T.V.Evgenyeva, A.V.Selezneva

Image of the “Enemy” as the Factor of Forming the National Identity of the Russian Youth

The actualization in the mass consciousness of the “enemy” image that manifests, in particular, in the growth of the radical nationalism and xenophobia, especially among the youth, has become one of the peculiar features of the modern Russia. This tendency that might seem to some observers strange and unnatural can be comprehended and explained if being viewed from the perspective of the human needs that come to the surface and start playing an active role in the political consciousness and behavior under the conditions of the national-state identity crisis.

The identity of any society is built on two foundations. The first one consists of the senses, or values, through which the society is united, while the other one is the image of “the other” vis-à-vis which the society determines itself. As B.Porshnev nicely noticed, “only the feeling that there are “they” gives birth to the desire of self-determination... separation from ‘them” as “we”1 Porshnev 1979: 82.1. The binary opposition “we — they” is the “subjective side of any community of people that exists in the reality”2 Ibid.: 108.2.

The importance of the image of “the other” in shaping the group identity is revealed in the social identity theory worked out by H.Tajfel and J.Turner3 Tajfel 1982; Tajfel, Turner 1986; Hogg, Terry,White 1995.3 as well as the self-categorization theory by J.Turner being the logical continuation of the former. According to H.Tajfel and J.Turner, social identity is the individual’s self-concept derived from the perceived membership of some social groups and has both axiological and emotional dimensions. Such identity emerges in the process in which a person is seeking his place in the world and which is linked to perceiving the existence of the groups (categorization) and associating oneself with one of them (identity). It is important to note that social identity can only be reached through the intergroup comparison that strengthens the value of the group membership and stimulates group feelings. Members of any group are inclined to view the “ingroup” (“we”) as being beneficially different from the “outgroup” (“they”) that encourages increase of their self-esteem and supporting positive self-perception. This causes the so called effect of the ingroup favoritism, which is a tendency to view one’s own group as being the best one in all the aspects4 Aronson 1998: 159.4.

Since every intergroup comparison shelters an aspiration to increase the self-esteem, a person unconsciously chooses from the bulk of the information that he is obtaining the one that confirms the supremacy of his group over the others. Moreover, the sharper is the contrast between the “ingroup” and “outgroup”, the clearer the inner-group identity becomes.

All in all, the ideas about one’s own and the “other’s” groups are the results of categorization and identification. Being the necessary component of the process of perceiving reality, categorization is usually based on the ready schemes existing in the group discourse and not on a personal experience of interaction with the different groups’ members that is often absent.

The role of categorization in forming social stereotypes was already emphasized by G.Allport in his classic work dedicated to the nature of prejudices5 Allport 1954.5 analysis. H.Tejfel has also significantly contributed to the research of this role, whose works based on the large empirical material elucidated the fundamental impact of categorization on people’s perception and behavior6 Tajfel 1969.6.

There are two dominating approaches towards the explanation of the social categorization phenomenon in the modern literature. Within the first one, social categorization is interpreted as a cognitive mechanism that facilitates and accelerates the person’s digestion of diversified and contradictory information7 Social Cognition 1981.7, whereas in the framework of the other approach it emanates from the aspiration towards the positive self-esteem being inherent in the person’s mind based on the intergroup comparison8 Tajfel 1982.8. However, in both cases categorization is regarded as the most significant method of creating images about some groups that are united through the common characteristics, and thereby constructing the reality since for the object to become real, it should be categorized and named9 See Moscovici 1988.9.

From the perspective of the political sociology, the social categorization is the tool of systemizing and structuring the socio-political context, which all the forms of the group differentiation are grounded on. Therefore, managing the social categorization process means at the same time managing the formation of the world image. It is reached through the introduction into the mass consciousness of criteria that the categorization is based on or the ready categories.

For the idea on the division of the society into groups to generate the idea about the “ours” and the “theirs”, the subject of categorization has to identify itself with one of such groups. This “placing” oneself into a certain group entails another process being important from the angle of the formation of the world’s image — identification.

The identification is traditionally viewed as a subjective individual perception of his place in the world. The constructed reality depends not only on the defined categories, but also on our position in the system of these categories. Identification sets out the personal structure of behavior and cognitive schemes in accordance to which the attitudes of the group he associates himself with10 Ageev 1990; Yadov 1995; Andreeva 1997.10. Since every person has a great number of identities, the factors that influence the actualization of one identity or another are obtaining the decisive significance in forming the worldview. One of such factors is the image of “the other” that reifies the confronting identity.

One of the most important components of the processes of categorization and identification described above is stereotypization of the “outgroups”, which members “depersonify” themselves and start being perceived as an embodiment of a group “prototype” that is a set of the traits inherent in the group.

