Russian speakers’ media engagement and acculturation in Finland and Latvia
Comparative Migration Studies volume 10, Article number: 28 (2022)
This comparative study looks into Russian speakers’ acculturation in Finland and Latvia by contrasting their cultural involvement and cultural preference Carlson and Güler (J Int Migr Integr 19:625–647, 2018. 10.1007/s12134-018-0554-4) with their self-reported news media use. Drawing on survey data collected from both countries (N = 224), the findings show that participants in both countries scored closer to biculturalism than monoculturalism. Majority of the respondents report predominantly engaging with non-Russian news media sources. However, regardless of the societal context, respondents who were more engaged with Russian news media sources also scored higher on cultural preference (towards Russian culture of origin). Further significant differences and implications are discussed.
Studies into immigration and acculturation have a long history and continue to be of importance to contemporary societies (Gordon, 1964; Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Olsson, 2021; Šūpule, 2021; Tiilikainen et al., 2019). Studying immigration and acculturation enables us to explore the variety of dimensions involved in the process of move, from people's motivation to leave their earlier home, their journey, and experiences in their destination country, to the enablers and barriers in their acculturation processes, and involvement with their country of origin and destination. In short, acculturation studies are interested in how people adapt to their changing environments and situations. Acculturation is a complex process that may cause more changes in one area of human thought and behaviour than another (Chun et al., 2003).
Earlier studies highlight the importance of communicative patterns, especially media use, in the acculturation process (Croucher & Kramer, 2017; Dalisay, 2012; Torkington et al., 2020). While the role of media was recognized already decades ago, the picture is nowadays made more complex by the fact that media use has become so fluid and international, including various types of hybrid media (Chadwick, 2013) and being able to tap into media content from different geographical and linguistic areas (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019; Golova, 2020; Toivanen et al., 2021). This study contributes to the body of research on media use and acculturation by exploring Russian speakers' involvement and preference of news media in the context of Latvia and Finland.
The term Russian speakers is used here to cover most other relevant subcategories, such as recent immigrants from Russia, Russian minorities living in a country, citizens of Latvia and Finland whose first language is Russian (Pisarenko, 2006), as well as other ethnicities living in these two countries, with a background from the former Soviet Republics that use Russian as a first or common language. In this study, we specifically focus on Russian speakers of Russian origin, whether they were born in Latvia or Finland, or moved there later on in their lives.
In Latvia, Russian speakers are the biggest ethnic minority. In Finland, they are the second largest linguistic minority after Finnish Swedes (Official Statistics of Finland, 2021). The motivation to study Russian speakers stems from the peculiarity in the historical and current interstate relations (Berzina, 2018) and the distinctive position that Russian speakers held in Latvia and Finland in different times of the history, e.g. during the Russian Empire, Soviet Union and after.
In diverse European societies, understanding the triggers of division, conflict and cohesion is an important aspect to consider. For example, conflicting media landscape (Muižnieks, 2011) between the countries can pose challenges for the news media user, from the perspective of their country of origin and the society they currently live in Davydova-Minguet et al. (2019). Both in Latvia and Finland, apart from the national media, there is also Russian language media that provide news both from inside and from outside the country (Rozukalne, 2017). This work explores which types of news sources are used predominantly by the participants of this study and whether and how news media consumption relates to cultural involvement and cultural preference of the participants, in between the country of origin (Russia) and destination (Latvia or Finland).
Acculturation is a process that has been studied under a variety of labels, from assimilation to adaptation to cultural fusion and adjustment. The term assimilation has been used more by sociologists, and acculturation more by anthropologists (Gordon, 1964) and by social psychologists (Berry, 1970, 1997; Liebkind & Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Liebkind et al., 2016). What is central in all is the change emanating from interpersonal and intergroup contact. Actually, the initial definitions of assimilation included similar characteristics to how we understand integration today. According to Gordon (1964), early conceptualizations of acculturation included the idea of mutual change. For example, the earliest and most authoritative conceptualization of acculturation suggested by anthropologists Redfield et al. (1936), reads:
Acculturation as phenomena which appears when groups of individuals having different cultures come into the first-hand contact that is continuous, with subsequent change in the heritage culture patterns of either or both groups… (p. 149).
