The vision of Eurasia: Eurasianist influences on politics, culture and ideology in Russia today

Field: Idéhistoria
Project leader: Mark Bassin
Starting year: 2013
Project type: Project

The aim of this project is to evaluate the degree to which the concepts, arguments, and tropes of Eurasianism have penetrated across public and political life in Russia today. Originally formulated by Russian émigré nationalists in the 1920s and 1930s, Eurasianism represented an entirely new vision of Russia as Russia-Eurasia: a distinct and autonomous historical world stretching from Russia’s western borderlands east to the Pacific. Beginning in the late 1980s, these old doctrines were rediscovered and began to be resurrected. They were appealing because they offered a compelling ideological narrative for those who opposed the breakup of the Soviet Union and believed that Russia needed to be a strong state capable of resisting its external opponents, especially those from the West. By the beginning of
Vladimir Putin’s first presidency, Eurasianism had become an common term of reference in Russia. Its influence was apparent not only in academic and political discourses but in the popular imagination as well, and it figured prominently in representations of Russia in popular culture. Eurasianism is also highly influential outside of the Russian Federation, for example in Kazakhstan, where it has been as a sort of official state ideology. Most recently, Vladimir Putin has formally endorsed the Eurasian vision as one of his key foreign policy projects for his new presidency.

The importance of Eurasianism calls for complete reassessment of its contemporary role. Drawing on wide spectrum of sources and materials, our project seeks to do just that: firstly, by examining the degree to which Eurasianist concepts and perspectives have penetrated across public and political life in Russia today; secondly, by analysing the reasons for this penetration; and finally by investigating the ways in which these perspectives still reflect the doctrines of the “classical Eurasianists”, and alternatively how they are being adapted to fit the post-Soviet realities of the 21st century. We will consider these questions through 5 subprojects examining the relation between Eurasianism and a) Russian Foreign Policy, b) Centre-Periphery relations in Russia, c) public debates about national identity d) Political Parties and the Church, and finally, e) popular culture and artistic production. This project
will present the first fully comprehensive overview of Eurasianism’s current status in Russian politics and culture.