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Charlotte Hille

Clan societies differ substantially from Western democratic states. Clan societies are based around the extended family. Honour and solidarity are important, which is reflected in nepotism and blood revenge. However, a more positive aspect of clan societies is the use of reconciliation to solve conflicts. This guarantees that parties to a conflict can cooperate in the future. When intervening in a clan based society it is important to be aware of the differences compared to Western democracy. Based on theory and practice the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Albania and Chechnya are investigated. This book explains clan society and provides tools to facilitate state building and democratization in clan based societies for those who intervene, aimed at conflict resolution and democratization.

Tonio Weicker

It is well known that labor migrants from different countries all over the Eurasian Union are the backbone of crucial economy sectors in the Russian Federation as, inter alia, construction, agriculture or trade. This article deals with another less mentioned but similarly significant labor market, which substantially changed its assemblage during the last couple of years, namely commercial urban transport services. In the last two decades, the marshrutka sector underwent major reforms and formalization processes that, on the one hand, brought operators back into the tax net and ensured a certain extension of control to the local transportation departments but, on the other hand, worsened the labor conditions of the transportation workers. Drawing from the empirical evidence of my fieldwork in southern Russia, I describe currently problematized mobility assemblages and embed the actor’s articulations in broader conflicts within the marshrutka business and transportation regulation policy. I further analyze how labor migrants have been forced to accept unfavorable working conditions in the enterprises as a direct result of politically triggered reforms in the marshrutka business. The paper provides insights into the social arena of the marshrutka, which serves as a societal encounter of urban conflicts and transformation mirroring (un-)intended effects of the local transportation reformation attempts.

Cara Kerven

In Turkmenistan, Islamic charitable alms (sadaka) are a central part of daily life in the desert villages surrounding Gökdepe town, about five hours drive from the capital, Aşgabat. Adults give sadaka for reasons of religious merit, in order to pay respects to deceased family members and prior to major life-cycle events such as weddings. This article links Turkmen sadaka to other life-cycle ceremonies noted in the surrounding Central Asian countries. Life-cycle ceremonies have been theorised in two broadly different ways, as either concerned with prestige and status or as ethical projects. I bring these two approaches into conversation through the notion of social reproduction. Using long-term ethnographic research, I argue that Turkmen sadaka reveals how the economics of daily life and social reproduction are directly dependent on divine gifts. It is an ethical project for those participating that, at the same time, has recognised social consequences in terms of status and prestige.

Giulia Cabras

In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (People’s Republic of China), history is taught according to Chinese nationalistic guidelines and the history of ethnic groups is built around their relationships with the Han majority. In this context of historical hegemony, the paper examines a series of books for Uyghur children on famous historical characters in order to understand how young generations’ ethnic consciousness can be shaped. The analysis identifies some trends of the Uyghur ethnic discourse transmitted to children (connections with the history of Central Asia and the Middle East, the focus on elements of identification such as Islam and muqams), as well as the presence of a Chinese paradigm that supports progress, secular education, and the standardization of folklore. Furthermore, the article aims to identify how much leeway is given to the development of a counter-discourse, particularly in the transmission of historical and cultural heritage to the younger generations.

Sharon Werning Rivera and David W. Rivera

Will Vladimir Putin’s penchant for staffing the state with siloviki undermine the prospects for democratization after he leaves office? The answer to this question hinges on whether Russian military and security officers currently possess a less liberal worldview than do civilian elites, yet little to no research has examined this question in close to a decade. In an effort to fill this gap in existing knowledge, this article investigates the orientations of influential Russians toward several core components of liberal democracy on the basis of a survey conducted in 2016. We find that attitudinal differences between siloviki and civilians persist into this decade. As was the case in both the 1990s and 2000s, elites with professional backgrounds in the force structures were less supportive of political pluralism and individual rights than were those with purely civilian resumés. In addition, active-duty officers were even less liberal than either their retired former colleagues or lifelong civilians. Finally, unlike the situation that apparently prevailed at the very end of Putin’s second presidential term, conventional military officers now espouse nearly identical levels of support for political pluralism as do officers entrusted with internal security.