However, over the years the term assimilation gained ground, proposing that full identification with and participation by immigrants in a new destination culture would only be possible by depriving identification with and participation in the migrant’s culture of origin (LaFromboise et al., 1963; Stonequist, 1935). This evolution of assimilation as a zero-sum then spread to the term acculturation, eroding acculturation from its original meaning so that it became practically synonymous with assimilation in terms of unidimensionality (Gordon, 1964). Therefore, early measures (operationalizations) of assimilation/acculturation only gave respondents the option to choose between ‘origin’ and ‘destination’ cultures on a zero-sum scale with one cultural alternative at either end (Carlson & Güler, 2018. p. 626). Today, the term assimilation is deployed to mean ‘giving up’ one's culture of origin to fully identify with the culture of destination as one of the possible long-term outcomes of the acculturation process, which is also referred to as one of the four strategies of adaptation (integration, assimilation, marginalization, separation) (Berry, 1970, 1980, 2005).
Despite LaFromboise et al. (1963) overview of the previous unidimensional models of assimilation, they concluded that the bidimensional model of biculturality is more appropriate. This bidimensional challenge to the unidimensional assimilationist perspective (Berry, 1970; Zak, 1973; Berry, 2005; Carlson & Güler, 2018) asserted that connections to destination and origin cultures do not necessarily have to vary inversely. This approach has since become the dominant theoretical understanding for acculturation research (Schwartz et al., 2010; Carlson & Güler, 2018) and is also the approach adopted in this study. More specifically, we adopt Carlson and Güler’s (2018) cultural involvement (CI) and cultural preference (CP) indices, whose theoretical and methodological usefulness and applicability was originally illustrated in their work with Turkish immigrants to the USA.
Media and acculturation
Many variables have been identified as playing a role in the acculturation process. Especially in the more recent acculturation research, scholars have pointed out to the role media may serve in the acculturation process as an enabler of communication with the host culture (Croucher & Kramer, 2017), as promoting the acquisition of the national language and knowledge of the society (Dalisay, 2012), and as increasing exposure and accommodation to aspects of the destination culture (Kraidy & Murphy, 2008). Referring to earlier theorizing in acculturation, Dalisay (2012) points out that communication is the ‘primary vehicle’ that enables immigrants’ acculturation to their new social environment (p. 149). For example, immigrants themselves may become producers of media content for other co-ethnics (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019) and for the general population.
Today, there is a rising concern around the media's role in strengthening or dividing societies (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019; Kraidy & Murphy, 2008). Against this backdrop, diasporic media has been scrutinized, along with the immigrant-sending country's foreign policy and interest in influencing what they often view as ‘compatriots abroad’. Here, it must be noted that the whole concept of diaspora is evolving from its original meaning. For example, it is argued that diaspora today can be understood as a ‘more cosmopolitan, hybrid social agent’ (Budarick, 2014, p. 143). In our study, we define diaspora as connectivity (Tsagarousianou, 2014) with a common language (Russian) and an imagined common civilization (historical motherland), not only through ethnicity. A similar conceptualization of diaspora has been adopted also by other scholars (e.g., Voronova et al., 2019). By diasporic media in the context of this particular study, we refer to Russian-language media that operates as a platform for the Russian community’s self-expression and representation (Bailey et al., 2007; Byford, 2014; Voronova et al., 2019). In other words, diasporic media in this paper refers to the Russian media that is produced in the country of origin (Russia) and in the country of residence (Latvia or Finland) by Russian speakers.
At present, there is a need to examine the roles that immigrants’ use of both diasporic media and destination country (national) media play in the acculturation process (Croucher & Kramer, 2017; Shumow, 2010). This need is emphasized by the ambiguity that Dalisay (2012) brings out referring to Kraidy and Murphy's (2008) concept of ‘translocalism’, which entails that the ethnic/diasporic media in local context influenced by foreign countries could simultaneously resist or accommodate aspects of destination culture. It is also important because the potential exists that diasporic media can influence immigrants to resist the destination society's stance (e.g., DeFleur & DeFleur, 2003). Diasporic media can also over-facilitate immigrants’ culture of origin (e.g., Moon & Park, 2007) by distancing immigrants from the realities of the destination country. In this study, we explore the question of the relationship between media use and acculturation by looking at the specific case of two countries in the Baltic Sea Region with Russian speaking minorities: Finland and Latvia.
The context of the research
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, around 10 percent of its population found themselves residing outside of the Russian Federation. In Latvia, Soviet era immigrants and their immediate descendants were not granted automatic citizenship, but instead were suggested to go through a naturalization process, proving some knowledge of Latvian language, constitution and history. They were given a status of ‘permanently resident non-citizen’. As Selga (2016) describes the rights and benefits under this status are different in two major terms: non-citizens cannot vote in main elections or hold certain public positions in government. However, non-citizens do not need a visa to travel within the European Union and also, they can travel to Russia without a visa. In 1991, non-citizens in Latvia amounted to 715,000. Today, 209,007 non-citizens are living in Latvia (10.1% of residents), of whom the largest ethnic group are Russians. The decrease in non-citizens’ numbers is due to the fact that the vast majority of Latvia's ethnic Russians, 71.1% or 398,549 people, have received Latvian citizenship over time, while some have pursued Russian citizenship. In 2021, 2.53% (52,271) of Latvian residents were citizens of Russia (PMLP, 2021).
