The Quest for Identity. Russian Public Opinion on Europe and the European Union and the National Identity Agenda
This article looks into the debate on public attitudes in Russia towards the EU and Europe. The relevance of Europe and of the perception of belonging to Europe for Russian national identity is evaluated. To what extent do the Russians see themselves as European and what criteria fit this notion today after the two post-Soviet decades have drawn to a close? The existing image of the EU is analysed in the context of asserting and consolidating the Russian political nation. Elite and expert group opinions are considered, having in mind their influence on the wider public views on national identity. Historic notions of the West in Russian intellectual discourse are evocated as a valid context for the current debate, and the relevance of the traditional cleavage between westernizers and traditionalists for present day identity politics is evaluated. An important point in this discussion is the Russian and the Western perception of the ‘values gap’. The paper draws upon three groups of sources: public opinion survey data, public political discourse and its media coverage, and academic and expert literature.