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Murad Ismayilov

Since Heydar Aliyev, the father of the incumbent president Ilham Aliyev, became the country’s president in 1993, Azerbaijan has been known for its staunch pursuit of a so-called “balanced” policy in its relations with the outside world, particularly Russia and the West. Whereas in the past this policy tended to be “balanced” more in favor of the West as far as Azerbaijan’s strategic interests were concerned, Baku’s political disposition has shifted decidedly towards Russia in recent years. Over the past decade, several developments on the national, regional, and global levels have worked to gradually alter the long-established regional dynamic and alignment patterns, bringing Azerbaijan back into the Russian fold. This article’s objective is to critically examine those developments to shed more light on the nature of Azerbaijani-Russian relations today and their prospects for the future.

Rustem Zalyaev

The article deals with issues relating to the establishment of regional political parties in Russia. We assess the requirements imposed by the Political Parties Act (Federal Law 95-FZ of 11 July 2001) on the number of regional branches of a political party and analyze whether those requirements, which set an indirect ban on the creation and the activities of regional political parties, comply with the right of individuals to freedom of association. One of the conclusions made in the article is that the legislative restriction on the right to freedom of association introduced by the Political Parties Act as an indirect ban on the creation and the activities of regional political parties in Russia is excessive, it is disproportionate to the objective sought to be achieved by the measure in question and hinders the exercise of the right to freedom of association at the regional territorial level.

Henry E. Hale, Maria Lipman and Nikolay Petrov

Russia’s political system must be understood as inherently dynamic, with constant regime change being essential to how the regime operates and survives. This regime change does not proceed monotonically toward ever tighter authoritarianism, but can move in both liberal and repressive directions at different times. While on aggregate the trend has been to greater authoritarianism under Putin, certain liberalizing moves have also been important that are meaningful for how ordinary Russians and elites experience their own regime, and greater repressiveness is not foreordained. We document two forms of endemic regime dynamism in Russia, each involving contingent, improvisational efforts at short-term recalibration in response to crises that are both endogenous and exogenous to the regime: structural improvisation and ideational improvisation.

Tuomas Forsberg and Sirke Mäkinen

This article addresses the question of how the Crimean case relates to Russia’s general understanding of territorial questions and border regimes. We examine the historical evolution of Russian discourse on borders and territorial questions and investigate to what extent they can explain Russia’s decision to annex Crimea. We will look into the principles of inviolability of borders and territorial integrity that sustain the status quo, and how this has been challenged by three partly interlinked doctrines: national self-determination, geopolitics, and historical rights. We argue that the discourse on territorial integrity and the status quo has predominated in Russia since the Cold War, and that this has not changed fundamentally, either before or after the annexation of Crimea. Russia does not seem to want to abolish the existing norms altogether or to advocate any clearly articulated reformist agenda. Rather, it picks and chooses arguments on an ad hoc basis, imitating Western positions in some other cases when departing from the basic norm of the status quo. Hence, we claim that Russia’s territorial revisionism is reactive, self-serving, and constrained by the desire to avoid changing the status quo doctrine to any great extent.

Brian D. Taylor

Security issues were a central part of Soviet studies. This article considers how the study of security issues has changed with respect to Russia and Eurasia since the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It highlights a series of positive changes: a broadening of vision beyond Moscow, more engagement with mainstream social science, greater attention to security issues internal to post-Soviet states, and the creation of an expert community that spans North America, Europe, and Eurasia. At the same time, I argue that scholarship on Russian and Eurasian security issues has become less strategic, in the sense this word is used by Richard Betts – about the interaction of political ends and military means, rooted in an appreciation of military science. The academy, especially in North America, has become a less welcoming place for scholars working on Russia and Eurasia who care about previously central issues in the field such as nuclear strategy, weapons procurement, military doctrine, and defense planning.

Andrei Melville, Andrei Akhremenko and Mikhail Mironyuk

There is a striking opposition within the current discourse on Russia’s position in the world. On the one hand, there are well-known arguments about Russia’s “weak hand” (relatively small and stagnating economy, vulnerability to sanctions, technological backwardness, deteriorating demography, corruption, bad institutions, etc.). On the other hand, Russia is accused of “global revisionism”, attempts to reshape and undermine the liberal world order, and Western democracy itself. There seems to be a paradox: Russia with a perceived decline of major resources of national power, exercises dramatically increased international influence. This paradox of power and/or influence is further explored. This paper introduces a new complex Index of national power. On the basis of ratings of countries authors compare the dynamics of distribution of power in the world with a focus on Russia’s national power in world politics since 1995. The analysis brings evidence that the cumulative resources of Russia’s power in international affairs did not increase during the last two decades. However, Russia’s influence in world politics has significantly increased as demonstrated by assertive foreign policy in different parts of the world and its perception by the international political community and the public. Russia remains a major power in today’s world, although some of its power resources are stagnating or decreasing in comparison to the US and rising China. To compensate for weaknesses Russia is using both traditional and nontraditional capabilities of international influence.

Maria Louw

Recent studies have convincingly demonstrated that Soviet state atheism continues to influence how religion is understood and practiced in present-day Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, however, a new generation of atheists is emerging whose ideas about atheism—and about religion—are informed more by globally circulating neo-atheist ideas and images. This paper explores their efforts to live atheist lives and be true to their atheist convictions, and the images of religion that play into the process. Focusing on the role of social media in particular, I will argue that while many, at least initially, embrace these platforms as ways to encounter like-minded individuals and experience moral community, what they encounter there are often images of atheism and its religious “others” with which they cannot identify and which often seem irrelevant to the challenges of everyday life, in which coexistence with (and caring for) religious others are central concerns for many.

Benjamin Gatling

For many members of the Tajik governing elite, Muslim piety remains problematic—a stubborn, socially regressive holdover of anti-modern Tajiks—and Muslim leaders are often thought of merely as anachronistic cultural survivals. This paper interrogates the depiction of Muslim exemplars as they appear on Tajik state television by comparing a 2009 documentary about the life of Imomi Abūḣanifa, the eponymous founder of the Ḣanafī school of jurisprudence, with an exposé about Ėshoni Temur, a local Naqshbandī Sufi pir tried and convicted in 2015 for polygyny and various indeterminate offenses against official notions of Muslim religiosity. This article considers different regimes of Muslim alterity as depicted on state media and argues that the Tajik governing elite alternately renders problematic Islam as innocuous heritage or in need of swift extermination.

Eren Tasar

This paper takes stock of “Islamic media” in the ussr by reviewing the kinds of sources that are available for the study of Islam in the Soviet Union, and, more importantly, exploring how social historians can use them. What follows is a detailed discussion of three genres of materials: anti-religious propaganda; correspondence of the official organizations engaged with Islam; and what, for convenience’s sake, I will term Islamic samizdat (popular religious literature and the few available autobiographies of ‘ulama).