Russia’s Civilizational Politics: Ideological Discourses and Analytical Perspectives
The concept of civilizational politics has been elaborated in the field of international relations but recently it has also been used in research on internal politics of several states. Studies of Russian civilizational politics mostly draw on the constructionist approach and focus on ideological discourses. The talk will first of all address the studies of ‘civilizationism’ as an ideological current. I will argue that this line of research can be complemented with ideas borrowed from civilizational analysis in historical sociology. In particular, the talk will demonstrate that the multiple modernities perspective allows us to re-consider the issue of historical legacies in post-Soviet Russia. The presentation will substantiate using the concept of interpretation of modernity for research on Russian civilizational politics. Thus, different ideological ‘ecosystems’ in today’s Russia (Laruelle 2017) actually develop their own interpretations of modernity which may include civilizational traits. The talk is based on my recent publications as well as on work in progress which is funded by the RFBR grant no. 19-011-00950.
In Russia, “civilizationism,” that is a view of the world as made up of separate, distinct civilizations, became popular already in the 1990s, and included both the production of new texts on “Russian civilization” and an active engagement with the classics of Danilevsky, Spengler and Toynbee. The civilizational paradigm was mainly advanced by oppositional figures and groups critical of the Yeltsin regime and more generally of Westernism and globalization. In the new millennium, it eventually became mainstream, having been advanced by both the Kremlin, regime-supportive circles as well as for more opportunistic purposes. My talk will focus on how the civilizational discourse of contemporary Russia can be understood as a combination of several classical identity-forming topoi – anti-Westernism, Slavophile notions about Russian spirituality, Russia’s imperial legacy as “genuine” multinationality formed around an ethnically Russian core – with more recent concepts from the political vocabulary: statehood, anti-globalism and multipolarity. The appeal of the civilizational paradigm, it will be argued, lies in its holistic ability to combine various notions of Russia, while highlighting internal coherence, external difference, and global significance. Moreover, it involves the story of how this Russia was challenged by competing, “Western” conceptions in the 1990s that falsely described it as a “national state” and not a “civilization.”
Comments: Markku Kivinen, Professor Emeritus Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
Moderator: Anna Korhonen, Head of International Affairs, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki