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The Social Construction of Russia's Resurgence

Aspirations, Identity, and Security Interests

Anne L. Clunan

Publication Year: 2009

Once again, it appears that Russia is marching to the forefront of the international stage. Anne L. Clunan's analysis of Russia's resurgence convincingly argues that traditional security concerns, historical aspirations, and human agency are coalescing around a new national identity and reconfigured national interests in the post-Soviet nation. Her work moves beyond balance-of-power and realist politics to posit a new, interdisciplinary theory: aspirational constructivism. This groundbreaking theory draws on international relations research and social psychology. Clunan argues that the need for collective self-esteem creates aspirations—often based in a nation's past—that directly shape its national and security interests. In applying this theory to Russia, she points to the nation's continuing efforts to exert influence over former Soviet satellite states and relates the desire for international status found in five broad Russian national self-images—Western, statist, Slavophile, neocommunist, and nationalist—to Russia's definition of its security interests with respect to Europe, Eurasia, and nuclear weapons. Clunan's examination of how sociology, social psychology, and traditional international politics affect post-Soviet Russian identity and security concerns is truly cross-disciplinary. A concluding chapter discusses the policy implications of aspirational constructivism for Russia and other nations and a methodological appendix lays out a framework for testing the theory.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii

List of Figures and Tables

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xii

It was clear to me then that the dominant theoretical argument that I studied in university—that material power drove how countries behaved with each other—did not match up with what I witnessed among practitioners. It seemed, in contrast, that the government and political officials with whom I interacted were moved by forces other than material power and that ideas and identity had much to do with how they defined what their country was about ...

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Note on Transliteration of Russian

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pp. xiii

In the case of some well-known politicians, I have used the spelling of the name that is commonly used in the Western media. So, for example, I have used Yeltsin instead of El’tsin. In cases where a Russian has published in a West European language, I have used the publication’s spelling of his or her name when citing that particular work (e.g., Baranovsky) but have retained the standard transliteration (Baranovskii) when ...

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1. Introduction: Identity and Interests in World Politics

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pp. 1-21

What do states want? It is a truism of international politics that national interests—what states want—drive foreign policy. But how are national interests formed? How do they develop, change, reproduce, or decline over time? How stable are they? This book addresses these questions with reference to post-Soviet Russia. Russian foreign policy ...

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2. Aspirational Constructivism: A Theory of Identity and Interests

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pp. 22-52

Aspirational constructivism is centrally concerned with how national identities are formed and how these shape what political elites view as the national interest. It draws on the constructivist and social psychological literature to address three questions: What are the sources of national identity? Why do multiple identities come into contention ...

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3. Russian National Self-Images in the 1990s

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pp. 53-74

With the implosion of the Soviet Union in December 1991, Russian political elites were faced with the question of whether the new Russia would cast off the legacy of the Soviet and tsarist past or carry that legacy forward in whole or in part. The question of Russia’s identity— what sort of state Russia would be and what it wanted—pervaded the political discourse. Should Russia seek to “return to Europe,” as ...

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4. Russia’s Foreign Policy Orientations: Ingroups, Outgroups, and Identity Management Strategies

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pp. 75-100

Chapter 2 developed the three core expectations derived from aspirational constructivism: political elites, motivated by the need for collective self-esteem and their preferred values, should seek to create new bases for national self-esteem and valid social orders, especially during times of change, through the construction of national self-images and ...

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5. Post-Soviet Russia’s “Revolutionary Decade” and the Creation of National Identity

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pp. 101-144

From the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 to Vladimir Putin’s reelection as president in 2004, Russian debates on national identity—and Russian foreign policy—swung from warmly embracing the West and the United States to heatedly rebuking them. Russian foreign policy moved between Russia’s incorporation into Western global ...

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6. The Post-Soviet Creation of Russia’s Security Interests in Europe

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pp. 145-175

Europe after the end of the Cold War saw major transformations in the definitions of security interests. Ethnic conflict, humanitarian crises, extension of the liberal zone of peace, and transnational terrorism replaced territorial defense and power balancing as the primary security concerns for European security officials over the 1991–2004 period. Despite the changed security environment in Europe and internal agreement ...

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7. The Post-Soviet Creation of Russia’s Interests in Nuclear Arms Control

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pp. 176-202

Nuclear weapons were the epicenter of the relationship between the two Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Efforts to control them, particularly the category of strategic arms that were capable of reaching each other’s homelands, were taken as key indicators of the state of the superpower relationship and of international ...

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8. Conclusion: Aspirational Constructivism and International Institutional Change

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pp. 203-224

This study began by asking how national interests are formed. The answer proposed here—in the form of aspirational constructivism— is that to understand what states want, scholars must start by investigating what the sources of a country’s national identity are and how they influence its national interests. In trying to explain how national interests are created, aspirational constructivism has looked to research in ...

Appendix: Methodology

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pp. 225-232


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pp. 233-278


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pp. 279-308


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pp. 309-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780801896545
E-ISBN-10: 0801896541
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801891571
Print-ISBN-10: 0801891574

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 3 line drawings
Publication Year: 2009