National Identity Management Strategies: Do they Help or Hinder Adoption of Multiculturalism in Russia?

National Identity Management Strategies: Do they Help or Hinder Adoption of Multiculturalism in Russia?

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2018.0302

Grigoryan, L.K. Jacobs University Bremen and University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

Kotova, M.V. National Research University "Higher School of Economics", Moscow, Russia


Background. We use Social identity theory as a theoretical framework, specifically focusing on strategies of identity management. The study is based on the following theoretical assumptions. First, identity management strategies might serve as mediators between different identity threats and behavioral patterns in intergroup relations. Second, identity management strategies help to make the shift from the individual to the group level of analysis, allowing us to take the consequences of intergroup behavior for a group entitativity into consideration. Third, identity management strategies strongly depend on the social context of intergroup relations. 

Objective. In the current study, we look into the relationships between identity management strategies of the ethnic Russian majority and their attitudes towards multiculturalism to identify whether certain strategies are helpful or harmful for the acceptance of multiculturalism in Russia. 

Design. We use Russia vs. the West comparison to evoke the perception of identity threat. We measure strategies of identity management based on this comparison, as well as attitudes towards multiculturalism in a survey of 307 Russian participants. 

Results. The findings suggest that identity management strategies are indeed related to attitudes towards cultural diversity and equality in Russia, as well as to acculturation expectations of whether minorities should adopt the mainstream Russian culture or keep their own. We find that strategies of individualization, individual mobility and assimilation have mostly negative consequences for acculturation expectations, as they all show patterns that support assimilation of minorities instead of integration. We also find support for the “scapegoat” hypothesis, showing that choosing the strategy of changing the comparison group results in more negative attitudes toward cultural diversity and equality for all in Russia. The strategies of social creativity (change of the categorization dimension, temporal comparison, comparison with a standard, etc.) seem to be irrelevant for attitudes towards multiculturalism. 

Conclusion. Our findings suggest that none of the strategies of identity management promote acceptance of multiculturalism. However, strategies of social creativity are the only ones that do not have negative consequences for support of multiculturalism. Theoretical and practical implications for multiculturalism policy adoption in Russia are discussed. 

Received: 22.07.2017

Accepted: 12.06.2018

Themes: Social psychology


Pages: 18-35

DOI: 10.11621/pir.2018.0302

Keywords: identity management strategies, national identity, multiculturalism, Russia


Multiculturalism policy [1] (MCP) has been actively discussed in social sciencesfor the last 30 years (Arasaratnam, 2013; Banting & Kymlicka, 2006; Berry, 2013;Leong & Liu, 2013). Researchers have investigated whether MCP has a positiveor negative impact on the welfare state (Banting & Kymlicka, 2006; Miller, 2006),intergroup processes (Arasaratnam, 2013; Berry, 2013; Leong & Liu, 2013), national security (Vertovec & Wessendorf, 2010), human rights (Kymlicka, 2015), andmore. Most of these studies arrived at the conclusion that MCP is beneficial forsocietal development. However, we know very little about what can help or hindersupport for a multiculturalism policy among majority group members, especiallyin non-Western countries.

Analysis of the studies conducted in this area indicates that many of the predictors of the adoption of MCP are related to the security of (or threat to) theidentity of the groups involved (Kotova, 2017). Security (or confidence) in onesidentity is also a key variable of the multiculturalism hypothesis, which statesthat security of cultural identities will result in positive intergroup attitudes and athreat to identity will result in mutual hostility (Berry, 2013). This hypothesis hasreceived overwhelming support from samples in different countries (Arasaratnam, 2013; Berry, 2013; Berry, Phinney, Sam, & Vedder, 2006; Lebedeva & Tatarko, 2013).

