Hostility towards internal displaced people: researchers contribution to its formation

The hostility to internally displaced persons in Ukraine as a result of their discursive design of identity. Analysis of the reports of research organizations on the status of IDP, taking into account the conditions of the formation of hostile perception.

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Hostility towards internal displaced people: researchers' contribution to its formation

Annexation of Crimea and Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine have led to setting a number of sociocultural processes, including the formation of IDP (internally displaced people) as a new social category. This is an official term for people, who were forced to leave their homes in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine and to move to another regions. This category of people is perceived as the others, strangers or even enemies. Hostile discourse towards IDP's directs the flow of negative emotions and aggression, caused by the conditions of the unannounced war, to refugees and distracts attention from the real problems.

On the other hand, we need to observe the hostile perception of IDPs from the prospective of inequality and power reproduction processes, which are defining for every society. This way of interpretation derives from critical and poststructuralist theories, which understand society as a social and symbolic struggle for dominance (Bourdieu, 1989). The cultural mechanisms of power conception (Soroka, 2013) allows to distinguish the culture's part in the processes of inequality and power reproduction on a society. Nomination, legitimation and naturalisation (of cultural mechanisms of power, implemented through the central elements of culture - symbols, rituals and myths) form and establish a place of a group or a category in the social distribution of capitals. In other words, the discursive power (Foucault, 1980) is implemented through these mechanisms.

According to constructivists view, hostile perception of IDPs is an aspect of their identity, which is formed discursively as any others (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985). The analysis of IDPs discourse helps us to answer such questions as how the hostile perception is emerging and forming, in what kind of the net of meanings, in competition of which discourses. The agents of discursive formation of this IDPs status are mass-media, state and other players in this field: volunteers, international organisations, ordinary people, who are informed and included in situation differently. Researchers - sociologists, political scientists, phycologists - are also the agents of discursive formation of hostile IDPs status.

Based on the previous ideas I have analyzed reports about IDPs status by some Ukrainian research organizations [1, 2, 3, 4]. I studied nominations (symbols), which are used by researchers to name these people, and prospective of meanings or discourses (myth), where these nominations are reproduced.

Ukrainian Law On ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons defines an IDP as a citizen of Ukraine who permanently lives in Ukraine, who was forced to or voluntarily left their place of residence as a result of or with a purpose to avoid negative consequences of armed conflict, temporary occupation, ubiquitous acts of violence, mass violations of human rights, and emergencies of natural or technogenic origin [1, p. 2]. This nomination comes from the meaning of forced changes of settlements, dependence, passivity, weakness. On the other hand, this discursive construction empowers the state and international organizations, defines them as the source of help and able to compensate the loss. This is the way of forming the nomination of IDPs as an object of help (material, financial, humanitarian, consulting, etc.) and other types of influence (for example, directed to integration or psychological rehabilitation etc.): Taking into account the low financial condition of IDPs, they are in desperate need of aid. Preferred, primarily financial support [3, p.7].

Displaced persons, internal migrants (other nomination of IDPs) are those who causing pressure, first of all financial pressure: Resolving the rest of issues is financed from local budgets, creating significant financial pressures, particularly in regions with a large number of displaced persons. Local authorities have to turn out the solution within the budget that did not include large-scale internal migration [1, p. 11].

Forced migrants (another nomination of IDPs) interpreted as a new category of citizens in the state, kind of socially unsecured groups: Given the relatively high level of readiness to help citizens in need, it would be interesting to analyse the attitude of the society towards forced migrants, which to some extent are categorised as socially vulnerable [2, p. 6].

Migrants are also being interpreted as people who left their homes running away from war and the Russian occupation [2, p. 7]. This nomination reproduces international law definition of refugees (asylum seekers) in every-day language. Here the emotionality of the language (migrants as runaways) reinforces the senses of dependence and weakness mentioned above. These meanings are reproduced by mass-media discourse on IDPs. Mass-media dramatically narrate about hard conditions of migrants life and active work of volunteers trying to help those who are in need [2, p. 7].

The discourse, which central sign is the state as a source of life support for such groups of population (we can name it paternalistic discourse of the state), give possibilities for competition between different categories of aid recipients: The state is actively trying to create conditions for normal life of people who have left their homes running away from the war and Russian occupation. However, in times of crisis the budget could contribute to strengthen the state economy [2, p. 7]; migrants caused a significant additional burden on the social security departments, employment system, educational institutions and others. However, most residents of these territories feel the burden [2, p. 8]. Hostile perception of IDPs correlates with this discursive frame.

The central signs of another discourse are socially insecure categories of population (we can name it as a discourse of social care) actualise the question of sufficiency of states care: Citizens seeking to increase the role of the state in questions of assistance to IDPs, believing that the main burden must lie on it [2, p. 7]; Host community understands that IDPs need help and considers that the state should play the major role in this process. Currently, in terms of local residents, the state efforts are not enough [3, p. 8]. This discourse includes another sources of influence (besides the state) as volunteers, NGOs and international organisations.

