Western Europe through the Eyes of Students of Kazakhstan Universities: Countries’ Images and Driving Force for their Formation

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The image of a country, and especially how the country is viewed from beyond its borders, is becoming an increasingly important resource capable of exerting positive or negative influence in various fields, including international relations. In the USSR, Western Europe was endowed with a dual image of cultural treasury and the territory dominated by classes and forces hostile to the socialist camp. After the collapse of the USSR, Western Europe began to be perceived as a capitalist model to be coped, and it is from those years that the contemporary ideas of the youth in Kazakhstan about its image have being originated. In order to probe them, a pilot sociological survey was conducted in two Kazakhstani universities, one of which is located in the north-east of the country, in the city of Ust’-Kamenogorsk, the second is in the south, in Shymkent. The results obtained allow us to assert with confidence that students do not have a holistic image of Western Europe; their views are dominated by images of individual European countries, and these images differ greatly in the degree of completeness. The most developed images are those of France and Germany, but even they represent no more than a set of widespread stereotypes about the economic, political, cultural characteristics of both countries. It is also striking that the images of Western European countries, which emerge from the students’ answers, are generally deprived of any meaningful and easily recognizable embodiment, i.e. they are very rarely identified with historically, politically and culturally significant personalities. According to the authors, this feature indicates that students view Western Europe most and foremost as a place where their various consumer needs can be satisfied.

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We are told about the world before we see it. We imagine most things before we experience them. And those preconceptions, unless education has made us acutely aware, govern deeply the whole process of perception. They mark out certain objects as familiar or strange, emphasizing the difference, so that the slightly familiar is seen as very familiar, and the somewhat strange as sharply alien. Walter Lippman. Public Opinion 25 20 15 10 5 0 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Total 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Total 2008 year 2014 year France Italy Germany Great Britain Spain Sweden Switzerland Fig. 1. TUEK: The most important states of Western Europe (first three positions) 20 15 10 5 0 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Total 1st place 2nd place 3rd place Total 2008 year 2014 year France Germany Great Britain Spain Italy Austria Sweden Portugal Belgium Fig. 2. SIIKTU/SKSPI: The most important states of Western Europe (first three positions) Fig. 3. Countries of Western Europe ranked by the frequency of mentions 40 30 20 10 0 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Total Total 2008 year 2014 year 2008 year 2014 year France Germany Great Britain Italy Switzerland Spain Austria The Netherlands Greece Sweden Portugal Belgium Poland Denmark Luxemburg Iceland Czech Republic Finland Ireland Fig. 4. Countries of Western Europe ranked by the quantity of association The Ust’-Kamenogorsk students selected seven European countries which were regarded by them as the most famous and developed (Fig. 1); the students in Shymkent selected nine (Fig. 2). Judging by first positions in the list, France is the “face” of Europe for all the students. In 2008, ranked second and third were correspondingly Italy and Great Britain in Ust’-Kamenogorsk, and Germany and Great Britain in Shymkent. Six years later, France was followed by Germany and Great Britain in Ust’-Kamenogorsk, whereas in Shymkent Britain scored almost as many votes as France received and Germany shifted to third place. Summing up the results of the two surveys, France got 67 total “votes”, Germany - 47, Great Britain - 39, and Italy - 24. It should be noted that the frequency of how the states of Western Europe were mentioned not only in the first three positions of the list, but in all the replies in general, is also a very important indicator (Fig. 3). The