Post-Soviet states tend to view Russian policies toward them through a geopolitical lens, interpreting the approaches as that of a regional power competing for the control of nearby lands. This, however, is only half the picture. Russia’s approach to its so-called “near abroad” includes an important refinement: between the geopolitical control of territory and the biopolitical administration of populations. We can better understand this difference by juxtaposing Eurasianism, as a set of geopolitical ideas focused on governing territories, and the “Russian world,” as a biopolitical doctrine premised on protecting an imagined transborder community with a common identity.
Contesting realist explanations, I assert that both Eurasianism and the “Russian world” as neighborhood strategies have unfolded beyond the domain of the state, and their proponents prefer to keep a certain distance from the Kremlin. In this memo I explore the policy implications of the geopolitical and biopolitical approaches, the conceptual gaps between them, and the areas of mutual gravitation. I also discuss the implications of the geopolitics-biopolitics nexus for the current crisis in Russian-Ukrainian relations.