Sociocultural Identity In The Context Of Migration Processes


The paper considers the unprecedented increase of cross-border labor migration in the modern society caused by the globalization of the labor market. According to the authors, one of the problems of the migration growth of the population in the host society is the problem of maintaining the national identity of migrants and the indigenous ethnic group of the host country. The authors analyzed various models of socio-cultural adaptation of migrants in the host community, which include isolationism, aggressive colonization, assimilation and acculturation. As a result of the analysis of the implementation of various options of socio-cultural adaptation of cross-border migrant workers in modern Russia, two trends were identified: ethnic identity of migrants is preserved mainly due to the growth of migration networks and the size of diaspora; there is a transformation of national identity, which includes the loss of the mother tongue, culture and national way of life while maintaining a sense of belonging to ethnicity. The reactions of the society to the clash of cultural standards include isolationism, alternative assimilation, soft multiculturalism (maintaining a common cultural field), hard multiculturalism (supporting the culture of ethnic minorities), apartheid. The perceptions in the scientific community that there are no serious threats to the national identity of ethnic groups of the multinational Russian State are too optimistic. The practice of multiculturalism faces serious difficulties and reveals weaknesses open to criticism. The results of the study can be used in the development of proposals and recommendations to specialists in the field of migration management.

Keywords: Host societymulticulturalismmigration processesnational identitysociocultural integrationsociocultural adaptation


The era of globalization is facing a major global problem – threat of losing the national identity. The loss of traditions and values accumulated by previous generations results in the fact that in the global world a person is abstracted not only from his own historical and cultural ideas, but also from the peculiarities of other nationalities and cultures (Grober & Bodrov, 2015).

Globalization is often seen as a process of convergence and unification. Within the convergent paradigm, ethnic identity is considered as archaism, or this sociocultural phenomenon is denied at all. The supporters of a convergent approach predict the death of nation states and civil nations. However, the real processes of globalization have shifted towards civilizational divergence. While the economic space has become unified, there is segmentation, fragmentation of civil nations into ethno-confessional groups (Safonov & Orlov, 2011).

The involvement of Russia in the process of globalization has provoked a crisis of national identity, there have been changes in mentality, in the system of values and priorities of the Russian society. The synthesis of liberal and traditionalist values and attitudes taking place in the public consciousness jeopardizes the civilizational identity of the Russian superethnos.

However, cross-border migration poses a serious threat to the national identity today. Starting the 2000s due to an advantageous geographical location, relatively high level of socio-economic development, rapid growth of domestic labor market caused by the expansion of the private economic sector Russia became the country accepting migrants.

Migration growth for Russia in global, including demographic, perspective can be considered positive. In particular, depopulation caused by protracted crisis events in the Russian economy is compensated, thus filling jobs unpopular among the indigenous population.

However, the qualitative composition of migrants arriving to Russia, according to such significant indicators as the level of general and professional education, business qualification, state of health and other, leaves much to be desired (Ryvkina & Guschina, 2012). The problem is that people traditionally move from less developed to more developed countries, and mainly migrants from CIS countries come to Russia, including three quarters from the Central Asia and Transcaucasia. Their composition is quite diverse, but many are classified as socially vulnerable people in need of full assistance from the state and society (Micco & Pages, 2006).

Another migration problem is the emigration of leading scientists and researchers abroad. Academic mobility is normal in the globalized world. However, in our country there is an asymmetry of such migration, there is the so-called “brain drain”, which has a negative impact on many spheres of public life (Guschina, 2008). For highly qualified labor, however, the brain drain is neutralized by the extension of outsourcing. But in modern Russia, migrants are predominantly people of physical labor.

Migration processes entail changes in social and demographic structures of the Russian society. They have a significant impact on social division and labor remuneration, as well as on social tensions in the regions with long and intense influx and, on the contrary, outflows of people (Micco & Pages, 2006).

Without doubt, on a global scale, the accumulated human capital is used rationally (workforce moves to countries and industries where it is needed), but the consequences of the outflow of intellectual resources from the countries of origin are deplorable for these countries, and in host countries the knowledge and skills of migrants are underutilized.