leaders are the same - France, Germany and Great Britain. The SIIKTU/SKSPI students did not mention Switzerland at all, rarely mentioned Italy, but number of countries they mentioned grew between 2008 and 2014. Another important indicator of the knowledge of a certain country is the number of image-words which the students used to describe it (Fig. 4). France is again the absolute leader, with Germany and Great Britain following her. The quantity of words-associations also grew in 2014. It is interesting to note that the rank of France, Germany and Great Britain does not agree with the statistics of travel voyages of Kazakhstan citizens. In 2008 only 413 persons went to France (772 in 2007), 39,150 (41,269 in 2007) went to Germany, and 13,347 (13,327 in 2007) - to Great Britain. In 2014 the trends hardly ever changed: 526 persons went to France (589 in 2013), 48,536 went to Germany (49,723 in 2013), 21,694 went to Great Britain (18,065 in 2013). Netherlands went well ahead Great Britain, both in 2007-2008 and 2013-2014: 30,788 in 2008 (28,558 in 2007), and 39,622 in 2014 (34,754 in 2013). It means that Great Britain ranked fourth. Austria took the fifth place, while France (uncontested leader, according to our surveys) was among the last: less people visited France than Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy9. Basically that means that the primacy of France in the students’ perception is not based upon personal experience. Students rarely visit the shores of the Seine, Rhone and Loire, and their knowledge of France stems from cinema, literature, media and Internet. Moreover, the statistics of visits to Europe (and the salience of Netherlands there - the country that never made it to the top three in our surveys) testifies to the fact that images of Germany and Great Britain were also formed at a distance via texts and pictures. There is a small difference, however: the perceptions of the last two states might be somehow shaped by the personal experiences of students’ relatives and/or acquaintances which had travelled to these countries. The words-associations reported by the students were divided into groups. Each group includes relatively homogeneous characteristics of the image of Western Europe. The first group comprises spatial features, the second - cultural traits, the third - anthropological issues, the fourth - economic traits, and the fifth - political features. We also picked out a separate group of generalized features of more or less evaluative character. The image of Western European space 10 . Apart from individual images of certain states, it is formed by meaningful locations and features of urban and natural landscapes (plus climate). Judging by the places mentioned by survey participants, France is once again the symbol of the whole Western Europe. Its preponderance appeared to be on the wane, however: in 2008 France was mentioned in four location-specific associations out of nine, in 2014 - in four associations out of seventeen (“France” was mentioned once, “Paris” - thrice). In an earlier survey, only “England”, “Berlin” and “Vienna” were mentioned, while in 2014 the list of locations became more comprehensive: “Germany”, “Italy”, “London” and “Prague” were added. As Western Europe is a heavily urbanized region, various urban images were abundant in the survey. In 2008 big cities, skyscrapers (TUEK - each image mentioned once), cars (SIIKTU - twice), good paving asphalt, roads, parks, bridges (SIIKTU - each mentioned once) were on the list. In 2014 capital city, cities of high culture, big buildings (SIIKTU - each mentioned once), cities, big buildings, big skyscrapers, bridges, cars, stadiums, double-decker buses (SKSPI - each mentioned once) were on the list. In this case two sets of associations are relatively similar. The representations of climate and landscape underwent a substantial change, however. In 2008 Europe was associated with temperate climate and fog, in 2014 things got better: the region was interpreted with the words sunny (twice), heat, hot, hot days, warm weather, wind, cloudy weather, rain. In Shymkent, the greatest diversity was reported in 2008: rocks (twice), rain (twice), mountains, forest, coolness, cloudy weather, snow, autumn (once), and in 2014 only image green was mentioned. Culture related images. This group of images is relatively well developed, especially among TUEK