In Finland, Russian speakers form the largest group of immigrants speaking a foreign language. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, there were 6,000 people with Russian background, holding a Finnish citizenship (Baschmakoff & Leinonen, 2001). In 2021, there were 84,000 people (1.5% of the total population) who considered Russian to be their native language (Official Statistics of Finland, 2021). Most of these Russian speakers have a recent migrant background, with 55,552 being born in the former Soviet Union and 12,766 being born in the Russian Federation.
These macro-level differences between the countries are also visible in the empirical part of the study at hand. As discussed later on in more detail, about half of the Latvian sample reported being born in Latvia, whereas participants from Finland have all been born outside of Finland. This provides an interesting point of comparison between the two cases, since earlier studies argue that Russian speakers that are born and have a longer length of stay in their new home country have better acculturation results (Grigorjev & Berry, 2017; Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000; Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2006).
Russian speakers’ acculturation in Latvia and Finland
Although Russian speakers’ acculturation has been studied in the EU, e.g., Finland (Renvik et al., 2020; Nshom & Croucher, 2014), in the Baltics (Kaprāns & Juzefovičs, 2020; Muižnieks, 2011; Pisarenko, 2006), Belgium (Grigoryev & Berry, 2017), and Germany, Denmark and Netherlands (Hedefaard & Bekhuis, 2018), comparative studies are rare. To help fill this gap, this study provides a comparative look at the acculturation of Russian speakers in Latvia and Finland.
From the early years of the Latvian independence, the situation of the Russian speakers that were predominantly distant to the Latvian language and culture (during the last three decades of the USSR) was a challenge (Voronov, 2009). More specifically, according to Musaev (2017), the so-called ethnic Russians had difficulty in accepting their minority position. Manaev (2013) argues that the difficulty to adapt was due to the worsened situation of ethnic Russians in Baltics, their limited rights and political discrimination. He also argues that, in Latvia, Russians and Latvians, as well as their information spaces, have been separated. Nevertheless, some scholars (Kaprāns & Juzefovič, 2020; Pisarenko, 2006) also argue that the new generation of Russian speakers who are born in the country after the restoration of the Latvian independence have more positive attitude towards the country and stronger feeling of belonging to Latvia.
In Finland, Jasinskaja-Lahti (2000) has argued that Russian speakers are—for the most part—acculturated into the mainstream culture (Jasinskaja-Lahti, 2000: 51). Despite this, studies have shown continuing negative attitudes and prejudice towards Russian speakers in Finland (Nshom & Croucher, 2014).
Russian speakers’ news media engagement in Latvia and Finland
One of the prevalent conversations about Russian speaking minorities living in Europe concerns their media preference, whether they exclusively follow and trust Russian media, especially news (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019). This question has become of importance due to the fact that tensions within and in between media landscapes are commonplace in bordering countries with historically strained relations and politicized diaspora (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019; Marcus, 2018; Sotkasiira, 2017).
Russian-language news media continues to be of importance in countries with Russian-speaking populations, especially those which border Russia. From the time of independence, in Latvia and Finland, the status of Russians and its media within each has changed. For instance, the so-called ‘Russophone diasporic media’ developed naturally and by small steps in Finland, while it had to be restructured and reformulated under new conditions in Latvia.
To note, the concentration of the currently available Russian-language news media in Latvia is markedly higher than in Finland. Looking at the diversified media landscape in Latvia, Rožukalne (2017) found out that Latvia's Russian speakers consider the variety of information provided by Russia's TV and radio channels to be sufficient, and therefore do not express a need for additional information channels. Although each news media outlet may differ in its approach and intensity, one thing most of the diasporic Russian-language media in Latvia have in common is that they tend to confront the narratives of the Latvian-language media (Muižnieks, 2011). Typically, they offer different interpretations of the same incident, which then becomes a ‘picky’—a term used to denote the negative portrayal or an opposite narrative to the Latvian-language content (Muižnieks, 2011). It has been claimed that the Russian-language media in Latvia is filled with disinformation, and that its contents are divisive especially concerning politics and international affairs (Kozlovs, 2020). This often results in a steadily ‘picky’ portrayal of Latvia and the EU (Zakem et al., 2018) that goes beyond simply “being critical” and crosses over to being constantly negative (Muižnieks, 2011). Arguably, this state of affairs can be seen as a reflection of the historical, ethno-political competition reproduced in the media and, sometimes, by the media.
