Workshop II: The Linkage of Political and National Identities in the Russian Federation

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of the main concerns of the new Russian state was the creation of a post-communist national identity. The Russian state faced major challenges in building a civic territorial nation, including (a) identification of the borders of the nation, (b) dealing with the status of millions of Russians residing outside the Russian Federation, (c) dealing with a multi-ethnic society and the status of non-Russians living within the borders of the Russian Federation, (d) positioning of the new Russian state in relation to other newly independent states in the post-Soviet space, and (e) reinventing a supra-ethnic common identity to turn the community of Russian citizens into a nation.

Nationalist arguments

All of these problems coincided with the transformation of the political system, the transition to a market economy, and reforms in the social sphere. Since the beginning of the 2000s, Russia’s leadership has increasingly justified the nature of the current political system by referring to the unique characteristics of the Russian nation, i.e., its history, cultural heritage, tradition, and persistent elements of the political system, such as strong leadership, a centralized state, and a global role as a great power. These characteristics of the Russian nation are not only part of a national identity discourse, but also they constitute an important argument in the legitimation of a specifically Russian political system (occasionally referred to as sovereign democracy) that is being developed by the state’s elites. In this workshop, we are interested in the power of nationalist arguments, the language used in the current identity discourse to epitomize and justify the political system in Russia, and the match between official national identity and sentiments of the wider population.


Aims

The aim of this workshop is to explore the multi-dimensional concepts of political and national identities in Russia, locate their sources, analyze their content, and establish their mutual connectedness. The workshop especially investigates the inter-relationship between national and political identity. National identity is considered as the (changeable) construction of nation- and statehood; while political identity is perceived as the ideological/ideational inspiration and representation of the political order (institutions and procedures) which is deemed particularly appropriate for the Russian Federation. The workshop is especially focused on the relevance of (perceived) national identities and norms for the nature and workings of Russia’s political order. It starts from the hypothesis that identities shape interests, policies, and political institutions. National identities of states are relevant for understanding politics, either because of the instrumental logic of national identity (using it as a politico-ideological device) or because of its constitutive nature (defining its distinctiveness). Moreover, the workshop aims to identify the roles of political agents (institutions, leaders, and ideologists) in the creation of Russian political and national identity and how these roles relate to the self-identification of Russians in the post-Soviet era.

Topics

We would like to invite papers that focus on the debate of Russian identity and discuss how it is constructed, portrayed, and presented by official and unofficial actors in the Russian political realm. We are particularly keen on contributions which link this debate to the contemporary (post-communist) political system of Russia. The topics of the workshop are organized around the main actors and settings in which the political debate of identity takes place:

  • Russian political leaders and ideologists, and their perceptions of national and political identity as presented in speeches, press releases, debates, and other means of communication;
  • The government’s position on Russian identity as constructed by relevant parts of the state’s bureaucracy, e.g., Ministries of Internal Affairs, Defense, and Foreign Affairs;
  • Debates of the State Duma and the role of Russian identity as a part of the self-definition of political parties;
  • Unofficial actors participating in the discourse of identity, e.g., bloggers, lobbyists, civil society activists, and experts; and
  • Russian citizens and the extent to which the official discourse of identity appeals to them.

Keynote speaker

Prof. Marlène Laruelle (The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University)

More information

For more information on this workshop, please contact Prof. Dr. André Gerrits, email a.w.m.gerrits@hum.leidenuniv.nl.

Last Modified: 03-07-2012