students mentioned culture (six times), cultured (1), peculiar culture (1), dominant Anglo-Saxon culture (1), the center of culture, cleanness, new inventions (1); in 2014 - culture (1), beautiful (4), sights (1), art (1), high culture (1), cultured (1). A significant share of answers forms the aesthetic sub-image of Europe. The word beauty turned up three times in TUEK and four times in SIIKTU in 2008, the word cleanness was mentioned two and three times, respectively. Along with that, were mentioned once beautiful streets, beautiful houses, beautiful setting in TUEK, and beautiful streets, beautiful cities, beautiful roads, beautiful things in SIIKTU. In 2014 beauty emerged three times, and cleanness - five times, not to mention beautiful buildings and edifices, beautiful nature, beautiful houses (TUEK, once), beautiful cities (TUEK, three times), beautiful places (SKSPI, three times). Aesthetic associations are adjoined by architectural sub-image (Table 1). It should be noted, however, that associations belonging to this category are generally rather vague: only palaces and museums are singled out, and no distinct architectural styles were mentioned. Still, some landmark buildings were listed (mainly by TUEK students in 2008): Big Ben (mentioned 12 times in total), Eiffel Tower (seven mentions) and a few others. Architectural images/associations of Western Europe (N of mentions) Table 1 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Detailed Big Ben (6) Big Ben (5) Big Ben (1) Eiffel Tower (2) Eiffel Tower (2) Eiffel Tower (3) Arc de Triomphe (2) Stonehenge (1) Colosseum (1) Champs-Élysées (1) Disneyland (1) Generalized Historical cities (1), monuments (1) Historical buildings (3) Historical monuments (1) Historical monuments (1) Architecture (2) Architecture (beautiful buildings) (1) Architecture (2) Architecture(1), splendid architecture (1) Buildings (1) Buildings (1) Buildings (1) High buildings/houses (3) High buildings/towers (2) Palaces (1) Museums (1) Fortress (1) Castles (3) Statues (1) Streetlights (1) In 2008 fashion industry was well represented: TUEK - fashion (7), fragrances (6), beauty (3), perfume (2), haute couture (1); SIIKTU - fashion (1), perfume (3), fashion house (1), “French house”11 (1). In 2014 only Shymkent informants gave such images: fashion (1), fashionable and highquality clothes (1), while those from Ust’-Kamenogorsk mentioned “male” cars: Mercedes (2), Porsche (1), BMW (1), Audi (1), Bugatti (1). Resort area is yet another cultural sub-image of Western Europe. In 2008 the students from TUEK suggested seven such associations: tourism (2), recreation (2), sun (1), beach (1), sea (1). SIIKTU students gave similar replies 12 times: sea (4), resort (2), sun (1), beach (1), sand (1), ships (1), swimming pools (1) and even amusement ride (1). In 2014, there were less replies falling into that category. In TUEK those were sеa (2), sun (1), tourism (1), developed tourism (1), recreation (1), shopping (1), nature (1); in SKSPI - just tourism (2). This information hints at the general integrity of perceptions, structured by a certain “tourist” view of Western Europe. For Ust’-Kamenogorsk students the cultural component of this tourist image was more important, whereas Shymkent students were focused on the entertainment/recreation component. In 2014 new sub-images came to the fore. Sport (football, namely) is one of them: this word was mentioned twice both in TUEK and SKSPI. Education also gained prominence: TUEK students mentioned science and knowledge, SKSPI - good education (2), universities (2), Sorbonne (1), Oxford (1). In SKSPI there was a hint at gastronomical sub-image: it was expressed, however, in more or less bleak images reminiscent of a university canteen - cuisine, sausages, tea, and schnitzel. Anthropological traits are akin to cultural, yet their focus on individual human beings justifies their singling out as a separate group (Table 2).The images given are almost all positive or neutral. The only exception is a TUEK student who in 2008 expressed a stereotype that was first coined by Russian thinkers of the 19th century (the Slavophiles): regress in spiritual development of human beings. Two “demographical” traits also stand aside: many people, elderly people. Anthropological images/associations of Western Europe (N of mentions) Table 2 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Famous