Nikolay Petrov and Michael Rochlitz

Control over the security services is a key ingredient of political survival in authoritarian regimes. This is particularly true during periods of leadership succession and high political uncertainty. In this paper, we compare the strategy used by Vladimir Putin towards the siloviki – the Russian security services – with that employed by Xi Jinping towards the Chinese security services. We find that in both countries, the security services have been significantly strengthened in recent years, while at the same time extensive anti-corruption campaigns have been used to eliminate key officials within the security structures. We argue that both developments can be seen as elements of a strategy to increase control over the public, while eliminating potential competition from regime insiders, in view of a deteriorating economic situation, and the constitutional (or quasi-constitutional) term limits faced by Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping in 2024 and 2022, respectively.

Andrei Yakovlev and Anton Aisin

Although many scholars have analyzed the role played by the siloviki in Russian politics, they usually focus on the presence of siloviki in the federal elite or the pressure they exerted on business. In this article, we use new data on the appointments of regional governors and the heads of regional departments of the Federal Security Service (ufsb), as well as data on regional economic growth from 2005 to 2017, to examine how decisions by the Kremlin with respect to the appointment of key regional siloviki have affected economic development in Russian regions. We find that regions where the governor-siloviki relationship has been stable over time also display higher rates of growth. We then investigate whether regional fsb heads are specifically appointed to start investigations on regional governors, but do not find a statistically significant relationship. Finally, we show how a number of newly appointed political heavyweights among Russia’s governor corps have been given their “own” silovik to support them in their region.

Stephen G F Hall

This paper argues that between 2012 and 2019, the Kremlin recalibrated preventive counter-revolutionary practices due to fears that an event like the Arab Spring or Euromaidan could occur in Moscow or that the 2011–2012 winter of discontent could return. While the Kremlin returned to practices of the preventive counter-revolution used after 2004, the tactics increased creating a “politics of fear.” The preventive counter-revolution post-2012 implemented new tactics, incorporating an external element of countering the involvement of Western states in destabilizing authoritarian regimes, specifically in the post-Soviet space, thereby attempting to weaken Western states. The tactics of the preventive counter-revolution after 2012 have the potential to coup-proof the Kremlin and serve as a model for other authoritarian regimes to devise methods to counter Western states and democratization, thereby allowing the Kremlin to become a model and black knight for other authoritarian regimes.

Evgeny Gontmakher

Despite near 30 years of post-Soviet reforms, Russia has not developed an effective system of mandatory social insurance. This has many negative, social, economic and political consequences. The main ones are low coverage of social risks and mass paternalism. An ordinary employee does not feel involved in the formation of his own well-being, especially in the field of pensions and medical care, and can’t independently dispose of those mandatory contributions that the employer makes in his favor. Therefore, in Russia there has long been a need, not just for cosmetic amendments, but for a radical reform of the mandatory insurance system. Its main element should be the involvement of the employee in the management of funds collected in special insurance institutes. It is proposed to move from a unified rate of deductions to personalized contributions, the amount of which depends on the family status of the employee, his or her health, and other personal characteristics. The organizational form of the updated system of mandatory social insurance can be a United Social Insurance Fund (instead of the current three funds), managed on an equal basis by representatives of employees, employers and the state.

Michael Rochlitz

After a period of relative political liberalization under president Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s security services have again started to play a central role in Russian politics with Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012. In this issue of Russian Politics, we analyze three different aspects of this return of the siloviki: the way they think and see the world, how the relationship between governors and siloviki affects economic development at the regional level, and how the strengthening of the siloviki since 2012 compares to the strengthening of the Chinese internal security services, which took place during the same time. We identify a new assertiveness of Russia’s siloviki, as well as a centralization of power around Vladimir Putin through the dismissal of other influential heavyweights within Russia’s security services, and speculate what this might mean for Russia’s short- to mid-term future.

