The 2014 crisis in and over Ukraine was in many ways a turning point in Russian politics. From the annexation of Crimea in March 2014 to the full-scale war in 2022, Russian state officials have increasingly incorporated nationalist arguments into their rhetoric.

While some scholars understand the war in Ukraine in terms of national security and a balance of power logic, others blame the Putin regime’s fear of democratisation. But what about the identity dimension? A closer examination of the regime’s use of nationalist rhetoric sheds new insights on how Ukraine has been constructed as a threat to Russian identity and an existential threat for Russia. 

In the seminar, Jules Sergei Fediunin will present findings from an analysis of texts and documents scraped from the websites of the Kremlin, the State Duma, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on these three corpora, the study explores how the meaning of selected nationalist tropes, such as ‘Russophobia’, ‘de-Russification’ and ‘national traitors’, as well as their referent, have changed over time. By marshalling the identity dimension, the Russian regime has sought to foreclose nationalist criticism and mobilise against foreign and domestic anti-regime forces – all while preparing the ground for waging the ‘special military operation’ against Ukraine.

Watch the live stream on YouTube (no registration required):