Head of the Organising Committee
Sanna Turoma
sanna.turoma [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Coordinator
Kaarina Aitamurto
kaarina.aitamurto [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Secretary
Maarit Elo-Valente
maarit.elo-valente [at] helsinki.fi

Conference Intern
Miikka Piiroinen
miikka.piiroinen [at] helsinki.fi

Conference e-mail:
fcree-aleksconf [at] helsinki.fi

The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki
phone +358-(0)50-3565 802

aleksanteri [at] helsinki.fi


Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Diana Shendrikova (Italian Institute for International Political Studies)

Back to the "Roots": The Ukrainian Crisis and the Multifacetedness of Russia's Revived Nationalism

All the embodiments of Russia's statehood – the tsarist Empire, the Soviet Union and modern Russia – have faced the problem of "nation" consolidation of the country's heterogeneity. An array of nation-building tools and discourses has been employed in different historical periods, more or less successfully. Today's Russian leadership is facing the same problem, given the emergence of ethnic, religious, economic and ideological divides throughout the country. The Ukrainian crisis can be regarded as a particularly violent outburst of these tensions, one that offers an opportunity to single out the distinct – and to a certain extent diverging – discourses that have expediently underpinned Putin's geopolitics. The propaganda put in place to justify the intervention in Ukraine hinges more or less explicitly on the historical significance of the latter – the primordial home of the rus' – for the Slavic identity, of which Russia presents itself as the political patron. At the same time, emphasis is also put on a more political aspect, one that stresses the Eurasian nature of Russia, champion of multi-ethnicity. Nonetheless, neither discourse considers Ukraine as an equal partner.

The aim of the paper is to address the geopolitical logic(s) – and the related public discourses – underlying this asymmetric attitude. On the one hand, Crimea's annexation of Crimea is widely regarded by the public as restoration of historical justice and a sort of reconstruction of the motherland. Interestingly enough, even those who do not consider themselves staunch supporters of Putin tend to look with favour at his decisive attitude toward the West. Imperialism appears to be the conceptual framework these elements lay within – aimed at the re-establishment of Russia's special place in world history. On the other hand, the Russian attitude towards ex-soviet states as 'younger brothers' is basically presented as a consequence of their ineptness in meeting the standards of 'statehood' set by the Russian model. In a sense, 'incapacity' seems to be regarded as an index of 'lack of legitimacy'. This aspect can be regarded as an index of how Russia's geopolitics also rests on and taps into a 19th century-like idea of 'international society' – and a revised concept of 'standards of civilization' – which effectively for Putin's more 'cautious' move in the Ukrainian affair. The paper will try to analyze these two aspects, the extent to which the are mutually sustaining and excluding, and the specific discourses to which they are conveyed in Russia's current popular geopolitics.