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Citizenship Styles in Georgia

What is a “citizenship style”? How is this acquired and what are the particular psycho-social factors that define it in Georgia? A study carried out by Tbilisi State University researchers entitled “What defines the style of citizenship: culture, religion, nationalism?” addresses this question. Assistant Professor Khatuna Martskvishvili, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences; Assistant Professor Luiza Arutinov, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences; and Regional Research Coordinator Natia Mestvirishvili, Caucasus Research Resource Center studied national, cultural and religious attitudes as potential factors that contribute to the notion of citizenship style. The research was carried out in seven Georgian universities: four in Tbilisi and three in the eastern, middle and western areas of the country, respectively, and included 415 female and 270 male students between the ages of 18-24 who participated in the research.

The interest of the TSU researchers was prompted by current practices in the world and by widely debated issues in Georgia as well. The research analyzed ethnic, cultural and civism styles of citizenship of Georgian youth to determine how the style of each citizen is constructed and manifested. The study was financed by the Academic Swiss Caucasus Net (ASCN) in 2011, and was carried out over two years.

Everyone has a certain emotional attitude towards their own country. These attitudes are reflected in an individual’s daily behavioral patterns and play an important role in the process of an individual’s self-realization and social identity. Citizenship style is a part of social identity that determines the criteria according to which an individual can be considered a citizen of the country and is influenced by complex social processes. On one hand national self-determination strongly influences it, while at the same time the type of citizenship one has influences the social perception of an individual and establishes the boundaries of the social group. Different criteria are used to determine who will become a citizen of a given country, and then according to these criteria three styles can be distinguished: ethnic, cultural and civic.

Ethnic citizenship style implies that genealogical links are essential to obtain membership in a given (specific) ethnic group. In contrast, civic citizenship style implies that any person who respects and recognizes the laws of a country and who is actively involved in the social and political life of the country can become a citizen. The research suggested that most likely an ethnic-national dichotomy does not fully reflect the complex nature of citizenship. Thus, research confirmed a third style of citizenship identity, a cultural citizenship style focusing on an individual’s adaptation to and respect of what they perceive as a national culture. These persons show a great respect for particular aspects of what they see as national culture and are eager to protect it. They are more sensitive to culture-related issues and believe that their knowledge and respect are essential to obtain group membership in a particular nation.

Using this theoretical base, the study addressed the three styles of citizenship in Georgia to provide a micro-level analysis. In particular, the researchers clarified the compositional modality of each style and the factors that differentiated them. The study showed that citizenship style is closely associated with the quality of national identification, as well as cultural and religious dimensions. In particular, the positive indicators of nationalism and negative indicators of patriotism determine ethnic citizenship style, while civic citizenship style is associated with the positive indicators of patriotism and negative indicators of nationalism. This showed that nationalism and orthodoxy are in a strong and positive correlation with each other, due to the fact that both nationalism and orthodoxy are based on rigid types of cognitive interpretation. Cultural citizenship style usually scores in the middle of most predictor variables, which indicates a new function of cultural citizenship style: to balance the opposing elements of ethnic and civic types, and to play a transitional role for change.

In Georgia, religiosity is an important variable in the relationship between national attitudes, standpoints and identity. Religiosity is not only identified through direct links, as a decisive factor for the strength of identity or citizenship style, but also has a hidden mediation function for national sentiments and citizenship style preferences. Since religion has both a direct and an indirect influence on national sentiments it can be assumed that modern views on national civic issues closely link a love of God and of the country. Not only is religion a part of culture or a personal preference, it is one of the most important determinants of national and civic views.

The study focused on the findings of discriminant analysis according to which a two-dimensional model provided the best distinction of ethnic, civic and cultural citizenship styles in Georgia. In particular, the analysis showed that national, cultural and religious attitudes can be united into two basic groups, creating two main distinctive factors of citizenship styles. The first dimension unites nationalism, national identity and orthodoxy, while the second links patriotism, collectivism and in-group attitudes. The first dimension is the so called “orthodox” nationalism. Variables in this dimension express rigidity and dogmatism, with more rationalism than sentimentalism. The second dimension includes emotion-related affect and therefore the researchers called it “sentimental nationalism”.

These two dimensions provide a reliable distinction for differentiating citizenship style. Ethnic citizenship style has high scores on the orthodox nationalism dimension, while the cultural citizenship style shows medium scores on this scale; civic citizenship style scores are low. As for the sentimental nationalism dimension, cultural citizenship style has high scores; civic style shows medium scores and ethnic style scores low. Quantitative results showed that 56% of respondents chose a cultural citizenship style; 25% chose a civic style; and 19% chose an ethnic style. However since the population sample was not representative of all Georgians, generalization is not possible.

An analysis of the structure and dynamics of citizenship style is important for studying such complex issues as the relationship between an individual and the state, for migration policy, minority rights and for building an open/inclusive society. The study can be used by government officials and their advisors in political psychology and sociology since the citizenship concept and the analysis of related issues are important for developing democracy. The study has practical value for public policy, to determine how to promote inclusive types of citizenship that are so important for a democratic country, or to identify what encourages the exclusive type – as detrimental to development and to the establishment of an open society.

This study was presented at local and international conferences: in Yerevan in 2012; the Conference of the Eastern Psychological Association organized by the American Psychological Association in New York in 2013; and at the 8th International Conference of the World Interdisciplinary Network for Education and Research in Lisbon.