Policy Memos

Security Implications of the Russian Identity Crisis

Policy Memo:


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Western policymakers and their scholarly advisers seem to focus primarily on the oligarchical interests of the Russian elite rather than on long-range societal processes. This memo is an attempt to assess the potential of ideational sources of Russian interests from a broader sociological perspective. It is important to understand that the search for a Russian national identity is not merely driven by cynical elites, but arises from a genuine need within Russian society.

The inefficiency of the Soviet system led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and made the Soviet identity unappealing. Each national republic that had (in many cases due to Soviet policies), developed its own national identity by the 1990s easily shook off the superficial and amorphous Soviet identity that had become odious and irrelevant. For Russians, however, national identity still remains uncertain. Weak before the creation of the Soviet Union and tightly bound with the Soviet vision, Russia's weak identity became even less clear after the Soviet collapse. [...]

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About the author

Professor, Department of Sociology
Higher School of Economics, Moscow