Problem Statement

Migration processes influence the transformation and nature of the host national identity. Underestimating the increasing cultural and ethnic diversity resulting from cross-border labor migration could lead to changes in the structure and nature of national identity and, as a result, to the crisis of national identity.

At the individual level, on the one hand, the phenomenon of deprivation occurs where the members of the migrant community cannot fully meet psychophysiological or social needs. This involves increasing social tensions, deviant behavior of migrants, and as a result, radical change of the migration policy. On the other hand, the value paradigm of migrants is being transformed. People that are torn between different value paradigms experience difficulties with full personal realization in either direction of development. The social well-being of a migrant is disharmonic, thus causing dissociation of his needs and opportunities for their realization (Kobozeva, 2008).

Research Questions

The topic of the paper is large-scale cross-border labor migration caused by the globalization of the labor market.

Object of the study – sociocultural aspects of cross-border migration.

Subject of the study – philosophical aspect of sociocultural adaptation of migrants, as well as the risks of loss of the national identity of the indigenous ethnic group.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to identify the optimal model of socio-cultural adaptation of migrant workers as one of the factors determining the impact of migration processes on the national identity of both the migrant community and the host country.

The hypothesis of the study is that in addition to the sociocultural identity of migrants and the host country, the proportion of migrants in the total population and the duration of migrations, an important factor determining the impact of migration processes on the national identity is the sociocultural adaptation of migrant workers.

Research Methods

The works of the philosopher and political scientist Panarin are devoted to the analysis of sociocultural aspects of labor migration. Among many factors affecting migration, the scientist highlights sociocultural factors – inherited social ties and models of behavior. Under severe conditions of survival and pauperization of the population, these ethno-social characteristics are not a serious barrier to migration. Moreover, Panarin stressed, the ties and norms that previously prevented migration become factors in the growth of migration networks (Panarin, 1993; Panarin & Bochkaryova, 2015).

The authors of the paper used the analysis of scientific sources, hypothetical-deductive method in the proposal of the research hypothesis and dialectical method, which requires to consider the developing object in all diversity, in terms of its internal contradictions, as well as a systemic approach.


Problem of sociocultural adaptation

Mass migration poses the problem of sociocultural, linguistic and legal adaptation of migrant workers.

The process of finding a representative of one country in another, the process of his interaction with another environment, is commonly referred to as sociocultural adaptation. In the case of migration as a whole, sociocultural adaptation should be seen as a complex, multidimensional phenomenon, the varieties of which include social, cultural, linguistic, economic and legal processes. It is not limited to adapting an individual to a different ethnocultural environment. In the structure of adaptation, it is common to distinguish between three main components: adaptive situation, need and ability. At the same time, the adaptive situation, acting as the basis of further adaptation, defines targeting: survival, search for work, earnings potential, self-realization of personality in various spheres of life, etc. The source of this social process for an individual or a group as a whole is motivation, as well as satisfaction of needs. Therefore, sociocultural adaptation acts as a tool to establish a relative correspondence between the needs and the ability to satisfy them, as an achievement of a relative balance between the needs of an individual or a group and the requirements of the host sociocultural environment (Vladimirova et al., 2010).

Dodd identifies four main patterns of behavior within interethnic interaction under the adaptation conditions:

  • Flight (creating personal microworld, trying to avoid direct contacts with foreign culture);

  • Fight (active manifestation of ethnocentrism, desire to transfer the pattern of behavior to the new environment);

  • Filter (dialogue of cultures or multi-directional strategy: preservation of own culture, identification with own ethnic group; high activity, communicability in the new environment);

  • Flex (changing cultural identity at both the level of external behavior and social perception) (Dodd, 1998).

Based on the Dodd model the domestic researcher Yuzhanin offers his classification:

1. The strategy of “ghettoisation” (passive autarchy) is implemented when adaptors avoid contact with the culture of the host country, hoping to eliminate negative symptoms of the cultural shock. The following models of migrants create a special microworld, in which there is exclusively a “native” ethnocultural environment, where only their compatriots and fellow citizens live. Passive autarchy is generally common among the members of ethnic minorities (displaced persons and refugees) living in megacities.

