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Article

Ethnicities, Nationalism and the Politics of Identity: Shaping the Nation in Russia

Europe-Asia Studies. 2015. Vol. 67. No. 2. P. 306-326.

The post-Soviet period in Russia has seen the emergence of strong identities shaped around ethnicity issues. The current Putin presidency is marked by a political concern for the 'national question' with strong traditionalist connotations. State dominated politics of identity promoting an encompassing Russian (rossiyskaya) identity aim to become a game changer in nation-building. This agenda has to take in different repertioires of contention, and bridging cleavages within Russian society is not only and primarily a question of elite-tailored politics of identity. It is about the assertion of inclusive identities innate both to the cultural tradition and to the needs of a community confronting modernization challenges.

The contentious politics paradigm provides a general framework for assessing conflict potential in transforming institutional environments that goes beyond institutionalism. However, the territorial dimension of ethnicity historically rooted in Russia and the complex nature of nationalism call for additional theoretical framing. The paper explores the interaction of policy and identity factors to assess the resource capacities of politics of identity for promoting nation-building in a multiethnic society. It uses research and expert sources, poll data and personal expert experience to contribute to 'upgrading' theoretical approaches and public discourse on the future of the Russian nation.