Identity Fragility and Coping Mechanisms of Russian Emigrants


  • Elena Mikhina Comenius University



The war taking place in Ukraine since February 2022 has provoked significant changes worldwide, particularly in the Russian anti-war community. Many people left their homes because they disagreed with the invasion of Ukraine, and many were forced to do so because it was not safe for them to stay in Russia. Previous research conducted on refugees and immigrants showed difficulties that they face in navigating their national identity in a host country, but studies have also explored coping mechanisms that are highly dependent on the cultural and historical background [1]. A major life event such as forced migration that compromises positive feelings of social identification and group membership can lead to identity fragility or even disidentification, i.e. distancing oneself from the threatened identity (ethnic background) and perceiving the corresponding identity negatively [2].

Aim of the Study

The aim of the study is to examine the experience of Russian emigrants in the context of forced migration with a focus on identity negotiation and coping strategies previously identified, including avoidance, problem-solving, and seeking social support. The study is based on recent findings of research conducted with Ukrainian and Syrian refugees, however, it is new in terms of the Russian sample and timely considering the current geopolitical situation.


Semi-structured interviews covering the reasons influencing the decision to move, ethnic and national identification, and resilience strategies were conducted. 7 participants of age 26-66 were interviewed, 4 females and 3 males, residing in 5 different countries. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed. Data were analyzed using Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) [3]. The IPA is the method of exploring the way how people make sense of their reality, and what is the meaning of particular events and experiences, which allows researchers to explore unique first-person experiences of a situation.


The purpose of the study is twofold. First of all, the findings will help us gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of identity negotiation when a positive perception of social identity is threatened. Secondly, the results of the exploratory study will be used for forming a theoretical model that will be tested quantitatively on a bigger sample of Russian emigrants. Together, these findings will uncover sociocognitive identity mechanisms under conditions of forced migration and negative perceptions of national identity.


[1] L. Oviedo et al., “Coping and resilience strategies among Ukraine War Refugees,” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 19, no. 20, p. 13094, 2022.

[2] J. A. Smith, P. Flowers, and M. Larkin, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Theory, Method and Research. Sage, CA: SAGE publications, 2009.

[3] L. Timotijevic and G. M. Breakwell, “Migration and threat to identity,” Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, vol. 10, no. 5, pp. 355–372, 2000.