State-led Nationalism in Today’s Russia: Uniting the people with conservative values?

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Series Details No.92, October 2016
Publication Date 18/10/2016
ISBN 978-951-769-505-3
ISSN 1456-1360
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In recent years, the Russian state has been described as becoming 'more nationalistic'. In the time period encompassing the Sochi Winter Olympics, the occupation of Crimea, the war in Donbas that continues to this day, air strikes in Syria, and the state seeking new legitimacy during the deepening economic crisis in Russia, many notions have been connected to growing nationalism.

But nationalism as such is an ambiguous concept. Moreover, authoritarianism, conservatism, and even imperialism have been discussed as 'new' features of the Russian state. This Working Paper focuses on the state-led nationalism in this changing ideational environment between the years 2012 and 2016, and how it has been received by the people.

To this end, the Working Paper will argue that the ethnic-civic dimensions are insufficient in themselves to explain the nature of the contemporary state-led nationalism in Russia, as the official discourse both blurs these boundaries and creates new ones. President Vladimir Putin’s language simultaneously seeks acceptance by the majority of the people and control over embodiments of ethnic nationalisms. Hence, the state-led nationalism today leans on the narratives of a nation that has a history of a multinational country where ethnic Russians are still 'first among equals'.

The conclusion of this paper is that despite being ethnically inclusive at the level of discourse, the contemporary Russian nationalism produced by the state leadership is exclusive in its demand for conservative, traditional values.

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