In some cases, MCP itself can be perceived as a threat to the national identity of majority group members, a group that might feel that they have no other choice but to participate in the acculturation process (Kymlicka, 2015). From this point of view, difficulties in the construction of superordinate group identity (Brewer, 2010), and the effects of ingroup projection should be taken into account (Bianchi, Mummendey, Steffens, & Yzerbyt, 2010; Verkuyten & Martinovic, 2016). However, in studies on multiculturalism, identity confidence is often treated as a given, a variable that is associated with intergroup attitudes, whereas little attention is given to what underlies this association. Today this lack of attention is becoming a focus of scientific discussion. For example, a similar idea is articulated by Sam & Berry (2010), who indicated that despite the tradition of studying different groups’ mutual acculturation processes, little is known about the antecedents of acculturation.

We find that the Social Identity Theory (SIT) proposed by Tajfel (1981a) canclarify the mechanism behind the processes mentioned above. The original theoryintroduces the idea of management strategies to deal with various threats to positive social identity [2] or to the groups status quo in general (Tajfel, 1981a, 1982; seeBlanz, Mummendey, Mielke, & Klink, 1998 for a review). Although initially it wasconsidered that a threat to positive identity emerges in a situation of unfavorableintergroup comparison (Tajfel, 1981a, 1982), current literature on the formationof superordinate group identity (see Brewer, 2010, for a review), the permeabilityof group boundaries (Verkuyten & Reijerse, 2008), and Intergroup Threat Theory(Riek, Mania, & Gaertner, 2006) suggests that intergroup relations themselves —e.g. the geographical closeness of the groups and the interchange occurring between them — are sufficient to evoke a perceived threat and to activate identitymanagement strategies. Accordingly, these strategies serve as a bridge betweenvarious threats to identity and the subsequent behavioral and cognitive reactionsthat can be observed in intergroup relations. We argue that studying the relationships between identity management strategies and attitudes towards multiculturalism will shed light on the mechanisms linking identity threat with intergroupattitudes.

Identity Management Strategies and Intergroup Relations

The SIT proposes three types of strategies that an individual or group could adoptto maintain a positive social identity: individual mobility, social creativity, andsocial competition (Tajfel, 1982). From Tajfel s point of view, individual mobilitystrategies, such as assimilation, are usually used when group boundaries are permeable and people can move from a lower-status to a higher-status group or simplypretend to be a member of a higher-status group. This can be achieved, for example, by getting a better education, moving to a different country, studying a foreignlanguage, or changing one’s name. Collective strategies are used when there is nopossibility to change group membership, or the social and psychological costs ofthe change are too high (e.g., when identification with the ingroup is very strongand one cannot reject it). In this case, the strategies of social creativity and socialcompetition can be used.

Various strategies that were described over the three decades of SIT research were systematized in a taxonomy proposed by Blanz et al. (1998). After a series of empirical studies, they identified 12 strategies that form six types of strategies located along two dimensions (depending upon whether the inand/or outgroups are changed in the process of comparison, and the nature of the strategy: cognitive or behavioral). The taxonomy is presented in Figure 1. A detailed description of each strategy can be found in Blanz et al. (1998) and a short description of each strategy is presented in Table A1 of the Appendix.

Figure 1.Taxonomy of identity management strategies (adopted from Blanz et al., 1998). Grigoryan L.K., Kotova M.V. (2018). Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 11 (3), 18-35

Figure 1.Taxonomy of identity management strategies (adopted from Blanz et al., 1998)

The vast majority of studies on identity management strategies focus on the antecedents of adopting a particular strategy (Brown, 2000; Ellemers, Wilke, & van Knippenberg, 1993; Ellemers & Van Rijswijk, 1997; Verkuyten & Reijerse, 2008). The most robust finding is close to the reasoning of Tajfel: The weaker ones identification with the group is, the more likely it is that an individual will use one of the strategies of individual mobility (Brown, 2000). In addition, individual strategies show more predictable relationships with other variables. For example, the greater an individuals abilities (Boen & Vanbeselaere, 2000; Taylor & McKirnan, 1984) and the more permeable the group boundaries (Stott & Drury, 2004; Mummendey, Klink, Mielke, Wenzel, & Blanz, 1999), the greater the probability of adopting individual strategies. However, people do not always use individual strategies when there is an opportunity to do so (Ellemers et al., 1993; Moghaddam & Perreault, 1992; Shinnar, 2008). In other words, sometimes a person voluntarily stays in the group with a lower status. Of course, this is more typical for high identifiers; however, the mechanism that could explain maintenance of a high level of identification with a low-status group with permeable boundaries is still unclear.