people (2) People (3), intelligent people (2) The birthplace of great artists and musicians (1) Educated people (2) Intelligentsia (1), Highly cultured people (1) Gentlemanly people (1) Gentlemanly behavior (2) Modern civilized people (1) Neat (1) Neatness (2) Accuracy (1) Punctuality (1) Good organization (1), orderliness (1) Sociability (1) More open people (1), sociable (1) Polite people (1) Politeness (1) Entrepreneurial people (1) The people are different there (1) Free people (1) Other values (1) Mentality (1), Manner (1), Unusual (1) A different culture (1), Other mentality (1), Other values (2), Other ideas (1) Europeans (1) Europeans (1), white (1) English people (1) English-speaking world (1) Women at the wheel (1), Ladies with dogs (1) Regress in spiritual development of human being (1) Spirituality, but not always (1) Social and economic images/associations of Western Europe (N of mentions) Table 3 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Highly developed (3) Developed countries (4) Developed (1) Developed countries (1), state of being developed (2) High standard of living (2) / everyday life (1) High standard of living (1) Rich (1), riches (1), luxury (1) Rich (1) Rich (1) Dollars (2), euro (1) Money (1) Euro (1) Single currency (1) Highly developed countries (1), an assembly of developed countries (1), everything is well-developed (1) Highly developed states (1) Developed economy (1) Industrially developed country (1) Developed medicine (1) / science (1) Strong economy (1) Many jobs (1) Business (1) Trade (1) Industry (1) Shops (1) / world-famous brands (1) Economic facets of European image are rather lop-sided (Table 3): Western Europe is seen as an economic paradise, a paragon of development, the society of well-being with no conflicts, or of richness and luxury. Political component proved to be the least salient and expressed mainly in neutral images. In 2008 these were queen (TUEK, twice), conservative (TUEK, once) and kings, democracy, transparent borders, foreign states (SIIKTU, once). In 2014 - globalization (TUEK, once), queen, iridescent flag, adversaries of Russia (SKSPI, once). Political images are adjoined by the rarest legal notions: law, human rights (TUEK, 2008, mentioned once), discipline, order (SIIKTU, 2008, mentioned once) and freedom of speech (SKSPI, 2014, once). Generalized features of Western Europe were rather diverse and often contradictory. Some mentioned traditions (TUEK, once), coexistence of old traditions and innovations (SIIKTU, twice), others preferred modernity (SIIKTU, twice), trendsetter of all things modern (TUEK, once). Europe was also associated with energy (TUEK, once), ample opportunities / prospects (SIIKTU, twice). There is actually a sizeable layer of emotionally positive and by their emotional upsurge even exoticizing images: bright, singularity, admiration, uniqueness, all the positive things (TUEK, once), exotic countries, fairy tale (SIIKTU, once). Just three Shymkent students were less rosy about Europe: for them Western Europe was something fashionable and therefore transitory. Also it should be noted that all these images are from 2008, and no emotionally positive associations were reported in 2014. In that year, however, new association was on the table: Napoleon. Western Europe in the Eyes of the Students: Individual Countries France. We already noted that this state is usually perceived as the symbol of Europe as a whole. The symbol of France (Table 4) itself is the Eiffel Tower. Key elements of the image of France are the same among the students of both universities - perfume, fashion, beauty, Paris, love. The image of France in general is highly positive one, only two negative associations were listed. Still, in 2014 previously absent social and political issues turned up. 