Thomas F. Remington

The transition in Russia to a partially market-driven economy has failed to produce sustained and broad-based economic growth. The gains of economic growth are concentrated at the top of the income distribution, leaving a sizable part of the population trapped in conditions of low incomes. While abject poverty has largely been eliminated, around 40% of the population struggle to purchase more than basic consumer necessities. Spending on food occupies nearly half of household budgets for the lowest income decile. State social spending, which constitutes an increasing share of total income, is relatively non-progressive. Most is not means-based, but preserves the categorical benefits structure of the Soviet era. A combination of the bureaucratic-authoritarian institutional framework for decision-making and the strongly rent-based relationship between economic and political elites, severely limits policy options.

Linda J. Cook, Jørn Holm-Hansen, Markku Kivinen and Stein Kuhnle

This Special Issue is devoted to Russia’s welfare state during the years of economic stagnation that began in 2013. Twelve experts assess social conditions and reforms in poverty, labor market, pension, housing and education policies. They show that social mobility has stagnated in conditions of deep inequality and just-above-poverty incomes for many. Innovative labor market and anti-poverty policies are hampered by low productivity and wages, both features of an oligarchic economic model that blocks competition and development. Welfare commitments heavily burden the state budget, producing reforms that transfer costs to users. The authors find that popular protests have forced government to partially mitigate these reforms. Putin’s government appears trapped between oligarchic economic interests and popular expectations for welfare. The final article compares China’s comparatively successful welfare trajectories with those of Russia, and proposes an agenda for further research.

Esuna Dugarova

Social protection is an important strategy to protect people from livelihood risks, develop human capital and promote economic growth. Decent work is a core element of social protection and a critical condition for eradicating poverty. Despite high labor force participation and low unemployment, Russia’s labor market shows several negative trends, including working poverty and growing informality. Both are exacerbated by gender disparities and unfavorable demographic shifts. Over the past decade the Russian government has implemented active labor market interventions, and enhanced targeted social protection aimed at promoting employment and reducing poverty. Based on the analysis of key data and programs, the article finds that the country achieved stability in the labor market, but at the cost of deteriorating living standards caused by low levels of productivity and wages.

Elena Maltseva

The article discusses the changes to the Russian pension system since 2013, focusing specifically on the most recent policy moves. It argues that, despite the apparent instability of the Russian pension system caused by numerous policy shifts that have occurred since 2015, one element has remained constant: since the early 1990s the transformation of the Russian pension system has been driven primarily by neoliberal economic advisers to the Russian government. Passage of the long-delayed decision to raise the retirement age, which provoked large-scale protests, can be understood in light of the current geopolitical and economic risks that complicate the future of Russian economy.

Markus Kainu, Markku Kivinen, Stein Kuhnle and Chunling Li

Systematic theoretical work on Russian and Chinese social policy seems to be lacking. While previous research establishes how democratic systems produce welfare, it is unclear what kind of welfare such transitional systems provide. Our analysis adheres to structuration based theoretical explanations, taking into account both agency and structure as factors needed to explain these regimes’ welfare policy. Hybrid regimes are eager to adopt global liberally oriented welfare policies, which tend to ignore popular demands. Western analysis of Russian and Chinese social policy emphasizes the dualistic influence of liberal versus statist social policy. This dualistic conceptualization fails to take into account the contradictions between ideological frames and hybrid regimes’ vulnerability to popular pressures. Widespread corruption undermines formal procedures and underlies growth of informal practices. Both Russia and China have considerable welfare achievements and vast problems. In conditions of economic growth, both have experienced huge increases in inequality and individualization of risk.