The preference for individual strategies can be very costly for the groups people want to leave or to join. Given that the boundaries of human groups are basically open and socially constructed (Barth, 1969; Semenov, 2003; Stefanenko, 1999), groups and social structures, in order to survive, need a set of tools to maintain a perception that existing borders are only relatively permeable. This set of tools, most likely, includes social stereotypes (Tajfel, 1981b), prejudices (Kotova, 2010), and social identity (Kotova, 2016). Identity management strategies can either contribute to the maintenance of the existing social structure or promote its change. In line with this idea, the existing literature provides evidence that collective strategies are not selected by groups and their members at random, but depend on the existing social structure. For example, there are differences between majority and minority groups (Ellemers & Van Rijswijk, 1997; Verkuyten& Reijerse, 2008), groups with different statuses (Ellemers & Van Rijswijk, 1997;Mummendey et al., 1999), and with different histories of intergroup relations(Dumont & Waldzus, 2015).

When looking into consequences of various identity management strategies, itis crucial to differentiate individuals’ needs from the needs of the groups to whichthey belong. From the outset of SIT, researchers focused primarily on individualneeds, which is peculiar to the tradition of studying intergroup relations [3]. But a focus on individual needs does not contribute to our understanding of mass behavior(e.g., collective strategies) and its consequences for groups and intergroup relations.Taking into account the needs of groups (which includes the preservation of theexisting social structure) highlights the possibility of a conflict between individualand group needs. For example, if a choice to leave the group becomes increasinglypopular among certain of a groups members, this will result in the group closingits boundaries, which can be harmful for the well-being of its members (Barth,1969). A focus on the needs of social groups makes possible the reinterpretationof some of the existing data. For instance, Becker (2012) finds that social creativitystrategies decrease the desire to participate in protests for equal rights, and, therefore, she claims that these strategies could be unproductive and contribute to thepreservation of inequalities in societies. However, the positive role of social creativity strategies is left out of the discussion: By allowing the maintenance of a positiveidentity in an alternative way (rather than by direct conflict), they contribute to thepreservation of the existing social structure, the destruction of which could lead tounpredictable consequences for both group(s) and individuals.

Another aspect of the productivity or counter-productivity of identity management strategies is associated with the question of “on whose account” the groupmaintains its positive self-image. On the one hand, the attractiveness of the groupcan be supported through internal resources: cultural, political, and other achievements. On the other hand, it can also be supported by diminishing or derogatingthe outgroup(s). These two sources of positive image of the ingroup have been wellcaptured in studies of national identity. The national identity literature describestwo ways of identifying with the nation: patriotism (“internal resources” for national pride) and nationalism (comparison with others). Although nationalism andpatriotism usually correlate positively, their consequences for intergroup attitudesare very different: Patriotism is usually associated with more positive, and nationalism with more negative attitudes towards outgroups (Grigoryan, 2016; Kosterman& Feschbach, 1989).

The implementation of MCP leads to social changes that might pose various identity threats for both majority and minority group members, which, in turn, may lead to the activation of identity management strategies. With the increasing instability of the social structure associated with MCP, groups and individuals will be motivated to find new arrangements to either maintain the status quo or change it to their benefit. Therefore, understanding the implications of choosing certain identity management strategies in the context of MCP has great societal significance.

Identity Management Strategies and Adoption of Multicultural Policy in the Russian Context: The Case of the Majority

Tajfel (1981a) and Turner (1987) emphasize that the content of identity and selfdefinitions are influenced by the context of intergroup interactions, specifically by the group(s) that individuals compare themselves to at a specific point in time. Recently a similar idea was expressed by MCP researchers who came to the conclusion that the successful implementation of MCP depends to a great extent on the intergroup relations prevailing in a particular state (Leong & Liu, 2013). Below we briefly describe this context for Russia, where this study was conducted.