Meanwhile in Finland, studies show that the Russian diaspora often describe the Russian media as propaganda and the Finnish media as less propagandist (Sotkasiira, 2017). In times of war (e.g., between Russia and Ukraine in 2014), when the conflict in the media landscape intensifies, some Russian speakers have also opted for transnational and diverse media use as a strategy to minimize polarization. These are the individuals that actively expose themselves to multiple versions of reality in order to develop their own realities through comparison of various media (Sotkasiira, 2017). According to Viimaranta and Protassova (2018), consumption and demand for Finland’s public media in Russian (Yle Novosti) has been growing in recent years, though another study revealed that the Russian diaspora would wish to see more a positive portrayal of Russians in the Finnish media (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2016; Sotkasiira, 2017). In contrast with the high demand for the Russian-generated content in the Latvian case (Rožukalne, 2017), the majority of the Russian diaspora in Finland seem to follow both Finnish and Russian media productions (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2016), and the demand for media made in Russia is lower.
Based on acculturation theorizing and the viewpoint that news media use and engagement are an integral part of the acculturation process, and taking into consideration the specific features of Russian-language media in Finland and Latvia, this study seeks to answer the following research question:
(RQ1) How is Russian speakers’ acculturation orientation in Finland and in Latvia related to the kind of news media they engage with?
In order to answer the research question, we collected data measuring self-reported acculturation and news media engagement of Russian speakers in Latvia and Finland using an online survey. Measuring acculturation, especially the domains to which it refers, has led to the development of several measures, each with a different operationalization of acculturation (Kim, 2001). In this study, we utilized Carlson and Güler’s (2018) measurement that conceptualizes acculturation using the dimensions of cultural involvement (CI) and cultural preference (CP). This measurement contains 24 items, which combine features from four previous scales, including Ryder et al. (2000). According to the authors:
Each measure combines data from both origin culture and destination culture scales, retains the continuous properties of these scales, connects Berry’s two of the four-category acculturation outcomes, and has theoretical significance and potential comparability across studies of different immigrant populations. Together they offer a quantitative measure of variations in the structural relation between an immigrant group and its new destination culture and should reveal new insights into the acculturation process. (Carlson & Güler, 2018, p. 625).
The 24 items are divided into two measures containing twelve statements each (Table 1). The first half measures involvement with the respondents’ culture of origin (here: Russian) on a scale from 1 for strongly disagree to 9 for strongly agree, with 5 as a neutral mid-point. The second half repeats the measurement for the destination culture (here: Latvian or Finnish).
Engagement with news media was approached with a set of four open-ended questions. The questions asked participants to write down their most used mediums for the purpose of news consumption (TV, Radio, Online, etc.), weekly news providers, most trusted news sources, and the language that they used most for this type of media consumption.
Apart from the acculturation measure and news media engagement, the survey included questions on background information such as the age, sex, education, years lived in destination country and short-long term orientation.
The questionnaire was first designed in English and then translated into Russian language with back-translation. Three people were involved in the process, two of whom had Russian as their first language. Data was collected in several steps. First, we systematically reached out to governmental and non-governmental organizations that were related with Russian speakers separately in each country. This step involved contacting around 35 organizations and asking them to circulate the survey to their members. Second, the link to the survey was circulated in social media, making use of the researchers’ networks and the principle of snowball sampling. Third, an inquiry was posted in social media groups created for Russian speakers in Latvia and Finland. In total, 142 people answered the Latvian survey, and 137 people answered the Finnish survey.
The number of received responses reached 279 in total (142 Latvia, 137 Finland). As part of initial data screening, we carefully went through the data to check for missing data and outliers, and for the frequencies of each variable. We found 54 respondents did not fit the target of the survey or did not complete the questionnaire. Therefore, they were excluded from the further analysis. Outliers were checked for all the variables by using a scatter plot, but none were found. The final number of survey answers was 224 (91 Latvia, 133 Finland).
