Issue of Russian identity
Issue of Russian identity
Relations/ Thesis Writing KKEN61
The Issue of Russian Identity
The issue of identity is important as it provides certain
characteristics of state. It describes a state and resolves questions of state
identification. It characterizes a state in the context of other states. In
addition, it constructs an idea of a state.
Constructivism offers alternative understandings of a number
of central themes in International Relations theory, including the meaning of
anarchy and a balance of power, a relationship between state identity and
interest, and prospects for change in world politics. Constructivism assumes
that actors and structures mutually constitute each other; anarchy must be
interpreted to have a meaning; state interests are part of the process of
identity construction; power is both material and discursive; and change in
world politics is both possible and difficult (Hopf, 1998:171). For
constructivists there is no “logic” of anarchy apart from the practices that
create and instantiate one structure of identities and interests rather than
another; structure has no existence or causal powers apart from process.
Self-help and power politics are institutions, not essential features of
anarchy. Anarchy is what states make of it (Wendt, 1992:395).
In constructivism, identity is an important creative factor.
Identity plays an important role in world politics. Identities are produced by
interactions, institutions, norms and cultures. In addition, identities are
important for the construction of the state (Wendt 1992). From
the constructivist’s point of view, identities are necessary in international
politics in order to ensure some level of predictability and order. A world
without identities is a world of chaos, a world of uncertainty. Identities
perform necessary functions in a society: they tell you and others who you are
and they tell you who others are. A state understands others according to the
identity it attributes to them, and reproduces its own identity. (Hopf,
A state identity is formed in a system of
states. Hopf assumes that constructivism, while expecting to uncover
differences, identities and multiple understandings, still assumes that it can
specify a set of conditions under which one can expect to see one identity or
another (Hopf, 1998).
Understanding how identities are constructed, what norms and
practices accompany their reproduction, and how they construct each other is a
major part of the constructivist research program. Constructivism assumes, a
priori, that identities are potentially part of the constitutive practices of
the state, and so, productive of its actions at home and abroad. Different
states behave differently towards other states, based on the identities of each
(Hopf 1998, 174).
Identity of a state in international politics is quite
important as it characterizes the state internally and internationally. Every
identity brings in itself a certain knowledge about the state, its internal and
external issues, as well as state behavior.
One state whose behaviour has received a lot of attention
both in recent years and at present is Russia.
The way Russia sees itself in the world order is a way in
which the state is recognised. It plays on the world stage as a power which has
its world to say in the world politics. An identity of Russia produced during
the history has been re-valued and judged by politicians. The Russian state
has its peculiar role in the world. It is a huge power which has a specific
national identity and which occupies a special position in the world order. To
see Russia's development in history, it has undergone many changes, and during
history the state identity of Russia was formed. Dramatic changes, which
characterized all the history of Russian Empire were significant and reflected
a strong nature of the Russian state. Its position in the world order defines the
Russian state as a global power.
In this respect, I would propose that
throughout the history of Russia, identity has formed its behaviour, interests,
and actions in the world. It has gone through many changes. At every phase of
change, it has formed its position, and therefore Russian identity in the world
system. For example, an identity of Soviet Union was understood by a Western
world as Russia during the existence of the USSR, despite the fact that the
Soviet Union was trying hard not to have that identity. Likewise, European
identities were incomplete until they encountered peoples in the Americas and
India respectively. The necessity of difference with another to produce one’s
own identity is important (Hopf, ibid.).
In the case of geopolitics, Russia is in strategic position
in the centre of Eurasia. It is divided by Ural mountains into European and
Asian parts. It is a country with huge natural resources, including oil, gas
On the other hand, national identity of Russia is very
strong. It is based on hundreds years of history, culture and traditions. The national
identity together with language, traditions, culture, is the main
characteristic of the Russian nation and forms the basis of its
self-definition. The Russian national identity therefore has certain spiritual
and materialistic soil which also includes culture and the politics of state. The
national identity of Russia is its main identifying character.
From the beginning of the 19th century,
thinkers and officials such as Karamzin, Speransky and others look to Europe
for ideas to improve the Russian political order.
Nicholas V.Riasanovsky in his book “Russian Identities. A
Historical Survey” says that in Kievan Russia the political system was
certainly pluralistic and to an extent even populist and democratic
(Riasanovsky 2005 :19).
