Temporal Relationships Between Individualism–Collectivism and the Economy in Soviet Russia: A Word Frequency Analysis Using the Google Ngram Corpus

Agne Skrebyte, Philip Richard Garnett, Jeremy Kendal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Collectivism and individualism are commonly used to delineate societies that differ in their cultural values and patterns of social behavior, prioritizing the relative importance of the group and the individual, respectively. Collectivist and individualist expression is likely to be intricately linked with the political and economic history of a society. Scholars have proposed mechanisms for both positive and negative correlations between economic growth and a culture of either individualism or collectivism. Here, we consider these relationships across the dramatic history of 20th- and early 21st-century Russia (1901-2009), spanning the late Russian Empire, the communist state, and the growth of capitalism. We sample Russian speakers to identify common Russian words expressing individualism or collectivism, and examine the changing frequencies of these terms in Russian publications collected in Google’s Ngram corpus. We correlate normalized individualism and collectivism expression against published estimates of economic growth (GDP and net material product [NMP]) available between 1961 and 1995, finding high collectivist expression and economic growth rate followed by the correlated decline of both prior to the end of Soviet system. Temporal trends in the published expression of individualism and collectivism, in addition to their correlations with estimated economic growth rates, are examined in relation to the change in economic and political structures, ideology and public discourse. We also compare our sampled Russian-language terms for individualism and collectivism with Twenge et al.’s equivalent collection from American English speakers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1235
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Issue number9
Early online date4 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016

Bibliographical note

© Authors, 2016.This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • collectivism
  • economic growth
  • individualism
  • Ngrams
  • Soviet Russia

Cite this