Of the Finnish sample, (76.5%) were female and (23.5%) were male. While skewed, this distribution reflects the fact that in Finland, approximately (57%) of the Russian-speaking population is female (Official Statistics of Finland, 2021). The age of the respondents varied from 20 to 68 with a mean of 39. Overall, the Russian-speaking population in Finland includes more working age people than the general population (Official Statistics of Finland, 2021). Out of 133 respondents, 115 reported to be working. This separates our sample clearly from the overall situation in Finland, where Russian speakers report only a circa (50%) employment rate (Varjonen et al., 2017). The education level of the respondents in the Finnish sample was high. Overall, (15.8%) had completely secondary education, (65.4%) had a bachelor’s degree, and (18.8%) had a Master’s degree or higher. These numbers are higher than the official ones concerning Russian-speakers’ educational level in Finland, albeit there are no truly reliable numbers due to the shortcoming in measurements and statistics (Varjonen et al., 2017).
Of the Latvian sample, (68.1%) were female and (31.9%) were male. This reflects the fact that in Latvia, approximately (61%) of the Russian citizens are females, and (52.5%) of non-citizens of Latvia are females (Official Statistics of Latvia, 2021). The age of the respondents varied from 17 to 80 with a mean of 37. Out of 91 respondents, 84 reported to be working. This is slightly higher than the (67.7%) general working age population of Latvia (European Commission, 2021). The education level of the respondents in the Latvian sample was also high. Overall, (22%) had completely secondary education, (68.1%) had a Bachelor’s degree, and (9.9%) had a Master’s degree or higher. No reliable national data was found regarding the Russian speakers' education levels in Latvia.
Demographic differences in the Latvian and Finnish samples
The Latvian and the Finnish sample had several differences in reported demographic factors. In the Latvian sample, (54%) of the participants were born in Latvia. Meanwhile, all participants in the Finnish sample were born outside of Finland. Latvian respondents’ length of stay in Latvia was higher (M = 28.8, SD = 17.5) than that of the Finnish respondents (M = 12.1, SD = 10.2). In the Latvian sample, 65 respondents had Latvian citizenship, 6 had a Latvian non-citizen status, and 19 had a Russian citizenship. In the Finnish sample, 61 had Russian citizenship, 48 had double citizenship (Russian & Finnish), 11 had only Finnish citizenship, and 5 had Estonian citizenship.
As the first step of data processing, we constructed the culture of origin index and the culture of destination index. This was done by summing the respondents’ answers to the corresponding questions together, and then dividing the sum by twelve (the number of items in total). Taken together, the Latvian and Finnish participants' responses to the twelve statements on the culture of origin was (Min = 1.58, Max = 9, M = 6.87, SD = 1.39). Their twelve responses on the culture of destination were (Min = 1, Max = 8.91, M = 5.51, SD = 1.66). The culture of origin scores in the Latvian sample (Mdn = 7.42) were higher than those in the Finnish sample (Mdn = 6.75). A Mann–Whitney test indicated that this difference was statistically significant, (U = 4926, z = − 2.363, p < 0.05). The culture of destination scores in the Latvian sample (Mdn = 5.42) were lower than those in the Finnish sample (Mdn = 5.83). A Mann–Whitney test indicated that this difference was statistically significant (U = 7336, z = 2.698, p < 0.01).
Cronbach’s alpha in both Finnish and Latvian samples showed that the questionnaire reached high internal reliability, from ⍺ = 0.890 to 0.905. This internal reliability was higher than in Carlson and Güler’s (2018) original study where these combinations of items were proposed, indicating that our translation of the items into Russian language worked as intended.
Through a round of interpretive coding and weighing the answers given to the four questions related to media use, we were able to construct a single variable for each respondent that is indicative of their news media engagement. The outcome is a three-level variable divided into those leaning towards ‘Russian’ news media sources, those leaning towards ‘Non-Russian’ media sources, and those indifferent to news media altogether (‘Not engaged’). The coding was done by a round of interpretative analysis, where each open-ended answer was considered in relation to others given by the same respondent. For example, in a case where a respondent would indicate following both ‘Russian’ and ‘Non-Russian’ sources in one answer, the other answers given to the questions of trusted media sources, or the language of media use would be considered in the final decision. Over the next section, we will present the analysis as well as our findings.
Cultural involvement score
To calculate the Cultural Involvement (CI) score we followed Carlson and Güler (2018) and summed up the origin culture index and destination culture index and divided the score by two. The cultural involvement (CI) measure, according to Carlson and Güler (2018), treats two of Berry's four categorical outcomes as polar opposites, from total marginalization at the minimum cultural involvement score to total integration at the maximum cultural involvement score. An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the CI scores for the Latvian and Finnish samples. CI scores for the studied respondents ranged from a high of 9 to a low of 3, with a mean (M = 6.25, SD = 0.98). There was no significant difference in scores for the Latvian (M = 6.21, SD = 1.01) and the Finnish sample (M = 6.27, SD = 0.95; t(224) = − 0.43, p = 0.66).