Russian identity is very unique in Western civilization. Peculiarities
lie within historical development and its specific features in comparison to
Western civilization in general. Russian identity has its own value and is
motivated by internal factors, as well as by external factors, for example in
the context of the EU, by other neighboring states and world politics. Russia
becomes more developed and interconnected in the world and West. In the context
of constructivism, it will sound as a state construction, and a theoretically
John O'Loughlin and Paul F. Talbot talk about Soviet Union.
The end as a unified territory and the effect that this disintegration had on
the geopolitical imaginations of Russian people.
Another important issue is Russian Orthodoxy, which
influences a Russian state and culture, as well as forms the Russian identity
from its side. Phrases such as ”81% of Russians identify themselves as
Orthodox”, ”To be Russian is to be Orthodox”, ”The special contribution of
Orthodoxy to the history of Russia is the development of Russia´s
spiritually” are significant. Special status of Orthodoxy over all other
religious traditions in Russia is significant. On the other hand, the
alternatives to the future of Orthodox church are, for example, removing the
church from the direct participation in politics, as well as keeping the state
separated from the church. Thus the place of the church and other religious
organizations is challenged in Russia.
vision on the view of Russian identity is quite different from the one being
developed inside of Russia. National policies which create internal state
identity are quite different from the ones being developed in other countries.
Therefore, I see Russia as a unique state with certain important values and own
There are two ends of Russian foreign policy. It balances between East and West, preferably choosing the West as a path to follow and to negotiate with (see Karamzin 1803). It grants the West a significant task of strengthening Russia in the spheres such as economy, politics, including International Politics. It gives an example to Russia how to build up the country. It provides significant ties in politics, as well as economic ties, which strengthen and unify Russia.
Russia is constructing its nation. Russia is building up the nation both on micro and macro levels. Russia has its behavior in World Politics and provides strong ties within the economy and politics in the World and the International system. Russia develops a special nation in the World, and goes by a continuity in its political life and behavior (see Borshevsky 2000, Ponarin 2000).
The search for Russian national identity is an important
trend. Russians have easily identified with standard, dominant Russian cultures
- be they Russian Orthodox, Russian Imperial or Russian Soviet. It was other
peoples of the empire, in particular Moslem and Western Christian (Roman
Catholic and Protestant), who had problems. This is why during hundreds of
years Russians did not have a very strong ethnic identity, whereas their many
non-Russian neighbors did. However, this has been changing lately (Ponarin
Russian national identity has been an important issue especially during the rule of Putin. There is a certain trend towards strengthening a prestige and national self-identity of state. The problem of identity of Russia has been quite actual during the last 15 years and it is connected with the problem of balance of power. New identity of Russia is formed, but there is some uncertainty. Russia is undergoing important changes in politics and it is considered to be a powerful, but quite unpredictable nation.
Russia is an ethnic community, which brings in itself specificities. It is a historically built nation which has its significant traits and which prolongs its existence. It is a strong nation which has survived through the years of history and change, and it is a nation, which strongly holds its position in the World and in Eurasia (see Putin 2006).
An official point of view by Igor Ivanov (2001) is that
Russia's foreign policy is based on national interests rather than political
ideology. He says that Russia believes in the settlement of international
problems on a collective basis in strict accordance with the rules of
international law will become a fundamental principle of the Russian system.
The scope of Russia's activities is expanding to include international
cooperation aimed at responding to new global threats and challenges (Ivanov
By reflecting its interests in world politics, the Russian
state is in the world order of states. It has its specific identity and
behavior, therefore it signifies its important role in the world and makes a
commitment to world political composition and behavior. Ideas and behavior are
important in shaping International Relations, and Russia behaves accordingly to
In my research, I will study the identity of Russia, its
national identity and their meaning for international politics. I also aim to
show that identity is important in state construction. I will mostly
concentrate on how Russia formed its identity in the past and in the present,
and I will question why it is so important to identify Russia as a nation. I
will look more closer at Russia's history. In addition, I will make a brief
description between the view of Russian identity introduced by Russian, as well
as Western scholars, who reflect ideas about Russian identity, and I will
examine these issues.
I see the subject of my study asking topical, because of the
search of Russian identity nowadays. Due to some changes in the internal and
external politics of Russia, it has brought some changes in the order of
states, as well as it influenced the identity of Russia, the way how the other
states see a Russian nation, and how the identity in Russia is formed.
