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The new Russian nationalism: imperialism, ethnicity and authoritarianism 2000–2015

up perspectives to compliment the more elite-oriented contributions of the present volume.
Kolstø and Blakkisruds volume is timely and important, and it should be considered obli-
gatory reading for anyone interested in the topic.
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Korchenkova, Natalia, and Sergei Goriashko. 2016.Kazhdyi chetvertyi boitsia delitsia mneniem s
sotsiologom[One out of Four People Is Afraid to Share Their Opinion with Sociologists].
Kommersant, January 22. Accessed July 13, 2016.
Laruelle, Marlene. 2009.In the Name of the Nation: Nationalism and Politics in Contemporary
Russia. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
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the Russian Federation]. Prezident Rossii. Accessed August 27, 2014.
Shevel, Oxana. 2011.Russian Nation-building from Yeltsin to Medvedev: Ethnic, Civic or
Purposefully Ambiguous?Europe-Asia Studies 63 (2): 179202.
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Yack, Bernard. 1996.The Myth of the Civic Nation.Critical Review 10 (2): 193211.
© 2017, J. Paul Goode
Oxana Shevel
Department of Political Science, Tufts University, Medford, MA
The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism 200015 is a
timely volume that presents readers with a rich and up-to-date analysis of the content of,
contestation over, and consequences of Russian nationalism under Putin. The editors
brought together the very top names in the study of Russian nationalism from North
America, Europe, and Russia, and the end result is an impressive collection of chapters ana-
lyzing issues such as changes and continuity and nuances of public opinion in Russia; the
(dis)similarities between historical, early post-Soviet, and most recent debates over Russian
national identity; the relationship between growing authoritarianism and the recent ethni-
cation of Russian nationalism; the role played by religion, television, economics; and more.
710 Book Symposium
In a short response essay its not possible to equally engage with the arguments in each
chapter; so this comment will primarily focus on the chapters comprising the second part
of the book that analyzes state-level Russian nationalism under Putin (and less on the
rst part of the volume that focuses on society-level Russian nationalism).
The main thrust of most of the chapters focusing on state-level Russian nationalism is
that it has taken a turn toward a more ethno-centrist position under Putins third term, in
contrast to more statist state-level nationalism under Yeltsin and initially under Putin. An
important exception here is Laruelle, who argues that Putins recent emphasis on protecting
the interests of russkie is not really an expression of Russian ethnic nationalism but, rather,
that russkii terminology refers to a civilizational and cultural understanding of Russianness,
and as such represents a historical continuation rather than a change in the ofcial views.
Blakkisruds chapter also offers an important nuance by pointing out that recent ethnicifca-
tion in the ofcial discourse constitutes not a clear-cut ethnonationalism, but what he calls a
simultaneous narrowing in and widening up(256) that is, emphasizing the importance
of ethnic Russians within the federation, while dening ethnic russkii identity in broader
cultural terms, which blurs the external borders of the selfand allows reaching out to
Russian-speaking diasporas in neighboring states.
The chapters of the volume identify several causes behind more ethno-centric ofcial
expressions of nationalism after 2011, and especially after 2014, as manifested most
starkly by the annexation of Crimea and the ofcial justication of this move. These
causes include the growth of labor migration from the non-Slavic former Soviet republics
in the 2000s, spurred by Russias economic recovery, and the associated increase in migran-
tophobia in the Russian population; the Russian diaspora in the neighboring states; and
threats to the regime manifested in the anti-Putin political protests of 2011, the recent econ-
omic downturn and resulting drop in Putins popularity; as well as the 2014 Euromaidan
events in Ukraine perceived as threatening to the authoritarian governance model con-
structed by Putin. With ethnic threads always present to some extent in the ofcial rhetoric
and ofcially voiced nation-building options, the regime turned to ethnic nationalism more
explicitly after the 2011 protests and especially after the Euromaidan victory in Ukraine in
an effort to boost popular support. These arguments are developed in nuanced and convin-
cing ways in several chapters of this volume, most comprehensively in those by Kolstø, Hale,
and Blakkisrud, and also Pain and Rutland. While it is certainly plausible that all of these
factors contributed to ethnicization of Russian nationalism, one could take issue with some
of the postulated causal relationships. For example, migration from the near abroadto
Russia was at very high levels in the early and mid-1990s, putting great strain on the
Russian state, which was then in the midst of economic crisis. The Russian and Russian-
speaking diasporas in the near abroadwere arguably also in a more precarious position
during the immediate post-Soviet years in comparison with the late 2000s, with bloody con-
icts ranging in several former Soviet republics and legal measures downgrading the privi-
leged status of the Russian language and in some cases denying citizenship access for the
Russian speakers coming into being. It then remains puzzling why the Yeltsin government
stuck with the less ethno-centric ofcial nationalism than Putin has done in recent years.