Cultural preference score
Following Carlson and Güler (2018), we calculated the Cultural Preference (CP) score by subtracting the origin culture score minus the score on the destination culture index, divided by two. This difference between scores on the origin and destination culture scales replicates the calculation suggested by Szapocznik et al. (1980). For the entire sample, the overall mean CP was (M = + 0.68, SD = 1.22). When interpreting CP scores, Carlson and Güler (2018) explain that CP score of + 4.0 is equivalent to complete separation in Berry’s categorical formulation, whereas − 4.0 is equivalent to complete assimilation (p. 631). Simply put, higher scores indicate preference towards the culture of origin, lower scores indicate preference towards the culture of destination, and scores near the middle point indicate an orientation to biculturalism. An independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare the CP scores for the Latvian and Finnish samples. There was a statistically significant difference between the Latvian sample (M = + 0.99, SD = 1.22) and the Finnish sample (M = + 0.47, SD = 1.19); t (222) = 3.16, p = 0.002]. However, the magnitude of the differences in the means was very small (eta squared = 0.004) according to the criteria proposed by Cohen (1988). In conclusion, we can say that the participants in both countries scored closer to biculturalism than monoculturalism in their CP scores.
News media engagement
Comparing the two data sets, we could see that in Latvia, (61%) of respondents leaned towards ‘Non-Russian’ news, (33%) were more engaged with ‘Russian’ news, and (5.5%) did not trust any news (‘Not engaged’). In Finland, (73%) of respondents leaned towards ‘Non-Russian’ news, (19%) leaned towards ‘Russian’ news, and (8%) did not trust any news media (‘Not engaged’). The most notable practical difference between the samples is that the Latvian respondents were somewhat more inclined towards the ‘Russian’ sources (33%) than the Finnish respondents (19%). A chi square for independence confirmed the difference between the Latvian and the Finnish samples: X2 (2, N = 224) = 6.03, p = 0.049).
News media engagement and cultural involvement
A two-way between-groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to explore the impact of the media engagement and the country of the respondents on scores of Cultural Involvement (CI) (see Table 2). Subjects were divided into three groups according to their media engagement (Group 1: Russian news sources; Group 2: Non-Russian news sources; Group 3: Not engaged with news), and to two groups according to the country they participated from (Group 1: Finland; Group 2: Latvia). There was a statistically significant interaction effect on CI scores explained by the media engagement and the country of participants [F (2, 224) = 3.25, p = 0.041]; with an effect size (partial eta squared = 0.02).
Post-hoc comparisons using the Tukey HSD test indicated that the difference in CI scores explained by media engagement appeared only in the Latvian sample. Those who were leaning towards Russian news sources (M = 5.83, SD = 1.01) score significantly lower in CI compared to those who leaned towards non-Russian news sources (M = 6.41, SD = 0.99). The main effect on CI from the country of the respondents variable (Latvia/Finland) [F (1, 224) = 0.424, p = 0.516] and media engagement variable [F (2, 224) = 0.766, p = 0.466] overall did not reach statistical significance. For a visual illustration of ANOVA: Media engagement and cultural involvement (CI) in the Finnish and Latvian samples, please see Fig. 1.
A two-way between-groups analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted to explore the main effect of the media engagement and the country of the respondents on the score of Cultural Preference (CP) (see Table 3). Subjects were divided into three groups (levels) according to their media engagement (Group 1: Russian news sources; Group 2: Non-Russian news sources; Group 3: Not engaged with media) and in two groups according to their country of residence (Latvia or Finland). The interaction effect (Media* Latvia/Fin) [F (2, 224) = 1.277, p = 0.281] and the main effect for the country of the respondents (Latvia/Finland [F (1, 224) = 0.107, p = 0.744] did not reach statistical significance. There was a statistically significant main effect for Media engagement [F (2, 224) = 26.12, p < 0.001]; with an effect size (partial eta squared = 0.193). Using Cohen’s (1988) criterion, this can be classified as small effect size.
Post-hoc comparisons using the Tukey HSD test indicated that the mean score for the group leaning towards Russian news sources in Latvia (M = 1.80, SD = 0.905) was significantly different from the non-Russian news source group (M = 0.633, SD = 1.134). The Not engaged with news group (M = 0.100, SD = 1.387) was also significantly different from the Russian news group (M = 1.80, SD = 0.905). We examined for the Levene's Test of Equality of Error Variances, which was more than 0.05, indicating that the homogeneity of variances assumption had not been violated. For a visual illustration of ANOVA: Media engagement and cultural involvement (CP) in the Finnish and Latvian samples, please see Fig. 2.
