Mainstream Russian Nationalism: Soviet imagery, the Post-Imperial consciousness and Russia as a “State-Civilization”

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor, IRES Library
  • Lecturer: Matthew Blackburn is a PostDoc scholar at IRES
  • Website
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Föreläsning

Based on interviews with over one-hundred Russians in three cities, this presentation provides an interpretation of the kind of nationalism(s) that prevail in Russia today. In this, the focus is on ‘mainstream nationalism’: a combination of discourses produced ‘from above’ (by the state and other political entrepreneurs) and narratives readily shared among ordinary people ‘from below’ across age, social and geographical lines. New knowledge on the popular discourses prevailing ‘on the ground’ can provide essential explanatory power to the actions of the Russian government and a deeper sense of the stability or fragility of the current ‘pro-Putin’ status quo. Through an exploration of the discourses that compete for dominance, it is possible to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of why/how more ‘statist’ and ‘imperial’ visions of the Russian nation prevail over the other ‘liberal’ or ‘ethno-nationalist’ options on offer.

In this seminar, these research questions are examined in the context of rising populism/nationalism in Europe as a whole. After elaborating a theoretical position on ‘nationalism’, Dr. Blackburn will offer a characterisation of the main shifts in promoting a common national identity ‘from above’, especially since 2012 where there has been a new focus on Russia as a ‘state-civilization’. Finally, Dr. Blackburn will outline the ways in which narratives on the nation at the micro-level of ordinary people overlap/contradict the Russia as a ‘state-civilization’ discourse promoted ‘from above’. In this Dr. Blackburn finds three key overlapping themes: the continuing influence of Soviet ways of thinking of nationhood and ethnicity, a certain post-imperial consciousness that determines ways of defining nation and conservative stances on territorial, social and political change. In presenting mainstream nationalism as a composite of often contradictory notions, Dr. Blackburn problematizes the application of ideal types (liberal, civic, ethnic, imperial) to assign a neat and tidy category to Russian nationalist discourse and nation-building.

Matthew Blackburn holds a PhD on nationalist discourses and the imagined nation in Post-Soviet Russia from the Centre of Russian, Central and Eastern European Studies at Glasgow University (2018). He recently took up a postdoctoral research position at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES), where he will continue his research into mainstream nationalism and discursive fractures along social, generational and geographical lines. Blackburn’s research interests largely revolve around studying the nation as an imagined community, including collective historical memory, in group-out group categorizations, political legitimacy and state-society relations, and geopolitical imaginaries.