Russia is a multi-ethnic country, where ethnic Russians constitute about 80% of the population. The majority group is an obligatory participant in the acculturation processes and is usually considered a group that constrains these processes (Arasaratnam, 2013). At the same time, the majority group receives little attention in studies of identity management strategies, is often not included in acculturation studies, and is generally regarded as a group unwilling to share its privileges with others. Nonetheless, one can assume that positive identity and positive distinctiveness of the majority group are systematically threatened in intergroup interactions. Russia is not an exception: There is some evidence that intergroup relations in Russia are accompanied by lack of identity confidence among the majority Russians (Kotova, 2017). At the same time, majorities have a limited number of strategies available to them under MCP, as they are expected to be “hospitable hosts”. Therefore, the majority group tends to explore covert strategies (such as “ingroup projection”, discussed below) that, in turn, affect other groups living in the state.

One of the key threats to positive identity is multiculturalism policy itself. The policy of multiculturalism is perceived by the majority group as a threat to its status, because it proposes a different structure of society than one that gives exclusive priority to the majority group. Explicit or implicit resistance to the changes can take many forms, including those concerning identity. Researchers observe that the majority group (or a group with high status) sees itself as the most prototypical in a superordinate category (“ingroup projection”); for example, Germans see themselves as the most typical Europeans (Wenzel, Mummendey, Weber, & Waldzus, 2003). Representatives of other groups who are also included in the superordinate category, but differ from this prototype, are perceived as “internal enemies”. As a result, ingroup projection leads to more biased and less favorable attitudes toward outgroup members, who are ingroup members on the level of the superordinate category (Wenzel, Mummendey, & Waldzus, 2007).

There are no studies of ingroup projection based on Russian samples yet; however, we can expect that ingroup projection, or high relative ingroup prototypicality (RIP), is typical of ethnic Russians. This expectation is based on some recent findings from Russian samples. First, the ethnic and civic identities of ethnic Russians are very closely related, which is not the case for other ethnic groups living in Russia (Mezhnatsionalnye otnosheniya: monitoringFOM,2014). Second, the awareness of belonging to an ethnic group is substantially increasing among ethnic Russians in recent years (Pain, 2005), which is unusual for majority groups. Finally, there is strong support among the population for the slogan “Russia is for [ethnic] Russians”, which has remained stable over time (Pain, 2005).

Ingroup projection can also be associated with another source of identity threat for the majority group. Considering itself a key representative of the state, majority group identity positivity is highly sensitive to the states successes or failures in the context of international comparisons. In the case of Russia, the most relevant comparison groups are Western European countries, since the late 17th century, and the United States of America since the 20th century. There are different opinions regarding Russia’s position in the worlds political arena; however, in terms of economic development, Russia substantially and consistently falls behind the countries mentioned above. Public perceptions reflect this fact: In our study, 84% of the sample agreed with the statement that in terms of economic development, Russia falls behind Western countries (Kotova & Grigoryan, 2018).

The unfavorable interstate comparison triggers identity management strategies, some of which involve a search for weaker groups “in the neighborhood”, in order to restore a positive self-image in comparison to them (Tajfel, 1982). The use of such strategies may result in negative stereotypes and attitudes, the social function of which is to explain and justify existing intergroup relations (Tajfel, 198 lb), as well as to maintain and preserve these relations (Stefanenko, 2014). Migrants are likely to be the scapegoat group in the Russian context (Galyapina, 2015; Mukomef, 2005; Pain, 2005; Poletaev, 2014; Tyuryukanova, 2006). Studies have shown that although cultural diversity is commonly viewed as beneficial by majority Russians, they also support the idea of limiting the rights of non-indigenous people (migrants), as well as the idea that the number of immigrants should be reduced (Mezhnatsionalnye otnosheniya: monitoring FOM,2014). Several studies provide evidence that in the Russian context, support for multiculturalism is stronger when questions are asked about indigenous minority groups compared to migrant groups (Galyapina & Lebedeva, 2016; Lebedeva & Tatarko, 2013; Ryabichenko & Lebedeva, 2016).

