state policy.

Society seeks reconciliation and harmony among the ethnic groups that make up the population of the state. With all interpretations of the coexistence of peoples problem, the ultimate goal is the social unity of community reflected in certain ideas, symbols, concepts of a metaphorical nature. This ideology is a prerequisite for the legitimisation of power, stabilisation of the social system in multimember countries. And this phenomenon exists not only as an ideologem, but also as a practical need, understood in any multiethnic and multicultural formation. Historically, the most ancient and well-known case of solving the problem of achieving unity of the peoples of an empire was the attempt made by Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great put forward the idea of merging the Western peoples of the Empire (Macedonians and Greeks) with the Eastern (Persians) by marriage. The prerequisite for such a merger and equalisation of peoples were his ideas about the homogeneity of ethnic groups (Schachermeyr, 1986). But, as is commonly known, such merger of peoples did not happen. Later, in other empires and multinational countries the problem of peoples’ coexistence was always to be solved. The history of mankind has developed different approaches to solving this problem. The principles, forms and methods developed in the Eurasian and European civilisations have become both traditional and alternative.

It became typical for the European civilisation to exclude the captured tribes and peoples from the community of ethnic groups that make up the population of the state with subjective rights. Such consciousness and principles of public life organisation, when the subject rights belong to the ethnic group which is the creator of the state, has its origin in the civilisation of antiquity. This policy is characterised as the desire for assimilation, implemented by levelling national identity, historical memory, and often physical destruction. The earliest manifestation of this attitude towards other tribes is the fate of the helots in Sparta. Greek tribes of Dorians, who came from the Balkan Peninsula, turned the Greeks, who lived in this area, into slaves. The word ‘helot’ comes from Greek ‘captured’; they were treated like prisoners and were usually turned into slaves. The formation of the idea containing a certain type of relations between the tribes is manifested in naming the conquered helots, meaning captured, and the adoption of this term by the public consciousness. This attitude to other ethnic groups existed in the Roman Empire, and such type of attitude to the subjugated peoples and tribes was manifested by the British during the colonisation of North America. From the middle of the 17th century to the end of the 19th century, the country's indigenous population fell to the brink of extinction and the remains were placed into reservations. (Knyazev, 2018). This being said, in historical writings and literary studies this process and time period is determined by the concept of ‘frontier’, the era of free land development in the West of the United States (Levchenko, 2006). The indigenous population of these territories was not perceived as tribes and peoples with subject rights. Such fate then came to the semi-colonial countries. The so-called Opium Wars of the European powers against China, which resulted in forcible narcotisation of the country, are widely known. (Butakov & Tizengauzen, 2002). Europeans (and Japanese) in China were not subject to local laws, and the autochthons lost all the rights and freedoms inherent to the resident of a country.

The Eastern civilisations developed a different type of relations, characterised by the consensual coexistence of peoples-subjects of an empire and conquered peoples. Le Bon (2009), in his book The World of Islamic Civilisation (1884) noted that the Arabs showed kindness in their attitude towards the populations of Syria, Egypt, Spain and other conquered countries and gave them the right to abide by their laws and follow their faith and “nations have never known merciful and tolerant conquerors like the Arabs”. Our contemporary, historian Kennedy (2010), in his work The Great Arab Conquests writes about the surprise of the monk, who in 780 was puzzled how “in a short time the whole world passed into the hands of the Arabs...” and points out: “The key element of their success was relatively easy conditions of surrender for the defeated. Arab commanders usually agreed to sign treaties guaranteeing the safety of life and property of the defeated” (p. 219).

Eurasian civilisations existed in the same paradigm. The Mongol Empire consisted of many tribes and peoples, very different from each other on various grounds. Speaking different languages and having different cultures, all of them were included in the Mongol Empire and existed on the basis of the Great Yasa (law) of Genghis Khan (Vernadskiy, 1997). Genghis Khan and his successors patronised all religions and ministers of religious cults equally. The Russian Church remained autonomous and self-governing, free to perform religious rites. When in 1246 the census of the population for the purpose of taxation by its tribute was made, all clergy was exempted from taxes (Belozyorov, 2002). All the peoples of the Empire had equal rights, there are no statutes asserting the exclusivity of the conquerors. In two centuries, on the territories torn by constant princely strife in the pre-Mongol period, appeared a strong and united state with Moscow as its capital, which then grew into one of the largest empires. The consensual system of peoples’ coexistence arises in the process of formation and development of the Russian Tsardom (1547–1721) and then the Russian Empire (1721–1917). The Russian Tsardom originally existed as a conglomerate of various states, the throne of which was occupied by a single monarch and which were listed in his title. The term ‘samoderzhets’ (autocrat) was followed by “of Vladimir and Moscow and Novgorod, the tsar of Kazan, the tsar of Astrakhan, ...” and many others (Talina, 2013).

