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Introduction - Russian Society in the Context of Crisis Realities: Internal and External Factors

The contemporary social dynamics and complexity of social life makes high demands for integrated multidimensional sociological knowledge and, above all, in regard to explain and predict the current functioning and trends of the development of individual spheres of society and social changes in general. This problem is of particular importance in the study of Russian society, which not one decade experiencing conflicting processes of  transformation  and  still  facing  the  necessity  of  choosing a vector of development.

As is  known,  complex  studies  of  social  transformations in various countries and different forms of society aimed at accounting for polyfactorial influences and interrelations act as the subjects in various fields of humanities, the focus of which is usually made, however, on inclusiveness, interdisciplinarity and normative and comparative approaches. It is not coincidental that the greatest fame and recognition is given to scientific analytical, academic studies that offer not only and not so much just current data, but a wide field of facts and explanatory schemes that are capable to multilaterally take into account a combination of factors determining specificity of social transformations in general and in some particular aspects – from civilizational and value-related to economic and political ones. Comparative projects should also be mentioned – they allow to see the general and particular in the process of social transformations, as well as to isolate specific parameters, key features (economic, political, socio-cultural, ethno-national, religious) and the results of transformations in societies of various types. However they do not detect the so-called «uniqueness of the moment» in order to identify a «real face» of each individual society under consideration.

When talking about complex studies of social transformations in the world science, we should emphasize that the choice of optimal policy strategies and practices usually acts as a dominant focus, and we should also state the need for a broad posing of this question.

Bearing in mind the possibility of combining theoretical interpretation of the socio-political transformations in Russia with sociological monitoring as an organizational, methodical and analytical database for their study, the projects of the World Values  Survey  implemented  under  the  leadership  of  Ronald Inglehart should be mentioned among the most important ones.

When considering research on the interrelations between economic,   social,   political,   ethnic,   religious   and   cultural indicators, European Social Survey is also of methodological and theoretical interest. Based on data of mass surveys conducted in  European  countries   according   to   methodic   developed by S. Schwartz, it allows to identify interrelations between changes in political and social institutes, values, beliefs and behavioral patterns in several European countries and Russia. In the coordinates set by this research project, a number of studies on the changes in Russia can be noted. Identification processes and tendencies within the Russian and European  socio- political spaces considered in the light of these studies seem to belong to the subject field of the proposed project – however, their emphasis tends to be on specificity of values rather than on interrelations and intersectionality of different contexts of Russia’s social transformation processes.

It is necessary to mention additionally the presence in Russian humanitarian field of integrated interdisciplinary papers devoted to the explanation of social transformations in Russian society and the interpretation of specifics of processes that are occurring in it. Throughout the 2000’s sociological, political and socio-economic studies of social transformations in Russia through the prism of identity, possibilities and specifics of modernization processes, defining directions of effective public policy have had conducted in IS RAS (Institute of Sociology, Russian Academy of Sciences).

When considering various aspects of social transformations in Russia, one can see a clear shift towards socio-cultural variables inclusion in the analysis, inducing specificity of political, institutional and value correlations.

Thus, analysis of existing research demonstrates the presence in a space of humanitarian reflection of attempts to understand and interpret a wide range of contemporary trends related to the causes and conditionality of social transformation processes. At the same time, a lack of focused complex interdisciplinary analysis that is able to present  both  theoretical  (conceptual) and practical-oriented research to identify the specifics of social transformations in Russia and to measure quantitative and qualitative features of its current state and trends according to the «here now» principle is clearly seen. It should be especially emphasized that the objective and constantly updated data about the real impact of socio-economic, political, ethnic and religious factors on the specifics and dynamics of social changes in Russia, including their interdependence, is directly related to the practical tasks of developing effective public policies, implementing of modernization changes, and ensuring social and civil society consolidation. This has led sociologists from IS RAS to initiate a large-scale sociological project on the study of the current state and dynamics of Russian society impacted by both transformation processes and crisis realities. It was also assumed that the project will be based on an interdisciplinary integrated approach to socio- economic, political, socio-cultural and ethno-religious processes analysis and will take into account the authentic (representative, adequate) reality presented by the empirical monitoring database.

The project was started at the autumn of 2014 with financial support of the Russian Science Foundation. The program of the project provides conducting in the format of monitoring at a six monthly interval the nationwide sociological researches focused on the study of transformation processes taking place in contemporary Russia in the context of real social situations.

The sample size of each survey amounts to 4.000 respondents, representing the adult population aged 18 years and older by sex, age cohorts, level of education and type of settlement.

The representativeness of sociological information was ensured by use of a multi-stage model of regionalization sampling with quota selection of units of observation (respondents) at the last stage. At the first stage of the sampling the regionalization was carried out by the territorial economic regions of the Russian Federation in accordance with the guidelines developed and applied by the Federal State Statistic Service for monitoring progress in socio-economic indicators.

The second stage of the sampling includes selection of typical subjects of the Russian Federation within each territorial and economic region.

At the third stage of the sampling further regionalization was implemented within the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. It was based on statistical quotas’ calculation by the degree of urbanization of 5 types of settlements: megalopolises, administrative centers of the Russian Federation’s subjects, district administrative centers, urban type settlements, villages.

At the fourth stage of the sampling, that is at the stage of selection of survey respondents, the quotas were respected based on major socio-professional indicators of the respondents, as well as age groups in five age cohorts: 18–30 years old, 31–40 years old, 41–50 years old, 51–60 years old, 60 years and older.