In this study, we explore the consequences of different identity management strategies among ethnic Russians, the majority group. Specifically, we focus on the relationships between identity management strategies and attitudes towards multiculturalism. This study is exploratory in nature and aims to address the following research questions: (a) Do identity management strategies based on a “Russia vs. the West” comparison predict attitudes towards multiculturalism in Russia? and (b) Are certain strategies of identity management productive or counter-productive for acceptance of multiculturalism in Russia?



Three hundred and twenty three respondents completed the questionnaire. Sixteen questionnaires were not used, as the answers to open ended questions in these questionnaires were not valid. The final sample size was 307 respondents, 61.9% female. Age distribution was from 14 to 55 years old, with M = 23.27, SD = 6.37.


The data was collected online, via the platform The link was distributed through social networks. The average questionnaire completion time was 22 minutes. An informed consent form was provided in the beginning of the questionnaire. After the questionnaire was completed, the participants received researchers contact details.


The questionnaire included measures of identity management strategies, attitudes towards multiculturalism, attitudes towards immigrants and “Westerners”, national and ethnic identity, collective and individual self-esteem, subjective well-being, and religiosity. In the present study we use only some of these measures, which are described in more detail below.

Strategies of identity management. We adapted the measurement developed by Blanz and colleagues (1998) for 12 strategies of identity management; see Kotova & Grigoryan (2018) for a more detailed description.

Attitudes towards multiculturalism. We used the Multicultural Attitude Scale (MAS; Breugelmans, van de Vijver, 2004), which consists of two subscales: attitudes towards cultural diversity (four items) and attitudes towards equal rights for all (three items).

Acculturation expectations. We used the Adopt and Keep Scale (Alkhazraji, Gardner III, Martin, & Paolillo, 1997; Swaidan, Vitell, Rose, & Gilbert, 2006), which measures the majority’s expectations of minority groups acculturation strategies. The “Adopt” scale measures the expectation that minorities should adopt the majority’s culture (four items), and the “Keep” scale measures the expectation that minorities should keep their own culture (four items).

Socio-demographic characteristics. We asked respondents to indicate their gender, age, occupation, place of residence, nationality, and ethnicity.

All measures were adapted for the Russian context: The items were translated to Russian and some items were reworded to be applicable for Russians. The adaptation also included seven cognitive interviews that helped to make the items clearer. All items (except for socio-demographic ones) were measured on a 5-point Likerttype scale, with 1 indicating “Strongly disagree” and 5 indicating “Strongly agree”.

Data Analysis

First, we tested the reliability of all the scales using confirmatory factor analysis. Only one change was made in the scales that we used in this study: The fourth item of the attitudes towards cultural diversity subscale of the MAS scale (“I think all ethnic groups living in Russia should cooperate more to solve occurring problems”) was removed, as it did not reflect the underlying latent factor well enough. We do not report the results of these tests in the paper, but the detailed description of measurement adaptation can be obtained from the authors. The relationships between identity management strategies and attitudes towards multiculturalism were tested using structural equation modelling (SEM). Two models were tested: Both models included all strategies, combined in higher-order factors, as in Blanz et al. (1998), as predictors or exogenous factors. Only the dependent variables differed in the models: The first model tested the effects of the strategies on the two subscales of the Multicultural Attitude Scale, and the second model tested their effects on the two subscales of the Adopt and Keep Scale. Considering the exploratory nature of the study, we use an alpha level of .10 instead of the traditionally used level of .05, to reduce the risk of accepting the null hypothesis when it is not true (Cohen, 1992).


The first model, predicting attitudes towards cultural diversity and attitudes towards equal rights for all, showed a good fit to the data with x2= 693.45, df = 402, X2/df = 1.72, CFI = .925, RMSEA = .049. The standardized regression weights, showing the relationships between identity management strategies and the two MAS subscales, are presented in Table 1.

