Monday, October 11, 2010

Will You Be My Friend? Gauging Perceptions of Interethnic Friendship in the South Caucasus

With ever-increasing globalized societies, ethnically homogeneous states are fewer and fewer. Increased mobility has resulted in freer movement for migration and travel, and advances in technology have made constant communication easy across the globe. No doubt, these developments have made friendships between different nationalities more common, and even taken for granted in many places. Yet traditional values persist, and by examining attitudes towards this phenomenon, we can gain an understanding of a country’s social dynamics as well as predicting potential conflicts.

In the CRRC 2009 Caucasus Barometer survey, respondents in all three Caucasus countries were polled about whether or not they approve of friendship and in a separate question to be discussed later, of marriage (of a woman of their ethnicity) with various other nationalities. Of the three countries, Georgians are the most accepting of friendship with other ethnicities of the three countries, with an overwhelming majority of respondents approving of friendship with every nationality, Italians and Greeks scoring the highest at 83%, followed closely by Americans, at 82%.

The majority of Armenians approve of friendship with other nationalities, with the exception of Turks and Azerbaijanis, of which 66% and 70% disapprove of respectively. Notably, the highest level of approval of friendship with another ethnic group is 93% for Russians, followed by Americans, at 79%.

Azerbaijan is by far the most disapproving of friendship with other ethnicities. Most Azerbaijanis disapprove of interethnic friendship with the exception of 82% approving of friendship with Turks, and 52% favoring friendship with Russians. While unsurprising within the context of protracted strife between Armenia and Azerbaijan, a staggering 97% of Azerbaijanis disapprove of friendship with Armenians.

What accounts for such different attitudes toward interethnic friendship? Why are Georgians the most “friendly” while Azerbaijanis the least? A high level of Georgians’ approval of friendship with Russians as well as Abkhazians and Ossetians suggests that political tension between nations alone is not sufficient for animosity on a personal level. While tracking the root causes of such attitudes is not straightforward, uncovering them could have profound policy implications for fostering peaceful relations in part through positive attitudes toward friendship across ethnicity. What do you think are the causes of such rifts and what is the policy direction to improve tolerance on a state level? Check our data to find out more and post a reply with your thoughts.


Unknown said...

Seems like Georgians, despite their openness is doing something wrong with relation to neighbours.

I am extremly puzzled by the inwardness of Azeri people.

xcaucasus said...


Richard said...

This is somewhat confusing as it confounds citizenship with ethnicity. Americans, for example, don't constitute an ethnic group.

Unknown said...

I think we should not forget that Azerbaijan is a muslim country. And most of the nationalities presented in the survery are by majority christhians. That causes the biggest rate of disapproval. I would be interested to know what people of these three countries think of other muslim nations like Arabs, Pakistanians or some Central Asian countries. One could argue that Kurds are muslims and Azeris still do not want to be friends with them. Yes, but Kurds are also in a way enemies of Turks and Azeris as friends of Turkish peoople do not like their enemies. Although there are a lot of Kurds who live in AZ. That's how I understand why Azeris behave so diffrently from their neighbors.

The Eblana European Democratic Movement said...

well as a greek, coming from a country with significant numbers of migrants from georgia and armenia, i find no wonder of the results...greeks and armenians have had close ties for centuries and armenians in greece are one of the best integrated communities after the cypriots..georgians arrived recently but they also are a part of our society for azerbaijan, since we know little about them and they mainly migrate to turkey, russia or other states, i find reasonable that the answers were so.
just a nosy european journalism student interested in other regions of the world...