In addition to the causes of recent ethnicization of Russian nationalism, another interesting
theoretical issue raised by this volume is the relationship between ofcial expressions of
nationalism by state leaders and domestic and foreign policies pursued by these leaders. Dif-
ferently put, does the content of nationalism have causal consequences for state policies, or do
rhetorical expressions of nationalism, while admittedly worthy of a study in and of themselves,
at the same time have only limited causal impact on state policies? In the case of Russia this
dilemma is all the more pertinent because what constitutes ethnic and what constitutes non-
Nationalities Papers 711
ethnic in the Russian context is ambiguous and complex something that is acknowledged
virtually without exception by the volumes contributors, who further show that the ethnic/
non-ethnic boundary has always been blurred in ofcial policies, and that state leaders have
always toyed with ethnic nationalism at least to a degree, even when they pursued purportedly
statist as opposed to ethnic policies. So if in Russia there is a broad menuof varieties of
nationalism that can be taken up by state leaders and presented for public consumption, the
question remains whether the recent greater emphasis on ethnic terminology in ofcial rhetoric
actually helps to explain the dramatic events of the recent years from authoritarian consoli-
dation domestically after the 2011 protests to the 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for
separatism in the Donbas conict. Differently put, were these policies a direct outgrowth of the
ethnication of nationalism in Russia, or were they developed for reasons that possibly had
little to do with the content of nationalism, being driven instead by, for example, geopolitical
objectives of maintaining power in the near abroador the goal of eliminating domestic pol-
itical challenges to the regime, with ethnication rhetoric from state leaders being merely a
wrapper used to package these policies for presentation to the Russian public? And how
can we tell if the latter or the former is the case? If the latter is the case, the fact that articulated
state-level nationalism has become more ethnic might not be particularly consequential for
dramatic changes in Russias state domestic and foreign policies that developed at the same
time. If we further consider the fact that Russian public opinion itself has uctuated, and
deeper probing, as done by a number of chapter authors in this volume, shows that a
survey response may contain a complex underlying attitude (e.g. a migrantophobic large-N
survey response may coexist with more benign attitudes to migrants expressed through an
in-depth interview, as Kosmarskaya and Savins chapter shows; or Hale and Alexseevs
point that attitudes on ethnic pride and ethno-centrism did not spiked before the Crimea
annexation), this further calls into question the relationship between public nationalism,
state-level nationalism, and state polices. Given that these questions carry themselves through-
out chapters of the volume, the volume would have beneted from a concluding chapter relat-
ing ndings of individual chapters to this set of theoretical questions.
Another broader issue that the volumes chapters on state policies should be
commended for addressing but where the analysis could have also been extended
further is classication of the varieties of Russian nationalism. Kolstøs leading chapter
offers a parsimonious typology of Russian nationalism in a two-by-two table, which will
be a handy tool for both scholars and classroom instructors. Kolstøs two-axis model
(23) creates four ideal types of Russian nationalism, based on whether the interests of
the state or the interests of the Russian ethnic group are the main concern (x axis), and
whether nationalism is expansionist (“‘empireoriented), or “‘coreoriented(focused
on the existing borders of the Russian state) (y axis). The author nds that over time
Russian nationalism has become simultaneously more ethnic and more core-orientated.