Daria Prisiazhniuk and Jørn Holm-Hansen

Welfare reforms in contemporary Russia are based on partial redistribution of responsibilities and resources from the state to other actors, including private business and civil society. Reforms in old age pensions, housing and utilities, primary and secondary education have affected wide social groups and have triggered public debates and protests, reflected in the mass media. This article analyses how these reforms are portrayed in three Russian media outlets representing different political positions—Rossiiskaia gazeta (official government media outlet), Novaia gazeta (independent media outlet belonging to the liberal opposition), and Zavtra (patriotic media outlet belonging to the nationalist opposition). The two independent papers have divergent critical perspectives on reforms. These three Federation-wide newspapers represent the range of political positions that are articulated publicly on non-securitized issues in contemporary Russia.

Jørn Holm-Hansen, Mikkel Berg-Nordlie, Aadne Aasland and Linda Cook

Meeting popular expectations for social welfare delivery is one of the pillars upon which the current Russian regime bases its legitimacy. At the same time, the authorities try to transfer responsibility and costs to citizens and transfer service delivery to commercial actors. This article addresses the relationship between welfare reform and political stability in Russia. The discussion is based upon case studies of three large-scale reforms of pension, education and housing policies in 2014–2019. The reforms are analyzed in the light of mechanisms often referred to as “neo-liberal”: public budgets are relieved by making citizens pay more out of their own pockets, and tasks that used to be public are transferred to non-state actors or people’s self-organizing. The article identifies how the population reacts to the introduction of such mechanisms. It discusses the extent to which core reform mechanisms are challenged and original reforms modified in response to resistance.

Bulgaria’s Foreign Policy and EU Sanctions against Russia

Europeanization, Politicization and Small Country Diplomacy

Jean Crombois

The adoption of the EU sanctions on Russia provides a good case study to assess Bulgarian foreign policy under the conditions imposed by EU membership. This paper emphasizes the limits of both the foreign policy and Europeanization approaches when looking at national foreign policy and EU membership. It underlines the need to develop alternative approaches. These alternative approaches relate, in the first area, to the use of the concept of politicization of EU foreign policy; and in the second, to the conduct of a small country’s foreign policy within the EU framework. Although each of these approaches taken separately accounts poorly for the understanding of how EU membership affects the conduct of national foreign policy, each of them offers potentially interesting insights, without however being entirely conclusive.

Contextualization of the Local

A Predisposition of Former Yugoslav States to Liberal Peace

Nemanja Džuverović

The critical literature on peacebuilding has mainly addressed the local and its agency in the post-conflict phase while the nexus between context occurring prior to the implementation of the liberal peace agenda and subsequent hybridization of the local and the international has largely been overlooked. Accordingly, this text discusses the idea that success of any peacebuilding project is also dependent on political, economic or social circumstances present in a country or region before international intervention. Hence, the article analyses the context in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (sfry) before the conflicts in the 1990s as a decisive factor to understanding successful implementation of the liberal peace in the region.

Cultural Capital in Times of Crisis

The Fragmentation of Sarajevo’s Post-War Cultural Elite

Jasmina Gavrankapetanović-Redžić

The crisis of state cultural institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina that started in 2010 peaked with the closure of the National Museum in 2012. The crisis exposed the fragmentation that was taking place within Sarajevo’s cultural elite and the increasing gap between the former state cultural institutions and the civil sector. This paper examines the entanglement between the memory of the siege of Sarajevo and the fractioning within Sarajevo’s cultural elite through Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital and social distinctions, using the examples of the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Sarajevo Film Festival.

Occupying the Land, Grabbing the Body

The Female Body as a Disposable Place of Colonialization in Post-Ottoman Bosnia-Herzegovina

Nena Močnik

This article traces trajectories of colonized bodies and (female) sexualities through the geopolitical and historical continuity in the territories of what is now Bosnia-Herzegovina. Starting with the historiographic overview of women under Ottoman rule, the author addresses the “patriarchal bargain,” that is, women’s (in)voluntary choice to accommodate the frame of patriarchal norms and restrictions. The second section moves to the period of the Bosnian war in the 1990s and turns to the study of female bodies subjected to “double colonialism.” If women had been previously codified, categorized, and disciplined through the patriarchal system, during the war, the author claims, the military, political, and cultural occupation of their “land” doubles the “colonialization.” In the third part of this study, the author observes how the history of (semi)colonial practices in Bosnia-Herzegovina is reflected in present cultural patterns and physical manifestations through women’s bodies as the phenomenon that some authors with (justified) hesitation call “neo-ottomanism.”

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).

Diana T. Kudaibergenova

This article examines diverse perceptions and discourses of Islam, fundamentalism, spirituality, and culture in the contemporary Central Asian context, revealed through the study of contemporary art and its discussions about these phenomena. While many online sources and social media accounts provide a framework for different types of religiosity—cultural, pious, or fundamental—contemporary art in the region serves as a platform for critiquing religion as a whole. I use the examples of the most famous works by prominent Central Asian contemporary artists, who discuss Tengriism, Islam, and other religious practices in their works, performances, and videos. The diversity of online platforms that transfer discussions of Islam and religion to the digital forums through which third-wave artists promote their works also create space for more pluralistic views of—and discourses on—Islam.

Wendell Schwab

There is an ongoing debate in Kazakhstani mass media over what constitutes proper Islamic belief and conduct. This paper examines a running dispute between Zikiriya Zhandarbek, an intellectual based at a university in southern Kazakhstan, and scripturalist Islamic institutions, such as the Kazakhstani Muftiate and the Islamic television channel Asyl Arna. In his tirades against “Salafist” and “untraditional” members of the Muftiate and Asyl Arna, Zhandarbek uses rhetoric inviting identification with domestic traditions and Akhmed Yasawi, a local Sufi saint. Conversely, scripturalists’ rhetoric identifies them as scholars working to revive knowledge of the Qur’an and Islam. However, both parties claim to represent the Kazakh nation, showing the overwhelming importance of nationalist rhetoric in Kazakhstan today.

Shahnoza Nozimova and Tim Epkenhans

The recent transformation of Tajikistan’s political system has significantly altered the social and political context in which the country’s lay Muslims and religious elites negotiate Islam and Islamic normativity. The quasi-governmental Islamic Center (Markazi Islomi) has taken on a more dominant role, becoming the sole official (state-approved) Islamic institution in Tajikistan defining Islamic normativity. In this work, we explore the rationale behind the Tajik state’s pursuit of this political trajectory, conduct a detailed examination of the religious edicts ( fatwas) issued by the Islamic Center, and identify its conservative trends. Our research suggests that the Islamic Center offers the Tajik government a way to achieve its much-desired monopoly over the religious field. Furthermore, we argue that the Islamic Center’s conservative interpretation of Islam, with its emphasis on political conformity, social patriarchy, and limited mystical experience, is far more “legible” and administratively manageable for the authoritarian regime than the previous religious pluralism.

Ulan Bigozhin

This paper examines the construction of Islamic authority in Kazakhstani online media. I build on the growing scholarship in Central Asian studies that questions the logocentric nature of Islamic authority, even for scripturalist Muslims. Taking the YouTube channel of Abdughappar Smanov as a case study, I argue that some scripturalist preachers in Kazakhstan construct their Islamic authority by tapping into Soviet, Kazakh, and global currents of masculinity and sport.

Marco Zoppi

This article focuses on the recent flow of asylum seekers from the Western Balkans to EU countries. It contends that the comparison with statistics of other extra-EU28 asylum seekers and migrants reveals specific features that justify the description of mobility from the Western Balkans as a distinct “flow within the flow”. In fact, such a flow was not rooted in humanitarian issues, but was rather part of the established labor mobility dynamics in the region. In this sense, mobility from the area is not understood as a new trend but in terms of continuity stemming from the economic system interconnecting the EU and its neighborhood, of which the Balkans are a part. The pivotal year for the analysis is identified as 2015, when mass migration flows transited along the “Balkan Route” in their quest to reach the central and northern countries of the continent. The author concludes that, although on a larger scale, the 2015 flows that originated from the Western Balkan countries are the outgrowth of ongoing relations, especially for what concerns labor market dynamics between the two neighboring regions. This article features some data and maps elaborated in the framework of activities for the targeted analysis “MIGRATUP – Territorial and Urban Potentials Connected to Migration and Refugee Flows”, financed by ESPON, which ran from July 2017 to July 2018.

