Russia’s Turn away from Europe

Presented by: Professor Iver Neumann, London School of Economics

Russia defines itself in relation to Europe and the West. In 1991, state’s official position was that Russia should become a European country. Against this Westernising or liberal representation of Europe stood what was at first a makeshift group of old Communists and right-wing nationalists who congeal around the idea that Russia should define itself by having a strong state. The article traces how this latter position consolidated into a fully fledged xenophobic nationalist representation of Europe which became dominant. Russia now sees itself as True Europe, a Conservative great power that guards Europe’s true Christian heritage against the False Europe of decadence and depravity to its West. It is hard to see how, in the face of the formative structural pressure of the states system, Russia will be able to keep up this position. A new about-turn is on the cards. If Russia does not do anything about the root causes of its perceived inferiority to Europe, however, which is that it simply cannot keep pace with the sheer efficiency of European and Western models for how to order social and political life, then the Russian cyclical shifting from a Westernising to a xenophobic stance will not be broken.

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