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Eiffel Tower (9) Eiffel Tower (14) Eiffel Tower (15) Eiffel Tower (9) Paris (2) Paris (1) / beautiful town (1) Paris (4) Paris (2) / Paris, my dream city (1) Arc de Triomphe (2) Champs-Élysées (1) Champs-Élysées (1) Fashion (7) / Haute couture (1) Fashion (1) / Fashion house (1) Fashion (1) / world of fashion (1) Fashion (3) / Fashion industry (1) Fragrance (6) / perfume (2) Perfume (3) “French House” (1) Fragrance (3) / Perfume (2) / cosmetics (1) Perfume (3) / cosmetics (1) Beauty (3) Beauty (2) / beautiful buildings (2) Beautiful (1) Very beautiful places (1) Cleanliness (1) Cleanliness (1) Roads (1) / wash roads with shampoo (1) Shops (1) / Boutiques (1) Shops (1) / shopping (1), brand clothes (1) Sailors’ clothing (1) Nature (1) Museum (1), bridges, parks (1) Architecture (1) People (1) / French (1) Immigrants (1) Beautiful women (1) Love (1) Love (1) Love (3) / the city of love (2) Beautiful language (1) Language (1) Wonderful (1) / Very beautiful language (1) Aestheticism (1) Glamour (1) Harmony (1) cozy (1) Romantic (1) Romance (2) Football (1) Zinedine Zidane (1) Paris Saint-Germain F.C. (1) Actors, movies (1) Movie “Taxi” (1) Cheese (1) Pasta (1) Baguettes (1) More developed (1) Sorbonne (1) Technical equipment (1), transport (1) Peugeot (1) Cunning, flattery, foppery (1) Freedom of speech (1) Strikes (1) Nuclear superpower, one of five permanent members of UN Security Council (1) Images/associations of France (N of mentions) Table 4 Germany. Students from two universities turned out to be most univocal in expressing opinions about this country, while the images provided show maximum preciseness and diversity. The informants indicated a largest amount of the features of national character - and no negative traits. On the other hand, the students remember negative image of Germany obviously inherited from their grand-parents, personified in the figure of Hitler. Also, in 2014 German football clubs and Angela Merkel came to the scene (Table 5). Images/associations of Germany (N of mentions) Table 5 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Automobiles (5), cars (2) Mercedes-Benz (1) / powerful (1) / Expensive cars (1) Cars (5), Mercedes-Benz (2) / BMW (1) / Porsche (1) Autos (1) / technics (1) Roads (1) Quality (1) Quality (1) Preciseness (2) Preciseness (1) Preciseness (2) Tidiness (1) Tidiness (2) Tidiness (3) Tidiness (2) Neat (2) Neatness (2) Punctuality (1) Punctuality (2) Manners (1) Practicality (1) Order (2) Integrity (1) Following all the rules (1) / order (2) Strict laws (1) Strictness (1) Conservatism (1) Music (1) Music (1) Medicine (2) Medicine (1) Philosophy (1) German language (4) German language (1) Nazis (1) Fascists (1) Fascists (1), 1941 war (1), Hitler (2) Hitler (2) Kind people (1) Very developed, intelligent people (1) A different mentality (1) Germans (2) Germans (2) Guys with moustache (1) / Ladies with dogs (1) Rain (1) Landscape, verdure (1) Trees, flowers (1) Sights (1), buildings (1) Historical buildings (1) The Berlin Wall (1) The Berlin Wall (1) Reichstag (1) Arc of Triumph (1) Berlin (1) / Beautiful city (1) Berlin (1) Small country (1) Located in the center of Europe (1) Chocolate (3) Chocolate (1) Beer (1) Beer (2), sausages (1) Beer (1), sausages (1) Football club (1) FC Bayern München (2) FC Borussia (1) A. Merkel (1) Great Britain. Its landmarks are the Big Ben and the queen (her name was only mentioned in 2014, though). Other changes between 2008 and 2014 include more details about the universities, a mention of a famous car brand, a football team, a playwright and a literature personality (Table 6). 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Big Ben (6) Big Ben (5) Big Ben (4) / clock (2) Big Ben (3) Queen (2), kingdom (1) Queen (2), monarchy (1) Queen (2) / Elizabeth (1) / and her family (1), monarchy (1) Cultured people (1), culture (1) Cultured people (1), culture (1) History (1) Universities (2) Oxford (1) Oxford (2) Cambridge (1) education (1) Films (1) London (1) London (3) London (4) Manchester (1) Scotland (1) Rich people (1) Immigrants (1) Every man to himself (1) Men wearing cut-down trousers because of frequent rains (1) Tact (1) Architecture (1) Skyscrapers (1) Large buildings (1) Castles (1) Stonehenge (1) Stonehenge (1) London Bridge (2) Wembley Stadium (1) Paved road (1) Football (1) Football (2) Football (1), Manchester United (1) Shops (1) Double-decker buses (1) Double-decker buses (1), excursions (1) Aston Martin (1) Ocean (1) Rain, tornado (1) Rain (2), Fog (1), umbrella (1) Rains (1) / fog (1) Coffee (1) Five o’clock (1) Shakespeare (1) The Beatles (1) Sherlock Holmes (1) Images/associations of Great Britain (N of mentions) Table 6 Italy. In 2008 the students from two universities gave entirely opposite answers. Those from Ust’-Kamenogorsk reported tourism-oriented, rather vague yet positively charged “map” of the country. Shymkent students gave just two images of Italy, both