RIGA - Latvia's society is the least tolerant of Muslims and Roma people, while most Latvians and Russians have no ill feelings toward each other, according to the study "Intercultural Stereotypes and Prejudices in Latvia", carried out by researchers from the University of Latvia's Institute of Philosophy and Sociology.
Martins Kaprans, a researcher at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, said that intercultural interaction encompassed not only openness toward others, but also prejudices. This is especially evident in the reluctance of residents of Latvia to accept people of other cultures.
The research has found that Latvia's residents maintain the greatest emotional and interactional distance toward the culturally most different groups in Latvian society.
Residents are most comfortable being around Latvians and representatives of the Slavic peoples. There is already a much greater emotional distance in relations with Swedes, Jews and Americans.
Muslims are perceived as the most alien group, closely followed by other culturally different groups such as Africans, Roma, Indians, Chinese and Uzbeks. Latvians have warmer feelings toward Westerners, such as Swedes and Americans, but are less supportive of Russians, Russian-speakers and Jews.
Latvia's Russians, on the other hand, are culturally closer to Latvians. They are also more likely to accept Jews, Uzbeks and Muslims than Latvians.
The research looks into different stereotypes and prejudices against different cultures. Russians, Americans and, to a lesser extent, Jews are viewed as dominant groups by Latvia's society. These groups are not perceived as a threat or a burden but, at the same time, they are also not associated with any meaningful contribution to Latvia. In the meantime, Muslims and Roma people are considered to pose the biggest threat. Latvia's residents believe that Muslims wish to become a dominant culture, while Roma people are associated with socially deviant lifestyle.
Latvians, Ukrainians and Swedes, or, more generally, Europeans are associated with a positive social and economic contribution to Latvia. Arrogance and a desire to dominate are much less often attributed to these groups.
Although positive stereotypes can be observed in the mutual perceptions of the two largest ethnic groups in Latvia - Latvians and Russians, there are significant differences in ethnocentrism. While few Russians in Latvia believe that Latvians are trying to impose their culture on others or specifically support each other, some Latvians tend to attribute aggressive ethnocentrism to the Russian minority, the researcher has concluded.
In general, the study has clearly concluded that most Latvians and Russians do not have negative feelings for each other and that there is a relatively small symbolic distance between the two ethno-cultural groups.