Table 1.

Standardized regression coefficients of the relationships between the higher-order strategies of identity management and the subscales of the Multicultural Attitude Scale





Change of status relations → Diversity




Change of categorization → Diversity



Change of group membership → Diversity



Cognitive change of comparison object → Diversity



New comparison dimension → Diversity



Re-evaluation of comparison dimension → Diversity



Change of status relations → Equality



Change of categorization → Equality



Change of group membership → Equality



Cognitive change of comparison object → Equality



New comparison dimension → Equality



Re-evaluation of comparison dimension →  Equality



Notes. → Direction of the regression path. Diversity = Attitude towards cultural diversity. Equality = Attitude towards equal rights for all.

As Table 1 shows, only the higher-order strategy of cognitive change of comparison object is significantly (p <.05) related to attitudes towards equal rights for all ethnic groups in Russia, and this relationship is negative (),3 =-.20). As this higher-order strategy incorporates three specific strategies — temporal comparison, comparison with a standard, and new comparison group — we further explored which of these three strategies is responsible for the association found. The analysis revealed that only new comparison group strategy is related to the components of MAS. The links between this strategy and both the diversity and equality components of MAS were significant and negative (/? = -.17, p <.05; and /3 =-.18, p <.05, respectively).

The second model, predicting the acculturation expectations of the host society, also showed a good fit, with x2= 943.53, df = 519, x2/df = 1.82, CFI = .925, RMSEA = .052. The associations found in this model are shown in Table 2.

Table 2

The standardized regression coefficients of the relationships between the higher-order strategies of identity management and the subscales of Adopt and Keep Scale




Change of status relations → Adopt



Change of categorization → Adopt



Change of group membership → Adopt



Cognitive change of comparison object → Adopt



New comparison dimension → Adopt



Re-evaluation of comparison dimension → Adopt



Change of status relations → Keep



Change of categorization → Keep



Change of group membership → Keep



Cognitive change of comparison object → Keep



New comparison dimension → Keep



Re-evaluation of comparison dimension → Keep



Note. → Direction of the regression path

Two higher-order strategies, change of categorization and change of group membership, predicted the acculturation expectation of adoption of Russian culture by minorities. Change of categorization was positively associated with this expectation and negatively with change of group membership. Change of group membership also negatively predicted the acculturation expectation of minorities to keep their own culture.

As in the case of the MAS, we looked at specific strategies that are part of the higher-order strategies that were found to have significant effects on acculturation expectations. Change of categorization strategy incorporates such strategies of identity management as individualization, superordinate re-categorization, and subordinate re-categorization. Of these three strategies, only individualization predicted significantly (β = .29, p <.05) the acculturation expectation of adopting Russian culture. In case of change of group membership strategy, both of its components, assimilation and individual mobility, had negative effects. Individual mobility was negatively related to expectation of adoption (β= -.24, p= .053) and assimilation was negatively related to expectation of keeping ones own culture (β =-.21, p =.07).


This study was aimed at exploring the relationships between identity management strategies that are used by the ethnic Russian majority to cope with the identity threat associated with unfavorable comparison to the “West”, and their attitudes towards multiculturalism in Russia. The research questions were: (a) whether identity management strategies can predict attitudes towards multiculturalism, and (b) whether certain strategies are more beneficial than others for the acceptance of multiculturalism in Russian. We measured attitudes towards cultural diversity and towards equal rights for all ethnic groups in the country, as well as the majority’s acculturation expectations, as indicators of attitudes towards multiculturalism.

Our findings suggest that identity management strategies are indeed connected with attitudes towards multiculturalism. The associations found between various strategies and attitudes are summarized in Figure 2. One of the most striking results is that none of the strategies can be considered beneficial for the acceptance of multiculturalism in Russia. The only positive association found was between the strategy of individualization (giving lower importance to the membership group) and the acculturation expectation of adoption of Russian culture by minorities. However, considering that the same strategy was associated negatively with the expectation for minorities to preserve their own culture, this strategy indicates a preference for minorities to assimilate into Russian culture and give up their own cultural identities, which contradicts the core idea of multiculturalism (Berry, 2013).