highly negative. Such a clear-cut dissimilarity is very intriguing and demands additional explanation (Table 7). It is already clear, however, that the image of one of the biggest and the most developed states of Western Europe, heir to Ancient Rome and Renaissance, a home to a huge number of historical and cultural monuments, is perceived in Kazakhstan mostly through the lens of consumerism. As with France and Germany, students of two universities provided generally similar answers in what concerns the structure of replies. In 2014 SKSPI students gave even more similar answers and indicated no negative images, as well. Moreover, it was Shymkent where the students coined an image comparable to Big Ben for Britain and Eiffel Tower for France - the “boot” (an image that resembles the outline of Italy on the map). Images/associations of Italy (N of mentions) Table 7 2008 2014 TUEK SIIKTU TUEK SKSPI Boot/heel (2) Pasta (4) / spaghetti (2) Pasta (2) / spaghetti (1) / pasta (1), pizza (2) Pizza (2) Famous Italian (1) / tasty cuisine (1) Cuisine (1) Wine (2) Wine (1) Coffee (1) Tomato (1) Footwear (5) Fashionable clothes (2), Italian fashion (1) Clothing (1) Fashion (1) Furniture (2) Art (1), paintings (1) Art (1) Culture (1) Dances (1) Beauty (1), harmony (1) Resort (2), coast (1), mountains (1) Tourism (1) Nature (1), hot days (1) Uneven development (1) Mafia (1) Love (1) Beautiful language (1) Rome (2) Rome (1) Vatican (2) Venice (1) Venice (1) Milan (1) Colosseum (1) Colosseum (1) The Leaning Tower of Pisa (1) Castles (1) Bridges (1) Little streets (1) Football (1) Football (1) Football (1) Rodeo (1) Boat (1) The Pope (1) Students’ images of other European states were scanty, fragmentary and stereotypical. Spain for TUEK students means dance (3), tourism (2), big passion (1), national costumes (1) and resort (1) in 2008, and bulls (1), Real Madrid FC (2), football (1), Spanish dances (1), songs (1), language (1), red (1), crisis (1) in 2014. The Southern Kazakhstan selection is more or less similar: tango (1), Real Madrid FC (1), coffee (1) and corrida (1) in 2008, and football (2), Barcelona (2), Madrid (2), Spanish dance (1), tango (1), pasta (1), bull (1) in 2014. Cervantes, Velasquez, Salvador Dali and even Spanish guitar did not get a single mention. The image of the country is comprised of basically three components (football - corrida - dance), and even the dance hails from Argentina. Switzerland is another example of highly stereotypical perception. In 2008 in was mentioned only in TUEK, and it was associated with watches (4), nature (1), resorts (1) and mountains (1). In 2014 more images came to the scene: watches (5), mountains (2), Alps (1), skirt (2)12 and Ibrahimović (football player who is actually a Swede) - in TUEK; watches (4), banks (3), Alps, green mountains, clean city, fields, flowers, gardens, snow, resorts, schnitzel (once each) - in SKSPI. The Netherlands in 2008 were mentioned only once: flowers (TUEK). In 2014, named in a more familiar way (Holland) brought forward more associations: Amsterdam, legality (of light drugs, probably), orange, cheese in TUEK, and football, cold, Amsterdam, water, Saba (a resort island in the Antilles, currently a Dutch territory), cigars, red lights street in SIIKTU. Greece, ignored in 2008, later got its fair share of images in Shymkent: Athens, myths, historical monuments, ruins, wine, Greeks, Greek salad, beautiful braided things, footwear, Greek braids. Austria was mentioned only in TUEK in 2008: Danube river (2), silence (1), church buildings (1), kingdom (1), gardens (1), guys (1), far away (1), déjà vu (1). In 2014 it was mentioned only as a Germany’s ally in SIIKTU. Other European countries proved to be even less lucky. Sweden meant high standard of living and many elderly people (TUEK, 2008), Swedish table and watch (SKSPI, 2014; here Sweden was obviously mistaken for Switzerland). Luxembourg was mentioned in 2008 in TUEK as a small country; in 2014 it was mentioned only in SKSPI: castle and mountains. Portugal was mentioned in all the surveys: beautiful beaches (TUEK, 2008), football (2), Cristiano Ronaldo, Lisbon (TUEK, 2014), Cristiano Ronaldo (SKSPI, 2014). Finally, five remaining European states mentioned in these two surveys were Ireland (fisheries, castles), Belgium (wafers, cheese), Denmark (war, dolphin massacre), Iceland (volcanoes), and Monaco: monarchy, prince, resorts, banks, recreation (2). The interim results of this study are as follows: 1. The sample is very small, and it means that the choice of images was substantially shaped by personal sympathies/antipathies of individual informants, their (and their friends’/relatives’) peculiar experiences of visiting certain European countries. The appearance of football associations in 2014 is merely indicative of the fact that a handful of football fans took part in the survey. Images are born on the individual level - to a great extent so. Austria is a good example of this: it accidentally appeared and disappeared, and images of this country are pretty whimsical (personal observations in a bizarre mix with second-hand historical knowledge). 2. All in all, France, Germany and Great Britain are European leaders, while Italy took a notable place in the east and Austria in the south of Kazakhstan. The weight of the last two countries is most likely due to chance, while the leadership of the “big three” is more than justified because they are constantly and intensely represented in the media. 3. The images transmitted by mass-media, however, are subject to substantial change on the level of individual perception. The parameters of such shifts are defined by informants’ social background, their education, relationships, their proclivity towards reflection and other personal and group traits. One may assume that the leading role of the images of France is due to gender imbalance among the informants - women make up the majority, and France for women of CIS is an established paragon of fashion, beauty and romance. 4. Images of France, Germany and Great Britain are remarkable for the opposition “Us versus Them”. This dichotomy may be expressed in more direct terms: different people, different mentality (2008); differing culture, other values, mentality, manners, unusual, different mentality, different life (2), other concepts (2014). Quite often, though, it is implicit and expressed in a choice of positive traits that are evidently contrasted with Kazakhstan deficiencies. 5. In general Western Europe for Kazakhstan students is a kind of consumer paradise - a place to spend vacations, make shopping and have fun in. At the same time this “paradise” is a distant and vague place, more of a mirage than an actual locality. Conclusion Western Europe is not yet perceived in Kazakhstan as an entity by student youth. European space is not demarcated by them exactly and definitively, its borders are usually defined by political yardstick, although this political principle - treating all what extends to the west of Brest as Western Europe and what stretches to the east of this border point symbolizing the separation of the two worlds as Eastern Europe - is getting more and more outdated. It also should be taken into account that within a European space demarcated in such a manner there are historical, cultural, religious, ethnic and other delimitations that may look more like insurmountable barriers, especially from the outside. Such a fragmented image is somehow justified by the fact that Western Europe was - and in many respects still remains - a most heterogeneous region consisting of countries with centuries-old capitalism and market newcomers, states with uneven level of economic development, those of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions, etc. This fact, as well as differences in a political “weight” of Western European countries on international stage, and their unequal contribution to the hall of fame of art and culture, hinders the formation of integral image of Western Europe. There is another side of the story: our study, however small it is, indicates that dominant representations of Western Europe in Kazakhstan are vague and stereotypical despite the fact that our informants belong to one of the most well-informed and educated groups. Particularly surprising was that there were no attempts, except for the taken by a single student, to personify the image of Western Europe; besides, Napoleon named by this student looks as a not very suitable figure for such an embodiment because for a half of Western Europe he was more a destroyer than creator. Why has nobody said that Western Europe is Leonardo da Vinci or Albert Einstein, Giuseppe Verdi or Richard Wagner, or at least Patricia Kaas? Why, unlike that of Russia13, the image of Western