International interest in the Arctic is heating up along with the planet’s atmosphere and the region is increasingly presented as a new potential hotspot for inter-state competition and discord. Inevitably, Russia is often at the centre of this implicitly ‘realist’ narrative. This study provides an evaluation of Moscow’s Arctic policy between 2000 and 2019 from an international relation theory perspective by building upon the burgeoning literature on the Arctic and sources on Russian foreign policy in general. This study postulates that several elements of Russian regional policy in the High North do indeed follow realist readings of the international politics yet it also demonstrates how structural realism fails to adequately account for the institutionalization of regional relations and, most notably, neglects the importance of domestic factors, specifically historical memory, towards understanding Moscow’s contemporary Arctic policy.
In today’s Russia, there is a constant clash of opinions when it comes to perceptions of the past, and to what can be learned from Russia’s Soviet experience in general and Stalinist repression in particular. A consensus which seemed just over the horizon between 1998 and 1991 now grows ever more distant. Nearly half of those surveyed in 2017 say that Stalin should not be seen as a state criminal; that the repressions are best discussed less rather than more, and that there is nothing to be gained by dredging up the past. The only way for Russia to pursue a future of democracy and respect for human rights is to leave all of that baggage behind. How has this come to be? What are the roots of these myths of a great and just Stalin that now emerge 65 years after his death? A series of scholars posit that the key lies in Russian society itself, with its tendency towards being ruled with a firm hand and a state that merely takes a neutral position between the liberals and the Stalinists. Others assert that these are successful constructs of the Kremlin, which seeks to inculcate domestic support for authoritarian rule. In order to resolve this disagreement, we studied the book market for Stalin-related literature published within the last twenty years. The study indicates that the market comprises two mostly separate areas: books by Stalin apologists on the one hand, and books by professional historians and recollections by victims of repressions on the other. Quantitative analysis shows that the former receive markedly greater support, which reflects the state’s role over the past fifteen years in forming a positive image of Stalin.
Research on Russian civil society focuses largely on the repressive legislative side of state policies, to the virtual exclusion of the rise of domestic funding, be it individual, corporate, or public. This article instead contributes to the discussion of state funding for the third sector by looking at the Russian Presidential Grant Fund, a state institution that has disbursed RUB18 billion (approx. $275 million at the August 11, 2019, exchange rate) to the third sector since 2016, making it one of the most influential sources of financial support to Russian civil society. A data-driven analysis of the Fund reveals that, although it prioritizes certain types of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) over others, there is a discernible attempt to address some of the most pressing social ills in Russia today. Whereas some grant directions, such as the “preservation of historical memory” and “development of public diplomacy and support of compatriots,” further long-held, Kremlin-sponsored ideological projects, the biggest categories supported by the Fund focus on more classical philanthropic issues, confirming the state’s growing delegation of the provision of public services to the third sector.
This paper explores how urban Russians perceive, negotiate, challenge and reaffirm the political configuration of the country and leadership in terms of the ‘imagined nation’. Based on around 100 interviews in three Russian cities, three main pillars appear to prop up the imagined ‘pro-Putin’ social contract: (i) the belief that ‘delegating’ all power into the hands of the President is the best way to discipline and mould state and society; (ii) the acceptance of Putin’s carefully crafted image as a ‘real man’, juxtaposed against negative views of the Russian ‘national character’; (iii) the internalization of a pro-Putin mythology on a ‘government of saviors’ that delivers normality and redeems a ‘once-ruined’ nation. The paper shows that those who reject these pillars do so due to differing views on what constitutes ‘normality’ in politics. This normative split is examined over a number of issues, leading to a discussion of internal orientalism and the limited success of state media agitation in winning over the skeptical.
The concept of sovereign democracy dominated the political discourse in Russia in 2006–8 but lost much of its significance since. In this article, I argue that sovereign democracy is best understood as the response of Russia’s authorities to the threats of democratization, following Eurasian color revolutions. I distinguish between three conceptually distinct aspects of sovereign democracy: (1) a social contract (2) a legitimation discourse; and (3) a counter-revolutionary praxis. These dimensions allow us to understand what functions sovereign democracy fulfilled within the framework of Russia’s authoritarian regime and why it lost its prominence over time.
This article offers a broad analysis of the “name issue,” its origins, background and the challenges ahead in light of the Prespa agreement. It posits the historical perspective of both identities, assesses the positions maintained by the parties during the political and diplomatic dispute settlement process and presents the concerns of both parties regarding the agreement. Given the content of the Prespa agreement, the article aims at mapping its essential theoretical frame, explaining the key arrangements in the Prespa agreement and identifying the challenges associated with its implementation that might stand in the way of the accomplishment of its purported “historic” mission of settling the long-lasting disagreements between the two parties, offering some recommendations in that respect.
This article focuses on the relation between EU leverage and domestic elites related to the differential impact of conditionality in the case of the Republic of North Macedonia. The main focus is on the influence of the low credibility of the membership perspective on the effectiveness of EU political conditionality in North Macedonia. Additionally, it examines to what extent the legitimacy of the process is determined by domestic factors. The domestic political elites strategically raise the domestic costs to the level where Europeanization becomes a highly costly process and external influences such as political isolation or rewards given in the process seem to have very weak results. The article introduces the concept of the “leverage trap” – a political discourse devised by domestic political elites apropos the EU, in turn used to increase the leverage of political elites domestically and to present the EU as an impotent actor.