Such tendency was noted already by U.Lippman who interpreted stereotype as an excessive generalization when the members of the group that is being stereotyped are ascribed certain features on the principle that “all of them are the same”11 Lippman 1922.11. As the further research studies indicated, the formation of such stereotypes is the consequence of the so called effect of the outgroup homogeneity12 Hamilton, Sherman 1994.12 linked to the people’s inclination towards ascribing much more homogeneity to the “outgroup” than to their own.

This property of the intergroup perception is also the departure point for H.Tajfel who views stereotypization as one of the manifestations of the overall process of categorization that allows simplifying and systematizing the obtained information and thereby facilitating ones cognitive and behavioral adaptation towards the external context. In order to separate the notions of stereotype and category Tajfel uses the conception of G.Allport who viewed stereotype as an “exaggerated belief associated with a category”, which “function is to justify our behavior regarding this category”13 Tajfel 1982: 147.13. In other words, besides the cognitive function stereotype is also loaded with the axiological one. It does not only help to attach an object to one or another category, but also to determine the attitude towards it.

Summarizing the results of the modern research studies, the following scheme of the ideas on the “outgroup” stereotypization process (the image of the “other”) can be built:

— in the process of elaborating ideas about the social world a person needs to simplify and systemize the existing information, which is implemented through categorization (based on the defined criteria);

— based on the available information the idea about the certain categorization is created, which possesses some features that are inherent in everyone who belongs to it; the effect of the “outgroup” homogeneity secures the generalized character of the ideas on the “outgroup”;

— these generalized ideas elaborated under the influence of the ingroup favoritism and therefore being of the axiological nature become a stable stereotype that determines further perception of the respective group;

— a stereotype manages the process of digesting information from choosing perception and even searching for the data that confirm the established attitudes to constructing the self-realizing hypotheses; all of these actions are directed at supporting the belief that “we” are better than “they” are. So the analysis above makes us state following E.Erikson that “any positive identity is also defined through the negative images and... our identity given by God exists at the expense of humiliating the others”14 Erikson 1996: 312.14. This trend shows especially sharply under the conditions of the socio-cultural crisis when the collapse of the “worldview” and the loss of the values that the members of the community build their identity on take place.

The socio-cultural crisis undermines not only the dominant in the society system of the rational (or which seem to be such) values and norms, but also the rooted symbols and stereotypes, and if the society itself or any other state or social institutions are not able to offer a new system of senses instead of the lost one, the only foundation for the identification as “we” becomes the image of “the other”. As a result, the tendency of forming the identity through the confrontation of “we” — “they” emerges when “they” are perceived not only as “the other”, but also as the “enemies”.

H.Marcuse, in particular, pointed out the important identification role of the image of an “enemy”: “Free institutions compete with authoritarian ones in making the Enemy a deadly force within the system. And this deadly force stimulates growth and initiative, not by virtue of the magnitude and economic impact of the defense "sector,” but by virtue of the fact that the society as a whole becomes a defense society. For the Enemy is permanent. He is not in the emergency situation but in the normal state of affairs. He threatens in peace as much as in war (and perhaps more than in war); he is thus being built into the system as a cohesive power”15 Marcuse 1995: 133.15.

The enemy is a source of danger rather than just a stranger or an alien. The feeling of being in danger generates such emotions as fear, aggression, and hatred16 On the role of the feeling of being threatened in spreading different forms of xenophobia see, e.g., Hewstone, Rubin, Willis 2002.16. As a whole, the identification through the image of an “enemy” is characterized by the following:

— negative expectation (all the actions of the enemy in the past, present or future are ascribed destructive intentions; whatever the enemy undertakes, it will be targeted against “our” group);

— explanation of any unfavorable circumstances by the actions of the enemy forces (the enemy is the source of all problems the group encounters);

— identification with evil (the enemy embodies the opposite to what is valuable to “us”, it seeks to destroy our main values and therefore, the enemy should be liquidated itself);

— thinking in the paradigm of the “zero-sum game” (what is good for the enemy is bad for us, and vice versa);

— stereotypization and deindividualization (anyone who belongs to the hostile group is “our” enemy);

— denial of the empathy (“we” do not have anything in common with the enemies, and neither facts nor information can change “our” perception; being driven by the humane principles and ethical criteria regarding the enemy is inappropriate and self-destructive)17 Spillmann, Spillmann 1997.17.

As B.F.Porshnev reasonably stresses, the reason for the image of an “enemy” emergence is the existence of some negative circumstances, which this group can be blamed for and not the real features or actions of the respective group. In other words, “they” are concretized through those problems and threats that the community “we” fears18 Porshnev 1979: 84.18. Thus, there is an opportunity of the purposeful formation of the image of an “enemy”. The most important tools that are employed in order to settle this matter are the following:

— underlining the dangers that threaten the community from the outside;

— forming the ideas about the certain damage that is caused to it;

— forming the ideas about the “enemy” as the source of this damage.