Europe in Kazakhstan has no “face” and bears no “name”? Equally, this question appears with separate European countries. At the country level of images probing our informants mentioned just six people, half of them football players: Hitler, Merkel, Elizabeth II, Shakespeare, Zidane, Ibrahimović, Ronaldo and additionally one multiple personality - “The Beatles”. That is to say, not only Europe as a whole, but also individual states gave out nothing else but just the same few names. What is the reason behind this phenomenon? To give a definite answer to this question a new study with much more numerous sample used would be required, nevertheless, even now we can exclude safely some directions of search. Thus, the national education system cannot be blamed for lack of cultural knowledge about Western Europe. Since 1991, the school and university curricula has undergone significant changes, first of all, by increasing the hours devoted to studying the contribution of ethnic Kazakhs to the national history and culture. Nevertheless, let the duration and content of those courses, lessons and lectures that introduce the audience to non-Kazakh deeds and feats in domains of arts, science and humanities seem to be partly curtailed, they are still continue to inform in sufficient details about achievements of European thinkers, scientists, artists, musicians, etc. More to that, a very plethora of widely-known names included in the curricula is partly responsible - truly, in the lesser part - for students’ failures: it was difficult to select a certain representative personality in a short amount of time that was reserved for this operation. However, this reason is too minor to remove the above question. Similarly, we should not refer to the total absence among the overwhelming majority of our respondents of any personal “clear-cutting” visual impressions accumulated in the course of their stay, even short-term one, in Western Europe. It is no coincidence that our article was preceded by an epigraph concerning role of stereotypes in worldview taken from the famous book by Walter Lippmann. We really “imagine most things before we experience them” and the limiting force of this pre-ordained imagination is capable to prolong, perpetuate, eternalize not only our misunderstanding but even the unconscious self-exclusion from vision of some important characteristic features of foreign life that we did not encounter with earlier. The more important is that while staring at ones European features and omitting others we are guided by - perhaps, unconsciously once more - our own life preferences of the moment. Speaking in other words, a paucity of the Europe personification exposed so clearly by our respondents has something to do with the way both Western Europe and its countries are perceived. According to this specific perception, neither European Union nor France with its “French fashion houses” nor Germany with its autobahns have no need for a symbolic figure to personify the centuries of struggles and achievements of European genius that laid the foundation of the comfortable universe of motorways and supermarkets. Most probably, image recipients have just found in Western Europe a convenient symbol of well-being, of earthly goods that spread beyond their place of origin. To put it differently, Western Europe failed to acquire a “face” exactly because a consumer paradise has no need for a face. Yet the continent itself is hardly to blame. Its impersonal image has come to the scene, firstly, as derivative from the Soviet ideological heredity, secondly, as a result of the scarcity of image translated by the Russian intermediary, and thirdly and most importantly, because of the informants’ inner disposition to choose just a consumerist image of Europe at the expense of its other possible images.

About the authors

Aigul’ Begenovna Yessimova

South-Kazakhstan State Pedagogical University

Author for correspondence.
Email: ayessimova@gmail.com

PhD in History, Associate Professor in Sociology, South-Kazakhstan State Pedagogical University, Shymkent, Kazakhstan

Sergei Alekseevich Panarin

Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences

Email: sergpanar@mail.ru

PhD in History, Head of the Department for the Study of Contemporary East, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences


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