Russia’s Internal Otherness

Identity crisis: Russians are divided over support for modernization versus traditionalism; peasant imagery such as the 1887 painting

Russia is Europe’s most populous country, and Vladimir Putin, in his fourth term, promises to focus on modernizing the economy and social institutions. “It is evident… that achieving a new level of economic development is hardly possible in total isolation,” argues Viatcheslav Morozov, professor of EU-Russia Studies at the University of Tartu, who writes about identity and foreign affairs. “On the other hand, the feeling of insecurity that underlies Russia’s pushback cannot be fully rationalized even if one agrees with the assumption that Western democracy promotion and geopolitical expansion go hand in hand.” Russians cherish a distinct history, traditions and peasant imagery that suggest an inability to integrate with Europe. Political leaders take advantage of a perceived cultural divide no longer based on social reality, one that vanished with standardized education and urbanization. Morozov concludes that the nation need not pursue some idealized image of Europe to improve the country and give all Russians a political voice. – YaleGlobal