In the Soviet times the self-identification of Russian people was based on the stable system of the socio-cultural and political myths that determined the people’s ideas about the reality that surrounded them as well as their own place in it. “The worldview” of the Soviet man although being mythological by its very nature quite successfully stabilized his consciousness and behavior.

The destruction of this “worldview” that began in the years of perestroika and intensified after the collapse of the USSR led to the destabilization of the whole established system of views. The values and norms determining the person’s self-perception suddenly changed their meaning, whereas the generally accepted goals of the activity lost their sense. The loss of the foundations for the self-identification as a “Soviet man” and the lack of the adequate compensation inevitably provoked the crisis of the identification.

The crisis of the identification being the consequence of the deepest socio-cultural crisis affected all generations of our citizens. However, the youth was the one to be hurt at most. If the senior and middle generations managed in many respects to overcome the crisis by transferring most of the elements of the Soviet identification onto the Russian one19 According to the results of the research study “The Political Socialization of the Russian Citizens in the Period of Transformation” conducted in 2005—2006 by the Division of the Political Psychology within the Department of Philosophy in the Moscow State University, 65% of the Russian elder people (60—85 years old) and 57,3% of the middle-aged (30—60 years old) identifying themselves as the Russians associate Russia with the entire territory of the former USSR.19, the young generation who was brought up and educated in the new socio-political conditions appeared to be totally disoriented. This was exposed, in particular, by the primary results of the research study The Russian National-State Identification carried out by the Research Center for the Socio-Political Studies of the Higher School of Management, the Research Center for the Civilized and Regional Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the Division of the Political Psychology within the Department of Philosophy in the Moscow State University. The theoretical base of the research was the statement on the key role of the symbolic activity in the reproduction of the social groups, in accordance to which the non-context group (such groups include the national-state, regional as well as ethnic, religious communities) is able to sustain its existence as the cohesive whole only if each member of this group identifies himself with the certain symbols that constitute its unity. It is the continuum of such collective symbols that allows reproducing the group identity and therefore, the group itself20 See Cohen 1985.20.

The analysis of the data obtained in the research process mentioned above reveals vacuum in the symbolic space that determines the system of senses that can constitute the foundation for the self-identification of the Russian youth. Among the possible symbols of Russia only the size of its territory and its place in the world are of real importance to the young Russians. They associate its ideal future with the return of the superpower status and expansion of its borders rather than with their own achievements or the level of the country development. Furthermore, in contrast to the representatives of the senior generation, they would like Russia to include not only the former Soviet republics, but also Poland, Finland, Turkey, Afghanistan, and sometimes even Mongolia and Alaska.

The situation of the values vacuum, in which the Russian youth finds itself now, created favorable conditions for negative identification through the image of the “enemy”. However, such images by and large emerge as the results of the purposeful policy implemented by some members of the political elite through the mass media and not spontaneously.

The mass media does not only reflect the stereotypes of the mass consciousness being the channel of the public sentiments, but also actively participates in shaping the national (cultural-political) identification. The principles that the society is driven by when drawing the distinction between the “ours” and the “other” as well as determining their attitude towards the “norm” and “deviation” from it to a great extent depend on the standpoint of the mass media21 Anderson 1983: 6.21. Unfortunately, it is hard to talk about the constructive realization of the modern mass media resource of affecting the mass consciousness. However, its role in creating the image of the “enemy” can be traced rather clearly. The articles and video reports on the “crimes” of the Caucasians, Chinese etc. encourage the spread of the national intolerance that often transforms into the radical nationalism and xenophobia. Moreover, “the ethnical characteristics are underlain with all possible grounds such as historical, real, far-fetched, and fictional. They form a sort of knot, or a bundle of negative characteristics. These features are so negative that there is no way to come to terms with the object of xenophobia, but only to destroy it”22 Kellberg 1996: 51.22.

Over the last decade the main “heroes” of such materials, at least in the Central Russia, were the Caucasians23 See Saprokhina 2004.23. It led to the emergence of mistrust and after that to the clearly negative attitude to the “individuals of the Caucasian nationality” — Christians and Muslims, immigrants and the Russian citizens. Some researches call this phenomenon “Caucasusphobia”24 Goncharova 2004.24.

According to some researchers, the modern Russian mass media does not only create the laymen prejudices against the representatives of other nationalities, but also undermines the immunity of the population as a whole towards xenophobia25 Usacheva 2004.25. As a result, the activity of the structures that pursued the discriminatory policy and the actions of the social organizations that demanded the “exile of the strangers” command its support.

