by Olena Oleksiyenko, Graduate School for Social Research, Polish Academy of Sciences
This article focuses on issues of harmonizing information on ethnic minority status as part of a larger project on patterns of electoral and non-electoral political participation in post-soviet states. Specifically, I am interested in differences in political participation between a given country’s Russian-speaking minority and the majority population in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine.
There is no single international survey project that adequately covers all the former Soviet republics since the Soviet Union’s collapse, to current times. Even projects with the broadest country coverage, such as Life in Transition, do not allow for meaningful over-time comparisons. Hence, I selected, for purpose of ex-post harmonization, international projects that measure peoples’ electoral and non-electoral participation and ethnic identification in any of the post-soviet countries. Table 1 presents the list of the international survey projects I included, which taken together, span the period 1993- 2015.
Table 1. International Survey Projects with Relevant Data
Cross-national comparisons of ethnic groups are not as straightforward as it may seem, since in many cases the underlying concept of “minority group” is different in each state. The literature proposes different approaches to increase comparability of the concept. The “absolutist” approach suggests that only one marker of minority status should be taken into account, e.g. citizenship or language. The advantage of such a solution is conceptual clarity, but one can argue that the complexity of the minority status cannot be precisely studied with only one indicator. An alternative is the “relativist” approach to harmonization of items on minority status. This involves cross-classification of different ethnic referents to obtain a single, cross-nationally equivalent score on “ethnic minority status” (Lambert 2005). The problem with the “relativist” approach is the low availability of the same markers across all surveys.