During the existence of the Soviet Union in Eurasia, the sphere of coexistence of peoples was considered as one of the main areas requiring constant attention. But the reality was in monstrous crimes and ethnocide policy on the basis of peoples’ deportation.

The European model is monocentric, created on the basis of the historical activity of one ethnic group and others that do not claim subjectivity. This principle of public life organisation has acquired classical forms in Modern history with the emergence of nation states in Europe. At the same time, the concept of nation began to be used to determine not ethnic groups, but political communities of French, English and other states. However, it is a cunning, based on inadequate ideas about ethnicity as a disappearing phenomenon of sociality. For instance, the French ethnos is the result of ethnogenesis with Celtic-Roman-Germanic roots and makes up the majority of the country's population. But the fact is that the carriers of this ethnicity, recognising the citizenship of other ethnic groups representatives, do not recognise them as French (Chernysheva, 2013). At the same time, such ethnic groups as Bretons, Corsicans, Occitans have their own identities. The principle of the nation state is based on the idea of other ethnic population assimilation. In the second half of the 20th century the process of reformatting a civilised community began in Europe. This integration process was enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty of establishing the European Union, signed in 1992. A civilisation state is now being formed from the system of national states competing and often being at war with each other in the past (Gachev, 1992). This process is difficult and possibly unrealisable. This is proved by the UK’s Brexit, the countries contradictions and problems associated with migration ethnicity.

In recent decades, the processes associated with immigration ethnicity have become unexpected and frightening. This ethnicity is more vivid within the European civilisational community. Ethnicity, which is inherent in newcomers and which until recent decades was not visible suddenly emerged and reached the level of the immigrants’ social life. Ethnic identity is one of the forms of identity of an individual acquired by birth. At the same time, the actualisation of ethnic identity (ethnic identification) at the level of group activity takes place in the process of social interaction. Ethnic identification and formation of active ethnicity occurs as a result of the close interweaving of globalisation processes and at the same time regionalisation. The features and conditions of immigrants’ adaptation to a multiethnic environment have a decisive influence on these processes.

Traditionally, immigrants were focused on the priority of life values of the new environment and acted according to the adaptation scenario, while the host party typically pursued the assimilation of migrants and their use in non-prestigious jobs. The modern immigrants perceive the benefits that the new environment provides only as a resource to use. They act as an opposing party, they are aware of their interests and do not take into account the interests of indigenous people and ethnic groups. The contradictions and relations between different ethnic groups and the state policy determine the content of the processes of migration ethnicity formation. The social space of modern society in the context of ethnicity and cultural identity is composed of the three conditionally allocated zones. First, the zone of state-forming community existence, and such community exists in a socially organised society as a rule. Thus, even in the emigrant states (USA, Canada, Australia, etc.) there are communities that dominate numerically and culturally and determine the life strategies of the society. The subject of ethnicity in this case is the peoples that created the state, and unique cultures with the consciousness of historical subjectivity. Second, a diverse and chaotic world of immigrants consisting of different forms of sociality, culture and ethnicity fragments. Finally, third, the zone that occurs in the collision of the first two. This is a zone of uncertainty and different possibilities, where the requirements of the external ethnic environment and constant but totally alien ethnic properties of newcomers are manifested. The state and content of the buffer zone largely determines the nature of the identification processes, the acquisition of consciousness of the immigrants’ own interests. The contact environment characterises the prospects for the development of ethnicity of the constituent and state-forming ethnic communities and immigrant ethnic groups.