Figure 2. Relationships between strategies of identity management and attitudes towards multiculturalism in Russia. Grigoryan L.K., Kotova M.V. (2018). Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 11 (3), 18-35

Figure 2. Relationships between strategies of identity management and attitudes towards multiculturalism in Russia

The higher-order strategy of change of group membership, which includes assimilation with the outgroup (in this case, with Western countries) and individual mobility, had mixed consequences for acceptance of multiculturalism. Specifically, those who scored high on individual mobility (e.g., a desire to move to a Western country) agreed less that minority groups should adopt Russian culture. If an individual does not like their ingroup and wants to move to a different one, then there is no reason to want others to become more like the ingroup members. However, as the same strategy is not associated with greater preference for minorities to keep their own culture, we cannot conclude that this strategy is productive for multiculturalism. It rather reflects low identification with the ingroup and low concern for it.

At the same time, those who preferred a strategy of assimilation (becoming more like the “Westerners”), agreed less that minority groups should keep their own culture. This is a curious finding, considering that multiculturalism is more welcomed in Western countries than in Russia, and we would expect that “Western-oriented” people should support multiculturalism more. However, the results for assimilation show the opposite. The strategy of assimilation is likely to be adopted by people who do not see their own or other cultures as unique and valuable, but rather see various groups as organized in a certain hierarchy. The hierarchy of ethnic groups in Russia is found to be quite stable across time, with Russians on the top (Hagendoorn, Drogendijk, Tumanov, & Hraba, 1998). A belief that Russians should be more like the Westerners is based on an implicit assumption that Westerners are better than Russians in some ways. Consequently, if Russians are better than other minorities in their country, then the minorities should become more like Russians, and Russians overall should become more like Westerners. We cannot test whether this speculation is accurate with the existing data, but the conclusion in any case is the same: The strategy of assimilation does not promote acceptance of multiculturalism.

The only strategy that was directly related to attitudes towards diversity and equality for all was the strategy of choosing a new comparison group. This strategy predicted both components of the Multiculturalism Attitude Scale negatively. This finding is in line with the “scapegoat” hypothesis that originated in the frustrationaggression theory (Dollard et al., 1939; Hovland & Sears, 1940) and then became part of a more formalized theory of relative deprivation (Gurr, 1970). The idea is simple: Feelings of deprivation that occur on the group level (in comparison with other groups that are more well off) can lead to hostility towards weaker groups instead of higher-status outgroups. This hypothesis summarizes our reasoning regarding “at whose expense” the group restores its positive identity. This finding can explain the mixed evidence for the “scapegoat” hypothesis (Brown, 2010): Although most of our participants believed that, in terms of economic development, Russia falls behind Western countries, it seems that the choice of changing the comparison group as an identity management strategy was what linked this threat to negative intergroup attitudes. This interpretation suggests that identity management strategies are important mediators between the structural reality of intergroup relations and its consequences.

We did not find any connections between the higher-order strategies of change of comparison dimension and change of status relations, or the specific strategies of re-categorization, temporal comparison, and comparison with a standard and attitudes towards multiculturalism. It is plausible that the absence of effects in some cases was a statistical artifact. For example, we found that respondents hardly ever used the strategy of comparison with a standard (Kotova & Grigoryan, 2018), which would produce a floor effect. In addition, some of the specific strategies might have had unique associations with the attitudes that we did not test because the higher-order strategies were unrelated to these attitudes. However, some strategies are simply irrelevant to the intergroup behavior. Mummendey et al. (1999) report the absence of links between the strategies of temporal comparison and the re-evaluation of comparison dimension and parameters of social structure, which is in line with our findings.


