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THE ROLE OF MESSIANISM IN CONTEMPORARY RUSSIAN IDENTITY AND STATECRAFT

By REBECCA KERSTIN BOUVENG

Abstract

Russian messianism – the longstanding idea of Russia as a ‘chosen’ nation with a historical mission is typically represented as a cliché with little or no relevance in politics. However, an increasing deployment of several interrelated messianic ideas and notions has been noted in both public and official Post-Soviet discourse, raising the question of how we should understand its persistence and contemporary revival.\ud \ud We first develop a conceptual framework based on insights about identity and statecraft from poststructuralist and related approaches, then proceed to trace key characteristics and narratives of Russian messianism in history and the secondary literature of various disciplines. The study proposes that Russian messianism should be conceptualised as a persistent discursive framework, holding a kaleidoscopic range of both complementing and contesting discourses, that have the purposes of legitimising the existence and policies of Russia as a state and defining Russian identity in ambiguous relation to a broad Western Other.\ud \ud This conceptualisation is then applied to contemporary Russian discourse. By analysing samples of key official discourse (2000-2007) the thesis shows how the Russian state adopts, negotiates and reproduces certain messianic narratives from public discourse, in which they abound. We then compare the convergence and divergence of the official and public political discourse with popular discourse, based on the analysis of semi-structured interviews with 160 semi-elite and ordinary Russians, conducted in 2005. We find that the Russian messianic framework is widely used at all levels of discourse and among all categories of Russian people, but in ways and contexts different from in public and official discourse. \ud \ud Overall, this thesis makes contributions to Russian studies by providing a theoretical conceptualisation of Russian messianism; and to the study of international relations by an analysis of discourses central to the production of Russia as a collective identity, state and international actor. \ud \u

Topics: "Russian messianism", "Russia", "messianism", "Moscow Third Rome", "Holy Russia", "IR", "collective identity", "discourse"
Year: 2010
OAI identifier: oai:etheses.dur.ac.uk:438
Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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