geographical metanarratives in russia and the european east: contemporary pan-slavism

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  • This article was downloaded by: [University of Connecticut]On: 09 October 2014, At: 04:40Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    Geographical Metanarratives in Russiaand the European East: ContemporaryPan-SlavismMikhail Suslov a ba Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Moscowb Uppsala UniversityPublished online: 15 May 2013.

    To cite this article: Mikhail Suslov (2012) Geographical Metanarratives in Russia and the EuropeanEast: Contemporary Pan-Slavism, Eurasian Geography and Economics, 53:5, 575-595

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    Eurasian Geography and Economics, 2012, 53, No. 5, pp. 575595. 2012 by Bellwether Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Geographical Metanarratives in Russia and the European East: Contemporary Pan-Slavism

    Mikhail Suslov1

    Abstract: A specialist on Russian geopolitical metanarratives investigates the re-emergence of Pan-Slavism in the ideological landscape of contemporary Russia. Arguing that it is a heterogeneous assemblage of both mutually antagonistic and complementary narratives about the unity of Slavic peoples, the author posits that Pan-Slavisms durability lies not in its con-ceptual coherence but rather its emotional appeal to disparate Slavic peoples in the former Soviet Union as well as Eastern and Southeastern Europe. After briefly tracing the history of Pan-Slavism from its 17th-century roots through World War I into the Soviet period, he explores the metanarratives capacity to take modern Russias geopolitical thinking in new directions, including the potential to replace Russians center-periphery worldview with a that of a cosmopolitan network of kindred nations affording Russia greater access to the European community. Journal of Economic Literature, Classification Numbers: F020, F590, Z000. 152 references. Key words: Pan-Slavism, Russia, Serbia, Belarus, Ukraine, geopolitical metanar-rative, Slavophilism, neo-Slavism, Slavia, Orthodox Church, Holy Russia, Russian World, anti-colonialism, Eurasianism.


    In September 2012, Tomislav Nikoli, who had been inaugurated as the president of Serbia four months earlier, met with Russias President Vladimir Putin. The two leaders concluded a number of economic agreements, including a $700 million loan from Russia to support the Serbian budget, concessions for the Russian Railways company in the Balkans, and deci-sions on the South Stream natural gas pipeline project (Ot zastoya, 2012, p. 2). The leader of the Serbian Radical Party is known for his pro-Russian sympathies and a sweeping statement to the effect that Serbia would rather become a Russian province than accept NATOs patron-age (Sazonova, 2012). To be sure, Nicolic is an experienced political figure who understands the difference between rhetoric and politics, but nonetheless when two presidents shook hands in Putins residence of Bocharov Ruchey, the specter of Pan-Slavism waxed brightly.

    The periodic re-emergence of pan-Slavism in Russian public discourse can be explained by its close connection with debates on identity formation in Russia, which last flared in the late 1990searly 2000s. From that time forward, Russias steady economic growth has encouraged a flexing of its muscles in international relations and a stream of new Cold War rhetoric culminating in Putins Munich speech in February 2007.2 At the same time, on the

    1Senior Fellow, Russian Institute for Cultural Research, Moscow, and currently at the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Uppsala University (Box 514, 751 20 Uppsala, Sweden; The author thanks the Swedish Institute and the Uppsala Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies for financial and institutional support.

    2In which the Russian leader famously inveighed against U.S. attempts to construct a unipolar world (e.g., see Trenin, 2007).




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    domestic front Putins widening crackdown on the democratic opposition has removed or at least weakened Westernizing voices from the political arena, and this (combined with a growing discrepancy between the amorphous character of Russian national identity and the radicalization of Russian nationalism) has opened a larger window of opportunity for the pan-Slavic cause. Concurrently, the reinterpretation of the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century has heightened spatial anxiety (Pain, 2003, p. 29), prompting much mental re-mapping to enable Russia to continue to occupy a central placebe it in the center of the Eurasian landmass, the center of Orthodox civiliza-tion, or in the center of the Slavic world.

    Pan-Slavism has never been a monolithic concept ideologically, and its fragmentation and ambiguity in todays Russia partially reflect (and partially augment) uncertainties in processes of identity formation more broadly. Its multi-faceted character is manifest institutionally in a large number of loosely connected organizations that support the pan-Slavic cause.3 The most representative and inclusive pan-Slavic initiative has been a series of all-Slavic congresses, which were held in Prague (1998), Moscow (2001), Minsk (2005), and Kiev (2010), hosting a great variety of pan-Slavic groups united by a shared Euro-skepticism and anti-Westernism. In addition to formal organizational activities, Pan-Slavism is also relatively visible in the arts.4 And in the realm of scholarship, the center for academic Slavic studies in Russia (slavyano-vedeniye) is the Institute for Slavic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Institute has an important role to play in Pan-Slavism despite (or perhaps due to) its academic respect-ability (Mitrofanova 2010, p. 228). Finally the International Slavic University finds a niche somewhere in between academic slavyanovedenye and the political organizations.

    In addition to the institutional base briefly summarized above, pan-Slavic discourse fre-quently is evident in the utterances of Russian politicians. Political heavyweights such as the leader of the Communist Party (CPRF) Gennadiy Zyuganov, the leader of the Liberal- Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovskiy, and the former mayor of Moscow Yuriy Luzhkov never missed an opportunity to avail themselves of the pan-Slavic theme (e.g., Luzhkov 1999, p. 2). Perhaps even more enthusiastic has been Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has always positioned himself as a standard-bearer of Pan- Slavism via the political project of the Union State of Russia and Belarus (Karbalevich, 2010, pp. 498513).

    Finally, a sense of Pan-Slavism appears to be firmly embedded in Russian public opinion. Sociological surveys show that Russians privilege Belarus, Ukraine, and other Slavic coun-tries in the list of nations that are or should be important for Russian foreign policy. Thus, according to the survey done by FOM (Public Opinion Foundation) in 2001, 78 percent of Russians responded that Russia should have closer relations with the Slavic countries, whereas only 7 percent disagree with this statement. The same study shows that 61 percent are sympathetic toward the Poles, motivated mostly by ethnic and racial affinities (Petrova, 2001). Studies also indicate that rather high percentages of people would like Russia to

    3These include the socialist-tinted AKIRN (Association for Comprehensive Study of the Russian People) in Moscow, headed by Yevgeniy Troitskiy; the International Foundation for Slavic Literature and Culture, affiliated with radical nationalist, monarchist, and Orthodox fundamentalist movements; the All-Slavic Assembly of repre-sentatives from Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus; the Slavic Military and Patriotic Union; and the International Slavic Academy, which features an Eurasianist twist of pan-Slavic thought, a


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