Russian Politics and Society

By Richard Sakwa | Go to book overview

11National identity and state-building

States are not given by some supranatural dispensation. They are the result of purposeful activities exercised through forced projects or political contracts. States are not eternal - especially not as to size and shape - and they are perceived differently by members of the society, designated by state borders as well as by the outside world. States are constituted not only by territories, by citizenship, and by a legalconstitutional framework.…Only shared values, symbols, and a mutually accepted legal-political order can provide the necessary broad popular legitimization: top-level agreements and even international recognition are insufficient to build or uphold a state.

(Valery Tishkov) 1

One of the unique features of West European civilisation was the emergence fairly early on of territorially sovereign states whose relations were regulated, at least since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, by a rudimentary system of international law. These sovereign states in time evolved into nations based on principles of popular sovereignty in which the nation was considered to consist of a broad political community expressing the political will of all the people. In the eastern half of the continent, however, dominated by empires until the First World War, the concept of nation retained a primordial ethnicised content whereby an individual was a member of an ethnic community irrespective of their will. The nation was a community relatively independent of politics, allowing several culturally based nations to coexist within a multinational state. Kohn drew the famous distinction between the alleged 'Western' form of nationalism, which was 'civic' and 'rational', and the 'Eastern' type that was 'organic'. 2 Such a distinction is inappropriate for contemporary Russia, although the distinction does help structure debate. Russia offers a third approach to the idea of nationhood where ethnicity and democratic inclusion is entwined with the ethics of state survival itself. It is the tension between these three currents - national (ethnic) self-affirmation, civic participation (building a democratic political community) and (imperial) statism - that has shaped post-communist Russian national identity and state-building.


From empire to state

The natural corollary of the question 'What is Russia?' is the question 'Who are the Russians?' The population of Russia at the time of the 1989 census was 147.02 million, 51.4 per cent of the USSR's population of 286.72 million. The proportion

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Russian Politics and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures ix
  • Tables x
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • Note on Style, Spelling and Transliteration xiv
  • Glossary of Acronyms, Acrostics and Terms xv
  • Part I - The Fall of Communism and the Rebirth of Russia 1
  • 1: Soviet Communism and Its Dissolution 3
  • 2: The Disintegration of the Ussr 27
  • Part II - Political Institutions and Processes 43
  • 3: The New Constitutional Order 45
  • 4: Law and Society 72
  • 5: The Executive 98
  • 6: The Legislature 125
  • 7: Electoral Politics 140
  • 8: Party Development 172
  • Part III - Federalism, Regionalism and Nationalism 201
  • 9: Federalism and the State 203
  • 10: Regional and Local Politics 224
  • 11: National Identity and State-Building 254
  • Part IV - Economy and Society 277
  • 12: Marketising the Economy 279
  • 13: Society and Social Movements 305
  • 14: Cultural Transformation 331
  • Part V - Foreign Policies 347
  • 15: Foreign Policy 349
  • 16: Commonwealth, Community and Fragmentation 375
  • 17: Defence and Security Policy 396
  • Part VI - Dilemmas of Democratisation 423
  • 18: Problems of Transition 425
  • 19: Pluralism, Elites, Regime and Leadership 445
  • 20: Democracy in Russia 463
  • Notes 475
  • Select Bibliography 524
  • Index 527
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