Reflection of the Cultural Power of the Geopolitical Narrative in the Collective Perceptions of Russians about the Military Operation in Ukraine

Reflection of the Cultural Power of the Geopolitical Narrative in the Collective Perceptions of Russians about the Military Operation in Ukraine

Zvonovskiy V.B.

Dr. Sci. (Sociol.), Prof. of the Department of Sociology and Psychology of Samara State University of Economics, Samara, Russia.

Khodykin A.V

Cand. Sci. (Sociol.), Sociologist of the Social Research Institute, Samara, Russia.

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Zvonovskiy V.B., Khodykin A.V Reflection of the Cultural Power of the Geopolitical Narrative in the Collective Perceptions of Russians about the Military Operation in Ukraine. Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya [Sociological Studies]. 2022. No 11. P. 38-53


Military conflicts are traumatic and mobilizing events, around the meaning of which political disputes and confrontations flare up. States conducting military actions create narratives that mobilize and explain their necessity, fighting with anti-war counter-narratives for the symbolic power of the “correct” description of a military conflict as an event. The entry of Russian troops into Ukraine caused a political confrontation between supporters and opponents of this decision not only in the political, but also in the symbolic field. To increase public support for the military campaign, the Russian authorities are actively using the geopolitical narrative that received the greatest symbolic power after the annexation of Crimea. This article attempts to use the theoretical language of the Yale School of Cultural Sociology to describe the reflection of the cultural power of the geopolitical narrative in public opinion regarding the military operation in Ukraine. The cultural power of this narrative in the periods preceding the outbreak of hostilities was analyzed on the basis of a set of sociological surveys measuring the attitude of Russians to state actions, qualified by the Council of Europe and other international organizations as a violation of human rights or international law. The impact of the cultural power of the geopolitical narrative on the collective perceptions of Russians about the military operation in Ukraine was investigated by analyzing the results of a public opinion poll on the special operation in Ukraine conducted by the Russian Field research group on May 23–26, 2022 (N=1600). Depending on the superposition of the attitude to the military operation, respondents are classified into 6 groups: a group of opponents of the special operation, a group of its potential opponents and 4 groups of its supporters. According to the results of the study, following conclusions were made: 1) the cultural power of the geopolitical narrative is extensive, but not fundamental; 2) adaptation to the dominance of the official narrative is more pronounced than its impact on the collective perceptions of Russians; 3) support for the President of Russia in the mass consciousness is perceived as more significant than achieving the goals of a special operation; 4) the current military conflict in Ukraine is rarely perceived by Russians as traumatic event; 5) the hypothesis about the influence of the quality of life in the region on the attitude of its residents to the military operation has been partially confirmed, while the hypothesis about the connection of the protest potential in the region with the attitude of its residents to the special operation has not been confirmed.

war; Ukraine; narrative; cultural power; yale school; cultural sociology; survey


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Content No 11, 2022