2. The strategy of “cultural colonization” (aggressive autarchy) is characterized by active manifestation of ethnocentrism and intolerance among “aliens”. The new sociocultural reality is perceived extremely inadequately, and other culture is sharply criticized and rejected. Moreover, migrants (colonizers) actively seek to move their cultural attributes and ethnic stereotypes to a new environment, impose their own world perception and way of life on the host environment.

3. Assimilation involves the rejection of migrants (voluntary or forced) from their native culture and full identification with new ethnocultural community.

4. Integration (acculturation) is the most preferred and successful adaptation strategy, which is to ensure the commitment of ethnic minorities to their culture and simultaneous internalization of their foreign cultural attributes. The model also calls for the enhancement of a parity intercultural dialogue between migrants and the dominant ethnic majority, mutual adaptation of the latter ones: the ethnic minority seeks to learn basic values, norms, knowledge and patterns of a new sociocultural environment, and the host community adapts its social institutions to the needs and demands of all its constituent ethnic groups (Yuzhanin, 2007).

In modern Russia it is possible to distinguish three groups of economic migrants, for each of the groups there is a different model of sociocultural adaptation. If foreign migrants are close in language and culture to that of the host country, if the cultural distance (objectively existing and subjective degree of similarities or differences between ethnic cultures) is small, the assimilation model (Flex) is in place completely changing the cultural identity of a person, the model of cultural “dissolution” of a person in the host ethnic group. However, for most foreign migrant workers there are serious obstacles to integration into the Russian society: low educational level, poor knowledge of the Russian language, legal deposition (Vladimirova et al., 2010). These factors give opportunities for the first and third adaptation models. Migrants are in a state of communicative isolation and distance from the culture of their host society. Such a model is typical of seasonal migrants, who do not associate their future lives with Russia, pursuing the purely economic goal of earning money for their families left in their homeland. The Filter (acculturation) model is typical for economic migrants seeking to both preserve their national and cultural identity and master the language of the host country to make a professional career there. They are motivated to adapt to life in a new country.

Given the fact that migrant workers have little time to adapt, as most of them do not plan to remain in Russia forever, the objective of socio-cultural adaptation programs for migrant workers is usually acculturation.

In recent years, a new demographic phenomenon has been observed in the Russian Federation – the growth of migration networks, which poses new challenges to the migration policy, the main of which is the work with diaspora; “according to experts, public opinion is perhaps the weakest link in the migration policy today” (Kashpur & Popravko, 2012). Ethnic diasporas are the main communicative structures with autopoetic (autopoiesis –self-reproduction, self-production) procedures of new ethnic groups of migrants.

Group ethnic identity is the process and result of self-description and self-observation of a self-reference system, such as the migrant community (Luman, 2005; Luman, 2006; Luman, 2007). It is this procedure of preserving and maintaining the ethnic identity of migrants, rather than adapting migrants in some form to the cultural environment, which is the most important sociocultural task (Kashpur & Popravko, 2012).

There are two trends: first, the preservation of the national identity through the growth of diaspora; second, the transformation of the national identity, which is preserving ethnic identity while losing mother tongue, culture and national way of life.

Both trends affect the identity of a regional society thus transforming it.

Russian model of multiculturalism

Migration results in inevitable changes in the social structure of the host community, the socio-demographic transformation of that community, and changes in the socio-role and socio-cultural structures of the immigrant society. For example, the extension of “immigration expansion” in the second half of the 20th century led to the emergence of communities with great cultural and ethnic diversity in the world.

As for Russia, uncontrolled migration flows can lead to significant changes in the socio-economic life of the country and a change in the habitual way of life of its indigenous people. According to ethnic configuration, Russia for centuries has been and remains a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country. Therefore, cultural integration and adaptation of migrants, according to researchers, is generally not a large-scale problem for the country (Reznik & Amirova, 2016). But practice shows that this is not quite the case. Interactions between migrants and the host community take place at both the group and individual levels, and the nature of these interactions is sometimes negative. There are many examples of ethnocentrism, xenophobia and structural discrimination based on ethnicity.