The theoretical model is compelling and parsimonious, but some of the facts on the
ground do not t the model neatly, not least the annexation of Crimea and the expansion
of Russian territory. With the annexation of Crimea the Russian state territory expanded
for the rst time in the post-Soviet period, and this territorial expansion took place while
nationalism supposedly became more core-oriented, while no territorial expansion was
even attempted, let alone executed, during the earlier post-Soviet years when empire-
oriented nationalism was stronger.
The shift along the x axis, from more statist to more ethnic, could also be problematized
by asking what more ethnic and more civic policies actually look like? To be sure, refer-
ences to ethnic Russians as the state-bearingor state-formingpeople of the federation
have grown in ofcial speeches and state documents in recent years, as several chapters
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document, Blakkisruds most thoroughly. But beyond this rhetoric and a new State Strategy
on Nationality Policy adopted in 2012 (analyzed by Blakkisrud), one could contend that not
much has changed as far as the content of state polices: the ethno-federal structure of the
state has not been dismantled, privileges for ethnic Russians have not found their way
into state laws (at least not explicitly), and ethnic non-Russians not just inside but also
outside Russia could still claim afliation to the Russian state by virtue of being compa-
triots”–the notoriously and, as I have argued elsewhere, purposefully, ambiguous legal cat-
egory that relies on ones stated afnity with Russian language, culture, and spiritual
connectionwith Russia (Shevel 2011). Since April 2014, Russian-speaking compatriots
are further entitled to Russian citizenship under simplied rules, but it is debatable
whether this policy illustrates a more ethnic-oriented approach since it neither singles out
ethnic Russians, nor precludes more imperialinterpretations, along the lines of Blakkis-
rudswidening upnotion, as it reaches to fuzzily dened compatriots outside Russias
state borders. These issues notwithstanding, the volume is bound to become an invaluable
reference for both researchers of Russian nationalism and for instructors teaching under-
graduate and graduate courses. Its timely content, thematic breadth, and theoretical
issues raised will provide rich material for analysis and discussion for years to come.
Shevel, Oxana. 2011.Russian Nation-Building from Yeltsin to Medvedev: Civic, Ethnic, or
Purposefully Ambiguous?Europe-Asia Studies 63 (2): 179202.
© 2017, Oxana Shevel
Igor Zevelev
Wilson Center, Washington, DC
The changes in the Kremlins domestic and international policy after Vladimir Putins
return to the presidency in 2012 surprised both ofcials and academics around the world.
In response, there is a growing body of literature addressing the questions Who is Mr.
Putin really?and What is his endgame?(see Hill and Gaddy 2013 and others). Putin
is indisputably able to drive Russias social and political changes. What has yet to be deter-
mined is how Putin dictates these changes and how his policies are enacted. Understanding
Vladimir Putins personality and his domestic political goals are necessary, but not suf-
cient to identify the driving forces behind Russian politics and international policy. The
ease with which Putin has been shaping Russias development cannot be explained by
the authoritarian nature of the regime alone. It is essential to analyze broader underlying
trends, including developments in public opinion and discourses of national identity.
These trends made the annexation of Crimea and the war in Eastern Ukraine both concei-
vable and natural (Hopf 2016). Contrary to widespread belief, Putin does not shape public
Nationalities Papers 713
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Full-text available
This article surveys nation-building efforts in post-Soviet Russia. There have been five main nation-building projects reflecting the dominant ways of imagining the ‘true’ Russian nation but each has been fraught with contradictions and therefore have been unable to easily guide state policies. At the same time, a solution to the Russian nation-building dilemma may be emerging. This solution does not resolve the contradictions associated with each of the nation-building agendas but instead legalises the ambiguous definition of the nation's boundaries in the 1999 law on compatriots and the 2010 amendments to it. The fuzzy definition of compatriots in the law allows Russia to pursue a variety of objectives and to target a variety of groups without solving the contradictions of existing nation-building discourses.