It is worth noting that a lot of mass media that “is specializing” on the creation of the “enemy” image targets the young audience. First of all the matter concerns the newspaper “Moskovskiy Komsomolets” with its pejorative lexis vis-à-vis other ethnical groups and its direct preaching of ethnic hatred as well as the newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda”. However, some newspapers, “other than the youth ones”, also contribute to this process, such as “Nezavisimaya Gazeta”, “Moskovskie Novosti”, “Argumenty i Fakty”, which are characterized by the exaggerated display of emotions in the covered material. These and other similar editions practically lack analytical articles, but actively use the confrontation “we — they”. The Russians are set against the Chechens, the Orthodox against Muslims etc. As Malkova rightly notices, although it is not always clear who exactly is implied by the terms “we” (“military? politicians? citizens of the Russian Federation? the Russians? soldiers? civilian population?”) and “they”26 Malkova 2000/2001: 60.26, the very confrontation is manifested unambiguously enough.

The print publications of the movement The Russian National Unity (Rossiyskoe natsionalnoe edinstvo) are even the more discernable preacher of the nationalist attitudes and stereotypes. Its ideologists argue that “Russia should be the united state of the Russians and the Russian People”, where the Russians “mean the representatives of the Russian Nation consisting of the triune Russian People — the Great Russians, the Little Russians (the Ukrainians), and the Belarusians”, while the Russian People include “all of the nonSlavic native peoples of Russia, for whom the defense and creation of Russia became the historical tradition”27 Azbuka, s.a.27.

However, the mass media is not the only tool of creating the image of the “enemy” in the consciousness of the youth. The radical youth movements and organizations also play an important role here.

There are two types of the youth movements. The first one includes various groupings that are established on the base of the youth’s psychological need in self-expression and lack the constructive program of the activity (sport and music fans etc.). It is these groups that are mostly noticeable due to their symbolism and flamboyant behavior. The other type of the youth movements refers to the independent unions with a number of organizers or coordinators and are oriented towards the implementation of certain projects that are usually of a negative character (NBP [The National Bolshevik Party], “Avangard Krasnoy Molodezhi” [Red Youth Vanguard], “Oborona”, “Pora!”, some skinhead organizations and other).

It is worth mentioning that all the informal youth movements were either formed on the base of the confrontation with the power and the society on the whole, or reached such confrontation in the process of their development. The impossibility to realize their aspirations in the framework of the existing socio-political and cultural conditions encourages mistrust of the efficient dialogue with the state (society, parents) and incites into creating parallel, alternative structures.

In other words, the youth movements are immanently of the protest nature. One of the initial foundations is the confrontation with power (parents): the youth is being swallowed by the street where at times the real war breaks out, and one seeks for the purport of life, the ways of its organization and selfrealization.

The brightest example of the radical youth movement that is actively using negative self-identification is the National Bolshevik Party (the leader is E.Limonov) with its social base being the youth underground, in the first place the socially unsatisfied youth (including teenagers). The ideology of the national-bolshevism is founded on the principle of the “Russian revolution” that in its essence combines two revolutions — the national one that is designed to “establish the power of the Russians in Russia”, and the social one that will set the “material, economic justice in the country”28 http://www.geocities.com/ nazbol/index.htm.28.

The NBP rather successfully combines the utterly aggressive extremist declarations with the moderate-radical concrete actions. Most of the actions organized by this movement (pickets, rallies etc.) are of the pronounced populist character. The issues of corruption, illegal privatization of the industrial companies, unfair court decisions etc. are brought up. However, even the least significant events are broadly covered in the media. All of this allows the NBP to attract new advocates.

In order to strengthen its impact on the youth NBP resorts to such instrument as criticism of a family29 See, e.g., Limonov 2001.29. It is common knowledge that every teenager experiences such a time period when he strains against the parental leash. It is these peculiarities of the developmental psychology that the national-bolshevists gamble on. The well-thought-out and organized antifamily propagandist campaign not only increases popularity of the NBP among the youth, but also inspires the overall radicalization of the latter making it more susceptible to the world views built on the contrast of “we” — “they”.

The radical nationalism as well as other forms of the identification through the image of an “enemy” is the implication of the socio-cultural crisis, in which Russia found itself after the collapse of the USSR. However, there is another reason for the mass spread of the radical nationalist views among the young people. It lies in the fact that at the end of the 1980s and practically during the whole period of the 1990s the Russian youth had limited opportunities of the non-opposition political activity. However, the youth is the active part of the society, and lacking the positive, socially acceptable channels of self-expression it begins to fill the niches connected with the split of the world into the “our” and the “other”. It means that the counteraction against the tendencies indicated above requires not only the cohesive system of measures aimed at overcoming the socio-cultural crisis and tightening social tolerance, but also a special youth policy being capable of channelizing the social activity of the youth into a constructive course.


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