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Scientific article


Russkii as the New Rossiiskii? Nation-Building in Russia After 1991

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Russia’s post-1991 nation-building project has been torn between competing interpretations of national identity. Whereas the other former Soviet republics opted for nation-building centered on the titular nation, Russia’s approach to national identity was framed by the fact that the RSFSR had been defined not as a designated national homeland but as a multi-ethnic federation. This, coupled with Russia’s definition as the legal successor of the Soviet Union, suggesting continuity and a history of uninterrupted statehood, has enabled a range of rivaling understandings of how to define the “nation.”

Focusing on top-down official nation-building, this article examines how, against a backdrop of shifting political contexts, structural constraints, and popular attitudes, the Kremlin has gradually revised its understanding of what constitutes the “Russian nation.” Four models for post-Soviet Russian nation-building are identified – the ethnic, the multi-national, the civic, and the imperial. Over time, the correlation of forces among these has shifted. The article concludes that, despite some claims of an ethno-nationalist turn after 2014, the Kremlin still employs nationalism instrumentally: National identity has undoubtedly become more russkii-centered, but, at the same time, the Kremlin keeps the definition of “Russianness” intentionally vague, blurring the boundaries between “nation” and “civilization.”


  • Russia and Eurasia
  • Nation-building