An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Spring 2017

Is Nationalism a Force for Change in Russia?

Marlene Laruelle

This essay defines three categories of Russian nationalist actors: nonstate actors, whose agenda is anti-Putin; parastate actors, who have their own ideological niche, not always in tune with the presidential administration's narrative, but who operate under the state umbrella; and state actors, in particular, the presidential administration. In the future, the Russian ethnonationalism embodied by nonstate actors is the main trend that could pose a serious threat to the regime. However, the Kremlin is not “frozen” in terms of ideology, and its flexibility allows it to adapt to evolving situations. One of the most plausible scenarios is the rise of a figure inside the establishment who would be able to prevent the polarization of Russian nationalism into an antiregime narrative and could co-opt some of its slogans and leaders, in order to gradually channel the official narrative toward a more state-controlled nationalism.

MARLENE LARUELLE is Research Professor of International Affairs and Associate Director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, and Codirector of PONARS Eurasia. She is the author of Russia's Strategies in the Arctic and the Future of the Far North (2013), In the Name of the Nation: Nationalism and Politics in Contemporary Russia (2009), and Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire (2008).

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