The current study has several limitations that can be resolved in future studies. First of all, our focus here was at a rather abstract level: We studied the perceptions of majority Russians in general and measured their general attitudes towards diversity and equality, without differentiating attitudes towards specific outgroups. More precision might have produced stronger (or even different) effects. Second, several strategies of identity management, such as change of the comparison dimension, change of status relations, superordinate re-categorization, and subordinate re-categorization, did not show any associations with the outcome variables. Although it is possible that this reflects an actual absence of such effects in the population, it is also possible that the measures used in this study did not capture the nature of these strategies well enough. More work should be done in order to ensure the quality of the measurement instruments for identity management strategies. Third, the sample characteristics could have had an effect on the outcomes of the study. Our sample was quite young (mean age was 23 years old). Young people in general might have a preference for strategies of individual mobility, whereas strategies of change of categorization or different “re-evaluations” might be more popular and have stronger effects in older people.


This study explored the links between identity management strategies and different outcomes related to acceptance of multiculturalism policy. We showed that certain identity management strategies are indeed associated with attitudes towards cultural diversity and equality in Russia and the acculturation expectation of minorities to keep their own culture or adopt mainstream Russian culture. We found that none of the strategies had positive consequences for the acceptance of multiculturalism. This is probably not that surprising, considering that all these strategies are used to cope with an unfavorable comparison that triggers identity threat. However, there seems to be a set of strategies that are at least neutral and do not result in hostility towards lower-status outgroups. These are mainly the strategies of social creativity: change of comparison dimension, comparison with a standard or a temporal comparison, and strategies of re-categorization.

There are several directions that future research on strategies of identity management could take. First, it is clear that majority members identity can also be threatened, but most of the work on identity management based on SIT (Tajfel, 1982; Blanz et al., 1998) was developed to explain strategies of minority or lowerstatus groups. Thus, more research is needed to understand the strategies of identity management that are used by majority or higher-status group members. Second, strategies of identity management of majority members could be studied not in relation to other countries, but in relation to other groups within the country. As each region in Russia has its specific ethnic composition, specific context of intergroup relations and, consequently, specific attitudes towards MCP, the productivity of different strategies of identity management might also differ. Third, it is important to take into account other characteristics of identity (such as identity security) and test more complex models that reflect more accurately the processes underlying intergroup relations.


This work was supported by the Russian Science Foundation (project No. 15-1800029)


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Appendix A. Identity management strategies

Table A.l. Brief descriptions of identity management strategies measured in the study

Strategy name


Realistic competition

Competition for resources

Social competition

Competition for a positive evaluation


Distancing from the group; view of oneself as an individual
rather than a member of a group

Subordinate re-categorization

Re-categorization to a smaller group: professional group, age
group, etc.

Superordinate re-categorization

Re-categorization to a larger group: national group, unions, etc.

Individual mobility

Change of group membership (usually from lower-status to


A view that the lower-status ingroup should become more
similar to the higher-status outgroup

Re-evaluation of comparison

Devaluation of the comparison dimension

New comparison dimension

Finding a new comparison dimension (or several), on which
the ingroup can be more highly esteemed

Comparison with a standard

Comparison of the group with moral and ethical standards,
rather than with an outgroup

Temporal comparison

Comparison with past times (e.g., the Golden Age of a group)
or expected high status in the future

New comparison group

Change of comparison group to a (usually) weaker one


1. Multiculturalism and the policy of multiculturalism are differently understood in the literature. In this work, we understand multiculturalism as an ideology that combines three principles: (a) emphasis on a positive view of society's cultural diversity; (b) an active effort to recognize the equal rights of different cultural groups; and, (c) support of the different cultural groups residing in the state, of their identity and cultural practices (Banting & Kymlicka, 2006; Koopmans, 2013). The policy of multiculturalism, in this case, is the set of political measures and solutions that makes it possible to implement the ideology of multiculturalism.

2.See Kotova (2016) for a more detailed discussion.

3.See Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje (2002) for a detailed discussion.

To cite this article: Grigoryan L.K., Kotova M.V. (2018). National Identity Management Strategies: Do they Help or Hinder Adoption of Multiculturalism in Russia? Psychology in Russia: State of the Art, 11 (3), 18-35

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