Author Archive

Paul Chaisty

Paul Chaisty is the University Lecturer in Russian Government and Director of the Russian and Eurasian Studies Centre at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. His publications include Legislative Politics and Economic Power in Russia (Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2006), as well as articles in journals such as Europe-Asia Studies, Government and Opposition, The Journal of Legislative Studies, Legislative Studies Quarterly, Party Politics, and Post-Soviet Affairs. Together with Stephen Whitefield, he is currently involved in research project titled ‘Nationalism and State-Building at a Crucial Turning Point: Democracy, Authoritarianism and Political Mobilisation in Ukraine and Russia.’ He is also writing a book which explores the phenomenon of coalitional presidentialism in the former Soviet Union, Africa and Latin America.

The crisis in Ukraine has produced a new narrative about Vladimir Putin’s leadership. In contrast to the stated modernising goals of his first two presidencies – the achievement of greater state efficacy and the improvement of living standards and prosperity for ordinary Russian citizens – Putin has been recast as the saviour of the Russian nation. This new narrative includes a mission to protect the citizens of the ‘Russian World’ that live beyond the borders of the Russian Federation. In some analysis, this has led to parallels with Slobodan Milosevic’s political journey in the former Yugoslavia (Whitmore, 2014). Yet, while Vladimir Putin has shown strong patriotic instincts throughout his political career, he is not a natural nationalist. In an article titled ‘Russia: The Ethnicity Issue,’ which Putin published in January 2012 ahead of the presidential election, his ambiguous support for ethnically-based nationalism was apparent. He warned about the dangers that ethnic chauvinism posed to the territorial integrity of the Russian state: ‘I am convinced that the attempts to preach the idea of a “national” or monoethnic Russian state contradict our thousand-year history,’ he averred, ‘this is a shortcut to destroying the Russian people and Russian statehood, and for that matter any viable, sovereign statehood on the planet’ (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 2014). Moreover, his regime’s relationship with the nationalist leadership in eastern Ukraine, and their ideological backers in Russia, has not always been cordial during the Ukrainian conflict. Putin’s commitment to the creation of a new territory, ‘Novorossiya,’ which would lead to the breakup of Ukraine, has been questioned by nationalist ideologues and militia leaders throughout the crisis (Sonne, 2014).