The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of the way news media use and preferences may factor into the process of acculturation. The study also makes a contribution by testing the Cultural Involvement (CI) and Cultural Preference (CP) indices presented by Carlson and Güler (2018) in another context than the one they were originally developed for.
Looking at the findings, we can see that with regard to the CI index, the survey respondents from both countries are, in terms of Berry’s (1970, 1997)’s four acculturation strategies, leaning towards the integration outcome (M = 6.25). The results of the CP index all lean to the direction of biculturality (Carlson and Guler, 2018; Szapocznik et al., 1980). A point of difference in the data comes from the result that the Latvian respondents differed in a statistically significant way from the Finnish sample in terms of preferring the culture of origin (here: Russian) more. This finding resonates with stronger presence of diasporic media and more severe discontent in the political and information space in Latvia as compared to Finland. This is an interesting finding when one takes into consideration that half of the respondents in the Latvian sample were born in Latvia, whereas all the respondents in the Finnish sample have been born outside of Finland. It is possible that this finding is a consequence of the high number of Russian speakers in Latvia who originally moved to nowadays Latvia while it was still within the territory of the Soviet Union. Later on, when Latvia regained its independence in 1991, they effectively turned into involuntary migrants. On the contrary in the case of Finland, all of the Russian speakers have themselves chosen to emigrate. The variations within the population of Russian speakers in Latvia were also discussed by Brubaker (2000), who suggested distinguishing between traditional diasporas from ‘accidental’ ones, where the people do not move but rather the borders move around and over them.
Overall, the majority of the respondents in both countries reported being engaged more with ‘Non-Russian’ news media sources than with ‘Russian’ ones. In the case of the Latvian sample, this was somewhat against the expectations laid out by earlier literature. However, a recent study examining Latvia’s Russian-speaking audiences by Kaprāns and Juzefovičs (2020) provides support for this finding. According to their study, the exposure to the ‘Russian’ news media sources is not to be taken for granted. They propose that contrary to the older TV era generation, the younger generation Russophones use less ‘Russian’ news media sources in their daily lives.
Another interesting finding is that those respondents who reported engaging more with ‘Russian’ news media sources scored higher on the Cultural Preference index. As Carlson and Güler (2018) point out, scores close to zero on the CP scale indicate biculturality, whereas scores deviating from zero indicate monoculturality (pp. 630–631). In our data, the direction of this deviation (positive), indicates a higher preference towards the culture of origin (Russian) within those, whose media preferences also lean towards the Russian point of view. While some scholars have proposed that the use of diasporic media may play an important positive role in the adaptation process (e.g. Croucher & Kramer, 2017), the findings of our study are more in line with DeFleur and DeFleur (2003), Kim (2001, 2012) and Moon and Park’s (2007) work, where they discuss the potential that the media of the country of origin can influence immigrants to oppose the destination society’s stance, and that relying on diasporic media can be a barrier to a tighter relationship with the destination country.
There was a small group of respondents in both countries who reported that they don't trust the media or were not engaged with any type of media. These respondents show a similar tendency in cultural preference as the ones who reported being more engaged with Non-Russian news media. This finding is in line with Davydova-Minguet et al. (2019), and Sotkasiira (2017), whose studies found out that some Russian speakers in Finland expressed being ‘burned out’ in between the two information camps (Russian and Non-Russian), and therefore choosing to minimize their media use altogether. This finding also resonates with Torkington et al. (2020) study of the role of locally produced foreign-language media in immigrants' experiences in Algarve, Portugal, where they revealed the ambivalence about the extent to which these media are useful in feeling integrated into the local society. Studies on the role of media in acculturation often find that media use facilitates better adaptation. However, in certain specific cases like the one in this study (Russian speakers living in neighboring countries), the role of using media from the country of origin may be associated with lower involvement or some other type of ambivalence concerning the current place of residence. One explanation for this may be those tensions within and in between media landscapes are commonplace especially in bordering countries with historically strained relations and potentially politicized diaspora (Davydova-Minguet et al., 2019; Sotkasiira, 2017).
A tendency of exclusion towards Russian-speaking minorities in the context of Finland and Latvia might also trigger less involvement and preference towards the country of residence. Previous studies illustrate that Russian immigrants have been victims of prejudice and discrimination both in Finland and in Latvia (e.g., Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2006; Nshom & Khalimzoda, 2020). However, studies also emphasize that due to the smaller perceived cultural difference with the majority population, Russians are treated better than other groups such as Somalis and Arabs (Jasinskaja-Lahti et al., 2006). Finally, especially when speaking about media it is important to remember that media may categorize and marginalize social groups (Slade, 2010), and that this tendency may push audiences away from certain types of media they feel are antagonizing them. It is possible that at least some effect of this type can be witnessed in the context of Finland and Latvia. For example, it has been argued that ‘‘in the case of Finnish Russian-speakers, the antagonisation [by media] seems to be taking place’’ (Sotkasiira, 2017, p. 121).