The question of identity is quite important because it
touches historical, geopolitical and other aspects. Therefore, I will consider
these aspects and place them as the most important in the formation of Russian
identity. I will use the theory of constructivism to show how the identity is
formed in the aspect of states formation and in the wider context, including
the identity of Russia as a peculiar phenomenon in history. My reearch will
also include the brief observation of the history of Russia, of Russian
identity nowadays and the analysis of the official position of Russia in
politics. I will therefore examine national specifics, as well as traditions of
Russia. Besides, I will also base my research on other sources of formation of
national identity, including the views of most well-known Russian politicians.
The formation of Russian identity is an interesting topic
because of the constructivist theoretical implications. It is important to see
Russia in the context of state formation, in the context of other states, and
to see which role does Russia plays in the world politics. It is also important
to understand the process, which determines the manner in which Russia
interacts. It is interesting because throughout history, geopolitics determined
Russia's stand in the world, determined its behavior, as well as provided good
economic grounds for development.
of the state is a very important process which involves formations on the state
level. It is important from the view of constructivism, which sees identity as
the main discourse in the theories of IR. An identity of state shows how state
is recognized by other states, on the international level, and it constructs an
idea of state on the national level. In combination, one may see it serving as
a fundamental value of the state. What kind of Russian state identity is, and
what values are making this identity are discussed in my research.
A state is undergoing a process of
construction constantly, under certain conditions. It changes its identities
and values. However, an identity of state can be defined as a constant value
which evolves in time as a result of some processes inside of the state, and
the identity formation can be recognized as a value, which recognizes state in
its external affairs. However, in my work, I see it also as a process, in which
the state is able to change its identity in time, and because of internal
influences, it changes its identity. In addition, I aim to show that identity
has its core in ethnos of the state, which is in people who compose this state.
I tried to recognize it as a value in identity formation. All the other defined
issues, such as Orthodoxy, or ideologies can be seen as theoretically approved
values which create an identity of Russian state.
Throughout the history of Russia, there was a struggle for
Russian identity. Russian politicians have a vivid view on the subject. Chubais says:” ... Russia is experiencing a polysystemic
crisis. If the most acute (samyi ostryi) crisis is economic, then the deepest
crisis is over ideas and identity”. Chubais correctly names the three identity
principles that, when taken together, made Russia possible before the
Revolution: Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality. Which is the most important?
For his part, Kara-Murza states:” We’ve talked about internal identity,
self-identity (samoidentichnost’) and ways in which Russia has not completely
worked this out. Now we are talking about external identity (vneshniaia
identichnost’), Russia on the outside (Rossiia vovne), how the country
positions itself in the international sphere”.
Chugrov states that: “ We have to
find a balance. In the Russian mentality there is a sense of inner conflict and
contradiction. I fully agree with those who call Russia a torn country
From my view,
Russian state as a constant value brings in itself these mentioned values, and
as process, it can be seen as a state formation process, in which the Russian
state is seen in the system of states, and it is being ruled by international
laws. Therefore, state identity is being shaped by international structures,
and Russian state identity receives an already different value in international
order. In my work, I aim to mention the importance of the theory of constructivism
which can be applied to the external part of Russian state. The questions are
how the Russian values are seen as given, and a new Russian identity of state
is its policies and behavior in the international system. The view on the
identity of Russia is different from the one which is developed inside of the
state. National politics is seen as a rule inside of a country, but external
policies of state are being recognized as a result of state rule in time, and
the identity which is being developed, is recognized as Russian state identity.
In my work, I try to highlight two of the existing identities, however, they
are not separated but showed them altogether making an accent on the
significance of both. Therefore, I see these values as additional to each
other, and their common aim, to open up the state identity of the state, as an
entity, and as state as such, as an important value in identity formation.
I try to see
more deeply on the constituting values in each of the visions. I will first see
state identity from the perspective of nationals, who give their own vision on
the problem, and I try to make it clear that internationally, a Russian state
can be foreseen as a state which undergoes certain change in time, and with
respect to policies of the state, Russia generates its state identity and is
accepted in the world system. Then, I gather material which I considered
important to open up the question more deeply. I touch all the issues that I
consider important for reflecting my ideas about Russian state identity, and I
apply to my research question all the necessary theoretical material to
highlight the problem.
In my work, I will examine in detail the constructivist
point of view of Russian identity, as well as consider the main ideologies
inside the Russian state. Those of which I found the most profound and interesting
will appear in my work, as well as contradictions which those arised.