The state of the contact zone is crucial for the development of ethnicity and this phenomenon is most clearly expressed in the European civilisational paradigm. The nature and composition of modern immigrants, who came mainly from the war-torn in the name of ‘democracy’ African-Asian and European countries, are determined by the conditions and factors leading to ethnocentrism. Such consciousness is inherent in both immigrants and indigenous people. An interesting fact is the unexpected ethnicity that manifested in the Western countries. Ethnologists used to believe that immigrants from the third world in the second and third generation lose their ethnic identity completely. But in reality, ethnic signs revived and strengthened through a number of generations. While the first-generation immigrants agreed to any form of life, the next generations perceived themselves as citizens of the country and demanded civil rights. From this appeared some groups based on ethnicity. The formation of immigrant ethnicity, as a rule, is stimulated by the policy pursued at the state level, where the main goal is the newcomers’ integration into society, but, as a rule, as second-class people used for a certain type of activity. Such policy in the conditions of declarative democracy and informatisation of social life stimulates the formation of new ethnicity.

The modern world has become large and united, globalisation processes have created conditions for mass immigration flows purposefully aiming to the West. The peculiarity of modern immigration is the movement of large masses preserving group ethnic identity. Ethnic identity thus becomes the basis of unity, activity and opposition of group interests. The manifested signs of migration ethnicity indicate the possible formation of a new sociality, where ethnicity will occupy a certain and significant place, requiring both organisational and social measures. Today the statement of a new socio-cultural, multicultural system formation, where different ethnic groups, religious and racial communities coexist, is predominant in the interpretation of the social nature of ethnicity and understanding of the prospects of its development. However, the manifested appearance of the new ethnicity indicates the growth of conflict potential associated with ethnicity.

Purpose of the Study

The study aims to determine the characteristics, content and forms of the existence of ethnicity in the postmodernity. The analysis is carried out with the use of the methodology of comparative studies, the totality of scientific methods of cognition, comparing and contrasting. The subject of the study is the ethnicity existing in the past, present and projected future of the European and Eurasian civilisations. The study seeks to identify the possible prospects in the transformation of ethnicity and the potential of conflictogenity on the basis of the activity of ethnic groups.

Research Methods

The basis of the study is the interdisciplinary approach methodology that makes it possible to integrate different systems of disciplinary knowledge, use both general and specific scientific methods in the study of complex social phenomena, and creates conditions for the synthesis and interaction of methods of different degrees of generality. The study is centred and systematised on the basis of the ethnicity study by the use of the comparative studies methodology and the totality of scientific methods of cognition, comparing and contrasting.


As a result: -the phenomena of ethnicity, which are a consequence of the globalisation processes on the basis of socio-political transformations as an activity to change the socio-historical subjectivity at the planetary level are revealed; -on the basis of comparison of the two models of civilisational existence (European and Eurasian) common and special features, manifested in the sphere of existence and coexistence of ethnic groups are identified; - the content of the transformation processes taking place in the European civilisation as an activity of reformatting Europe from the set of national States to the state-civilisation is determined; - the idea of the substantiality of ethnicity as an element in the existence of society, the possible growth of conflicts in the postmodernity on the basis of emerging contradictions in the sphere of existence associated with the processes of globalisation is substantiated.


The results of the study can be used in solving a number of applied problems:

- in determining the factors of influence of historical time and the social space organisation on the state of ethnic groups and ethnicity;

- in determining the spatial and temporal framework, ways and methods of the civilisation state existence;

- in the process of conceptualisation of policy towards neighbouring states and peoples;

- in the formation of internal ethnic policy;

- in solving specific problems in the relations of the state with ethnic communities and ethnic groups; creation of ways and methods of regulation of interethnic relations, to be the basis for overcoming ethnocentrism, to identify the traditions of tolerant coexistence of ethnic groups in modern times;

- to stimulate ethnological, historical and political studies;

- to use the civilisational-imperial practices of ethnic policy.


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21 January 2020

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Kuchukov*, M., Kyarova, M., Kuchukova, Z., & Dadashev, A. (2020). Postmodern Ethnicity: Comparative Analysis (Interpretation) Of European And Eurasian Paradigms. In D. Karim-Sultanovich Bataev, S. Aidievich Gapurov, A. Dogievich Osmaev, V. Khumaidovich Akaev, L. Musaevna Idigova, M. Rukmanovich Ovhadov, A. Ruslanovich Salgiriev, & M. Muslamovna Betilmerzaeva (Eds.), Social and Cultural Transformations in the Context of Modern Globalism, vol 76. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 1838-1847). Future Academy.