Comparing the number of people who opened the survey online to the number of people who submitted answers, we can see that in Latvia the survey had a (6.3%) response rate and in Finland a (6.5%) response rate. This relatively low number of respondents could be due to the length of the survey. Another potential reason for the low number of respondents could be the topic itself. Based on the comments connected to the social media posts advertising the study, many potential respondents seemed dubious about the study’s intentions, or expressed their dislike to the topic in general. As a limitation, we must note that our study’s sample is clearly not representative of the overall population of Russian speakers in Latvia or Finland. Online surveys typically feature different types of selection bias (Bethlehem, 2010), and our study is no different in this regard. What our study illustrates is a certain kind of dynamic between media preference and acculturation, but more studies are needed in order to find out how common such patterns are within the broader population. Also, other factors such as language proficiency and preference, as well as earlier history of media use, could be explored in relation to media use and acculturation. Future research could also utilize qualitative methods to explore media engagement and acculturation patterns at the individual level, especially concerning those who do not trust media, or choose to avoid it altogether. Finally, developing ways in which media engagement can be operationalized, especially with regards to social media use, may open up new avenues for research.
Conclusions and implications
Although Russian speakers’ acculturation in relation to issues such as identity, perceived superiority, discrimination, and social and economic remittance have been extensively studied in the context of the EU, there is still a lack of research looking at their media use in relation to acculturation. The findings of this study contribute to our understanding of the role news media use may play in the process of acculturation. In this study, we utilized Carlson and Güler's (2018) synthesis of Berry’s four-category approach with the Szapocznik et al. (1980) dimensions as a means to tap into acculturation preferences. Carlson and Güler’s model allow for locating respondents in the interval formed by the origin and destination culture scales. Continuous and orthogonal measures of the concept of cultural involvement (CI) and Cultural Preference (CP) that we used have the valuable property of potential comparability across different groups and contexts. A distinct contribution of this study is in showing that the new approach, originally developed for the context of studying Turkish immigrants in the USA, can be applied to other societal contexts as well.
The question of the role of news media use in acculturation continues to be of interest to scholars, policymakers and practitioners. Our findings add new insight into the question of the role of news media use in immigrant acculturation. They remind us of the ambivalence of the national and transnational hybrid media environments, and what they may mean for their audiences. As a practical suggestion, and in line with previous research (Berdnikovs, 2016; Davydova-Minguet et al., 2016) we propose that both traditional and new media producers in Latvia and Finland could consider the need and the importance of providing more content in minority languages. This need has been accentuated in 2022 due to the war between Russia and Ukraine. As our study illustrates, there are several ways in which Russian speakers in Latvia and Finland report approaching news media. The majority of the respondents reported being engaged predominantly with ‘Non-Russian’ news sources. They also showed positive cultural (both origin and destination) preference. A similar cultural preference pattern was presented by those respondents who reported choosing to limit their media engagement altogether. Finally, we witnessed a pattern where respondents who reported engaging more with ‘Russian’ news sources also leaned more towards Russian culture.
Availability of data and materials
The original survey data used for this study contains larger data and other research outputs based on this data are under development. However, under reasonable request from the authors, customized data for this study will be possible, with the permission of the ethical board of the University of Jyvaskyla. Cultural Involvement and Cultural Preference inventory that is used in this study is publicly available from the previous authors. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs12134-018-0554-4.
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Ilkhom Khalimzoda is a doctoral researcher at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His research focuses on migration, acculturation, and media. He is a member of the monitoring group for the Centre of Excellence in Integration, Finland. He is also a research associate at the European Centre for Populism Studies (ECPS) and a member of board of directors, at the Society for the Study of Ethnic Relations and International Migration (ETMU). Marko Siitonen (PhD) works as an Associate Professor at the Department of Language and Communication Studies, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. His research has focused on social interaction in online communities across contexts. In addition, his research interests span the topical areas of intercultural communication and technology-mediated communication at work. He is the Chairperson of the ECREA Digital Games Research section, as well as the Finnish Society for Game Research.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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Khalimzoda, I., Siitonen, M. Russian speakers’ media engagement and acculturation in Finland and Latvia. CMS 10, 28 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40878-022-00304-1
- Media use
- Ethnic media
- Russian media