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School of Politics and International Relations

Russia and its "diasporas" in the Post-Soviet Space

27 January 2015

Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Venue: Francis Bancroft Building, Rm 3.27, Mile End Campus

Speaker: Dr Ammon Cheskin (Glasgow)

Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine highlight the pressing need for further research into the nature of Russia’s relations with ethnic Russians and Russian-speakers outside of the Russian Federation. This is especially true for the post-Soviet space. Accordingly, this paper analyses the evolving discourses and aims of Russian ‘compatriot policy’, and also assesses the resonance of these discourses among their target audience. Using the Baltic states as three crucially important case studies, the analysis traces how Russian policy has attempted to ‘Rossisify’ (as opposed to Russify) Russian speakers by linking their cultural preferences and histories with Putin’s neo-traditional political programme. Analysis of compatriot discourse shows how the Russian Federation positions itself as the rightful representative of Russian speakers and ethnic Russians outside of Russia. These individuals are increasingly conceptualised as Russian citizens (rossiyane) and are ascribed historically embedded and genetically preconfigured values that link them with the Russian state and not their state of residence.

In order to assess the efficacy of these policies and discursive strategies, the second part of this paper focuses on the experiences of Russian speakers in the three Baltic states. Based on the existing literature, as well as personally conducted research, it is argued that compatriot policy is only partially successful. For ‘compatriots’ in the Baltic states, Russia generally enjoys positive cultural attraction, but lacks strong economic or political attractiveness (with some notable exceptions). These findings help inform discussion of Russia’s (lack of) ability to use its diaspora as a tool of foreign policy. They also allow us to compare situations in other post-Soviet settings, notably Ukraine.

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