IDPs are also interpreted as people, who have relatives on the territory which is temporarily out of control by Ukrainian authorities: The main reason for the resettlement of IDPs was the danger to their lives and the lives of relatives... However, the majority of respondents (68%) had relatives on the territory which is temporarily out of control by Ukrainian authorities in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions [3, p. 6]. The discursive practice which doesn't differentiate government, territory and population on this territory (in our case - LPR, DPR, Donbass and its inhabitants) converts the displaced into internal enemies. In other words, perception of LPR, DPR transfers to IDPs: 10% of respondences are mentioning children troubles in school and correlate its with Donbass origins [3, . 6].

The identification (inability to differentiate) the population and the territory (it is a phenomena of naturalisation (Barthes, 1972) as a cultural mechanisms of power which work on the myth level) and territorial attribution in official definition of IDP create discursive conditions for competition between IDPs and local residents. This discourse is often indistinguishable from the discourse of social care where IDPs are opposed to another insecure groups: However, local people also have issues with finances, housing and job. Therefore government should take care not only of IDPs but also of the locals [3, p. 8]. But separation of these discourses has great analytical value, including the explanations of many common stereotypes about the IDPs and locals attitudes towards them.

Thus, the idea of IDPs as of a stigmatised group is common: IPDs face the problem. of discrimination by place of residence (local dwellers are preferred, because IDPs are argued to be temporary tenants and to leave just after the conflict is finished) [3, p. 6]. Another stereotype is that IDPs behave inadequately and do not work: Conflict situations with IDPs are mentioned by 14% of local residents. Moreover, only 3% of respondents were personal parties to the conflict. Among the reasons for the conflict the following are cited: inadequate behaviour of IDPs and differences in political views. The most common idea among the local population is that IDPs do not work, but are financially provided (30%) [3, p. 27]; Despite the present opinion that IDPs do not work and get money (30%) and the changes seen by the hosting community - such as rising of housing prices, the lines in social services, rising of prices at the markets - the attitude towards IDPs is in generally good [3, p. 8].

Territorial determination of IDPs forms their stranger status: they have to go back to their homes as soon as possible [2, p. 8]; the hybrid war is of very diverse dynamics and this makes safe return impossible and affects the nature of the forced displacement [1, p. 13]; migrants do not associate themselves with the population of the territory they moved to [2, p. 8], they are morally detached from the whole society [2, p. 8]. (The last quotation reproduces Alfred Schtitz's definition of the stranger almost verbatim).

IDPs victimity is in a certain way reproduced through retrospective comparison of their situation with deportation of the population of Western Ukraine from the territory of modern Poland and deportation of Crimean Tatars [4, p. 6]. However, anti-Soviet discourse, to which the violation of human rights in the Soviet Union is one of the central signs, is capable of turning the victim to the hero. This is the step away from the objective status of IDP. For Crimean Tatar migrants (in Lviv) anti-Soviet disposition is connected to anti-Russian disposition, which becomes an important criterion for belonging to the self group: Additionally they [Crimean Tatar migrants] mention that even insufficient knowledge of Ukrainian is not perceived as a negative feature (because everyone understands we are not Russians) [4, p. 5].

Not objective, active IDP status mainly remains as a wish: IDPs need to be perceived not only as an object of helping, but as full participants of policy making in questions of defending the rights and liberties of internally displaced persons [1, p. 10].

Active status of IDP is partly received in entrepreneurial discourse and through creating ethnic or religious groups: Job search issues were mostly solved without any external assistance - through starting own business (ethnic restaurants and fast foods in particular). The question of forming local national and cultural organisations raised almost immediately [4, p. 5]; Other examples of soft relocation trajectory is the relocation of some national or religious minorities (Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) [4, p. 9]. However, the objectifying discourse of social care remains strong: professional, ethnical or religious communities are interpreted as sources of help. Discursive frame of IDPs as receivers of help forms their statements about themselves: 90% of interviewed do not agree with the statement that IDP can help themselves without any external help [3, p. 20].

Internally displaced persons are disadvantaged because of their IDP status [2, p. 8]. This claim is an expression for researchers' feeling of danger of the discursive frames in which IDP identity is being constructed: it is formed as dependent and depressed by nominations of the identity. One of the important steps for resistance to inequality reproduction strategies (Kondakov, 2013) in this case is in ascertaining the insolvency of common discourses to catch IDP's reality. For example, this applies to migrants' definition of their nationality: I am Ukrainian with Jewish origins (middle-aged man, Donetsk);... I have an Armenian friend, but he is Ukrainian and represents himself as a Ukrainian (young man, Donetsk); I am Ukrainian. But it is not nationality. It is citizenship. Somehow I am Russian, but not a Russian citizen (middle-aged woman, Donetsk) [4, p. 24].


internally displaced person

1. Development of Policy Regarding Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine. - CEDOS. -

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4. Contemporary Ukrainian Internal Displaced People: Main Reasons, Strategies of Resettlement and Adaptation Issues. - Ukrainian peacemaking school. - 2015.


1.Barthes, R. Mythologies: Roland Barthes. New York: Hill and Wang, 1972.

Bourdieu, P. Social Space and Symbolic Power. Sociological Theory, Vol. 7, No. 2. (Spring, 1989), pp. 14-25. Kondakov, A. New Configuration of Politics after Queer- philosophy Judith Butler: Protests Movements in Russia and the issues of its interpretation. - (in Russian)

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