Identity Fragility: The Process of Disidentification in Russian Migrants


  • Elena Mikhina Comenius University Bratislava


The full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 caused a wave of migration not only by refugees fleeing war, but also in the case of Russian nationals who left their homes due to disagreement with Russia's actions, political prosecution, or safety concerns. Previous research conducted on refugees and immigrants documented many difficulties that they face in the process of acculturation and navigating their national or cultural identity in a host country [1]. Yet most studies have concerned groups directly feeling violence from the national outgroup perpetrators, and there is a lack of research on identity mechanisms of people that may negatively perceive actions by their ingroup or even disidentify with their country of origin.

Previous studies conducted on immigrants showed that a major life event such as forced migration that compromises positive feelings of identification and group membership can lead to disidentification and perceiving the corresponding identity negatively. According to Social Identity Theory, group members will seek to find positive aspects of an in-group and negative aspects of an out-group, enhancing their own self-esteem [2]. 

Thesis consisted of two studies. In Study 1, we conducted two rounds of semi-structured in-depth interviews with the aim to examine the meaning-making and experience of Russian emigrants in the context of forced migration with a focus on identity negotiation. 12 participants residing in 9 different countries were reflecting on their identity, sense of belonging, and individual definitions of Russian national identity. Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, and analysed using a Reflexive Thematic Analysis approach [3]. 

In Study 2 we explored the associations between Russian immigrants’ intergroup meta-perceptions, identity centrality and disidentification from the national identity, as well as well-being and resilience. Participants (N=490) filled in an online survey including scales on the above mentioned variables. Correlational and regression analyses have been conducted to assess the associations between the variables and potentially describe a theoretical model of (dis)identification with well-being and resilience as outcomes. 

This study addresses the critical gaps in understanding the outcomes of negative national identity and disidentification within a unique setting of recently outbroken conflict. The findings generated from this research hold significant potential for informing the practices of field workers, clinicians, and counsellors working with immigrant populations. Through a deeper comprehension of these phenomena, we can better tailor interventions and support systems to foster a sense of belonging and resilience among immigrants, ultimately contributing to more inclusive and effective societal frameworks.



[1] Oviedo, L., Seryczyńska, B., Torralba, J., Roszak, P., Del Angel, J., Vyshynska, O., ... & Churpita, S. (2022). “Coping and resilience strategies among Ukraine war refugees.” International journal of environmental research and public health, 19(20), 13094.

[2] Tajfel, H., Turner, J. C., Austin, W. G., & Worchel, S. (1979). “An integrative theory of intergroup conflict.” Organizational identity: A reader, 56(65), 9780203505984-16.

[3] Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2021). “One size fits all? What counts as quality practice in (reflexive) thematic analysis?” Qualitative Research in Psychology, 18(3), 328–352.