Neighboring countries’ images: Persistent stereotypes of the Russian student youth
The article presents the results of the comparative study of the neighboring countries’ images in the perception of the Russian student youth. In the first part of the article, the authors emphasize the importance of public opinion as one of the key social institutions in the contemporary society though it is often manipulated by state and political organizations to ensure the public support of ambiguous decisions. There are two basic mechanisms to form social representations including the images of different countries in public opinion: spontaneous and purposeful (when officials and media use special techniques to create an image of either a dangerous enemy or the best geopolitical friend). Today in Russia the former seems to dominate for except the key geopolitical powers other countries seem to attract the state attention rather sporadically, which is supported by general political indifference, wide dissemination of information technologies, and freedom of travels all over the world, etc. The second part of the article focuses on the methodological consequences of thus developing images in the Russian public opinion. The authors explain the thematic structure and techniques of the questionnaire developed for the study of the images of China, Kazakhstan and Serbia in the Russian student youth’ worldview, which were applied in the sociological survey of 2010-2011 in the project supported by the Russian Foundation for Humanities, and then again in 2016 for the comparative analysis. The last part of the article presents the results of these surveys in the comparative perspective and focuses on a few indicators to reconstruct the persistent stereotypic elements of the neighboring countries’ images in the student youth worldview though there are some changes that are difficult to interpret.