The Swinging Pendulum: National Identity in Post-Soviet Russia and its Implications for Foreign Policy Attitudes

Miller, Lydia Manon, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Lynch, Allenn, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Clowes, Edith, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia

II Since 1990, Russian leaders have been struggling to define their relationship with the West in their new post-Soviet space. Gorbachev's idealism, Kozyrev's rapid westernization, Primakov's statism, and Putin's pragmatism are all examples of the larger 'cyclical' nature of this struggle. This Russian identity debate, however, is older than the Soviet Union, and has roots in the early 18 th century. Since Peter the Great opened a 'window to the West,' Russian identity can be defined through its relationship with its Western counterpart. A common theme can be found in this debate when focusing on the views of a generalized Slavophile and Westernizer movement. These positions tend to reflect a focus on nationalism and a return to the Slavic Eastern Orthodox roots (Slavophile) or a movement towards integration with the West and reforms at home (Westernizer). However, for the first time in this over three-century long debate, a new trope has emerged that appears to transcend the traditional debate. With the disastrous economic policies of "shock therapy" enacted in the early 1990s, and the West's strategy of NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Westernizer school of thought has been considerably discredited. The Slavophile xenophobia has resultantly shifted south and east, giving the Russian identity debate a new counterpart to its Muscovy center. This thesis will examine the cyclical nature of this identity debate, and analyze the factors in the post-Soviet era that propelled it onto its new path.

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MA (Master of Arts)
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