Riga, 20 January, YEARS. In Latvian society, the most negative attitudes are expressed towards Muslims and Roma, while most Latvians and Russians do not have negative feelings towards each other, concluded a study “Intercultural Stereotypes and Prejudices in Latvia” conducted by researchers at the Latvian Institute of Philosophy and Sociology universities.
Mārtiņš Kaprāns, a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the University of Latvia, noted that intercultural interaction illuminates not only openness to others but also signs of prejudice. This is especially evident in the reservations of the Latvian population to accept people of other cultures as close family members or as high state officials.
The results of the research show that the greatest emotional and interactive distance is to the most culturally diverse and foreign groups in Latvian society.
Residents have the strongest feelings towards Latvians and representatives of Slavic nations, who are considered their own. Already, there is a much greater emotional distance in the treatment of Swedes, Jews, and Americans.
Muslims are perceived as the most foreign group, followed by other culturally diverse groups such as Africans, Roma, Indians, Chinese and Uzbeks. Latvians have warmer feelings towards Westerners such as Swedes, Americans, and colder ones towards Russians, Russian speakers and Jews.
The Latvian Russian minority, however, feels less culturally distant from Latvians. In the Russian perception, this distance is also smaller compared to Jews, Uzbeks, and Muslims.
The study found that a small proportion of Latvian society encountered prejudice, more often Russians than Latvians. However, the data obtained did not allow us to assess how and how often prejudices are encountered by representatives of small but visually diverse cultural groups, such as Indians or people from African countries. According to the authors of the study, a separate targeted study should be conducted to clarify this issue.
The study examines stereotypes and prejudices about different cultures in detail. The data obtained show that Russians, Americans and to some extent Jews are considered to be the dominant groups in Latvian society. These groups are not perceived as a threat or a burden, and at the same time are not associated with a particularly positive contribution to Latvia. In contrast, Muslims and Roma are at greatest risk, the study notes. Muslims attribute a desire for cultural supremacy to Latvians and Roma to a socially negative lifestyle.
We also often see Africans as a burden or threat to Latvia, but the population of this group, like Uzbeks and Indians, represents that we are weaker and more vulnerable.
Latvians, Ukrainians and Swedes, or Europeans in general, are associated with a positive social and economic contribution from Latvia. We are much less likely to attribute arrogance and a desire for dominance to these groups. “In general, we can conclude that Latvian society is also less likely to attribute negative stereotypes to the cultural groups about which it has the most uncertain notions,” Kaprāns points out. This explains the very indifferent attitude of the population towards the Chinese, Uzbeks and Indians. Cultural groups, however, are subject to negative stereotypes and prejudices, leading to dangerous associations.
Researchers point out that perceptions of these groups have developed indirectly and internationally, for example against Muslims and Africans, or through culturally inherited and private experiences, for example against Roma.
Although positive stereotypes can be observed in the mutual perception of the two largest ethnic groups in Latvia – Latvians and Russians, these two groups differ greatly in their perceived ethnocentrism. While the belief among Latvians that Latvians try to impose their culture on others or explicitly support members of their people is not widespread, some Latvians tend to attribute aggressive ethnocentrism to the Russian minority, the researchers concluded.
However, this study generally made it clear that most Latvians and Russians do not have negative feelings towards each other and that there is a relatively small symbolic distance between the two ethnocultural groups, the researchers point out.
They point out that these data also lead to a different view of the opposing (geo) political positions between Latvians and Russians, because the ideological opposition is clearly not reflected in the emotional or cultural opposition to each other. The reality of political and everyday social relations coexists as a source of different but sometimes reciprocal challenges of stereotypes and prejudices.
This study also analyzes intercultural stereotypes and prejudices in the context of immigration. The obtained results show that there is no strong resistance to economically motivated immigration in Latvian society, as, according to researchers, the factor stimulates development.
In Latvian society, in addition to labor emigration, the priority is the need to attract skilled immigrants and / or people who come from well-known cultures and are not visually different from the locals.
The results of the study show that Latvians would find it difficult to accept immigrants from foreign cultures or with a different skin color who would work in the public sector.
At the same time, a relatively strong consensus can be observed that knowledge and proficiency in the Latvian language must become an essential precondition for the integration of immigrants into Latvian society, the scientists conclude.