Researchers conceptually highlight 4 models-reaction of the host country to migrants: complete exclusion, differential exclusion (segregation), assimilation and pluralism (it has two varieties – non-interference and multiculturalism).

Much of the research on migrant adaptation in the host society has been conducted in line with multiculturalist discourse, and postulates the preservation of migrants’ ethnic and cultural identity. Among them are, first of all, Kymlicka, who is considered among the developers of this concept, as well as Taylor, who presents a liberal version of multiculturalism (Chernyak, 2015). The concept of “multiculturalism” has prevailed in the foreign sociology of migration since the 1970s–1980s due to the strong influence of left-liberal political values on social sciences and humanities of the Western Europe. The concept of multiculturalism was later subject to some adjustment. Multiculturalism as a universal phenomenon connected with the identity of universal values in the modern world, is presented in detail in the works of Kukathas. In particular, Chandran Kukathas highlighted five options for society to respond to the problem of forced clash of cultural paradigms (isolationism, assimilation, “soft” multiculturalism, apartheid). In his view, isolationism (or ghettoization) reflects the desire of public policy to preserve existing social structure and privileges. Assimilation is seen by scholars as an alternative to isolationism, replacing the strategy of banning immigration with cultural patronage policies that require migrants to enter the cultural space of the host state and to adopt its system of values. “Soft” multiculturalism involves supporting a common cultural field, preaching smooth and equal treatment of ethnic cultures that want to preserve local identity. “Hard” multiculturalism is seen as an alternative to isolationism, assimilation, and positions comprehensive support for minority culture by strengthening and supporting it. Apartheid aims at artificial differentiation of ethnic communities and prevents intercultural and inter-ethnic mixing (Kukathas, 2007).

Zizek sees multiculturalism as a form of cultural expansion formed in the context of globalization, or as a manifestation of cosmopolitan worldview. In particular, according to Zizek, the essence of multiculturalism manifests itself in the replacement of social ideals, when the notion of integration, representing a form of tolerance, is often hidden behind the notion of assimilation. Assimilation, eventually, means the adaptation to the dominating identity forms (Zizek, 2005).

Fedotova considers that now the cultural diversity is natural and inevitable. According to her, multiculturalism acts not simply as a statement of this diversity, but as a strategy aimed at maintaining the dividing lines and expelling the common diversity (Fedotova, 2005).

The problem of the ideas of multiculturalism is thus presented in the direction of understanding multiculturalism as a sociocultural phenomenon, multiculturalism is interpreted as an awareness of multi-ethnicity and multiculturalism within a given society, as well as a synonym for the concept of cultural pluralism. In this case, “multiculturalism” is a diversity of ethnocultural elements as opposed to a unified culture.

The idea of multiculturalism involves preserving the national and cultural identity of migrants. In the context of the constantly increasing migration flow, all spheres of public life are being transformed, provoking conflict situations on inter-ethnic and interfaith grounds. Multiculturalism implies cultural pluralism, which means that the states shall ensure equal status for all ethnicities and cultures, which causes ambiguity concerning the need to introduce multiculturalism policies in Russia.

Although the ideology of multiculturalism presupposes the preservation of the sociocultural identity of migrants and the host country, the practice demonstrates the opposition of migrants to the host society, the imposition of their own traditions on that society, the persistent reluctance of migrants to integrate into the surrounding reality, thus provoking conflicts and increasing inter-ethnic tensions.


The European experience shows that migration processes have a significant impact on the national identity of both the host society and migrants. The policy of multiculturalism contributes to the growth of ethnic identification of migrants in the host society, their strengthening in their “self”, the formation of separate ethnic communities and, consequently, the rise of inter-ethnic tensions. The impact of migration on the national identity is determined by a number of factors that need to include the socio-cultural adaptation of migrants. This approach would improve the migration management.


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National interest, national identity, national security, public organizations, linguocultural identity, linguistic worldview

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Starovoytova, I. E., & Kozhevnikova, L. V. (2021). Sociocultural Identity In The Context Of Migration Processes. In & I. Savchenko (Ed.), National Interest, National Identity and National Security, vol 102. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 967-974). European Publisher.