How and Why Did the Laggards Turn Out to Be the Forerunners of a Major Transformation in the EU’s Integration Strategy?

Bulgaria and Romania’s Peculiar Role in Redefining the EU Integration Strategy

Georgi Dimitrov

For nearly a decade Bulgaria and Romania were considered the laggards of the Fifth EU Enlargement. They seemed unable to cope with the timing of their Europeanisation and, hence, the support they got from the EU was a mere continuation of the pre-accession conditionality in the form of post-accession monitoring, obscurely named “Cooperation and Verification Mechanism” (cvm). This paper presents some sound empirical evidence to prove that the cvm did not work as expected. The malfunction of the mechanism was pre-destined by a crucial mistake in its initial political design since it was meant, in the first place, to soothe the West European disappointment with the Fifth Enlargement in the context of the EU’s constitution project failure. It was not tailored to the needs of a post-communist society – to establish anew a rule-of-law (RoL) institutional system, which was the core societal problem. The real issue at stake was not the “unpreparedness” of the two neighbouring countries, but a major flaw in the approach of the EU enlargement policy, which has manifested lately, in a much harsher form of serious rule of law abuses, by the developments in the previous “best performers of the Fifth Enlargement” – Hungary and Poland.

Josipa Rizankoska and Jasmina Trajkoska

The true identity of the Colourful Revolution in North Macedonia was subject to contrasting public discourses. The authors provide a combined descriptive and micro-level empirical analysis, based on an original dataset, to prove that the Colourful Revolution complies with the essential elements of a social movement. They elaborate the main features of its collective identity by focusing on the perceptions of its participants (567 protesters were surveyed). A firm campaign for resignation of the executive government and for free judicial processes of the criminal charges for high-level political figures was detected. The Colourful Revolution’s repertoire contained calls for freedom, justice and solidarity, and the movement demonstrated strong unity beyond its internal social, ethnic and party diversity. The Colourful Revolution’s successful horizontal organization relied mostly on the internet, but the opposition political parties also played an important role in the processes of mobilization and endurance through time.

Bahtiyar Kurambayev, Mary L. Sheffer Ph.D. and Ecaterina Stepaniuc Ph.D.

The results of a survey of journalists in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan (N=211) demonstrate that they primarily see their societal role as being to mobilize people with common interests and provide objective analysis. The media’s traditional role as a watchdog, meanwhile, was rated least important by journalists in the country, which is widely considered the “most democratic” in Central Asia. The study also found that the majority described themselves as being “neither satisfied nor dissatisfied” professionally, a feeling directly impacted by their income, sense of autonomy, and supervisor’s perceived ability. Low salary, disagreement with editorial policy, and excessive pressure were found to be the leading reasons that Kyrgyz journalists left the profession. This research extends previous knowledge of journalists’ job satisfaction by examining the often-overlooked region of Central Asia. The surveys were conducted between April 29 and May 19, 2016, primarily in the Russian and Kyrgyz languages.

Stanislav Shkel

The regional machines created by the Russian governors in the mid-1990s turned out to be most effective in the ethnic republics. This phenomenon is supported by several facts, with the primary as follows: the density of the patronage networks among the rural ethnic minorities, and the economic heritage of the Soviet period and ethnical institutionalization. These factors allowed regional elites to integrate ethnic minorities into the clientelism structure to distribute symbolic and material benefits in exchange for their electoral support. However, at present, the federal authorities have considerably reduced the autonomy of the ethnic republics and deprived them of many ethnic preferences. Basing on the analysis of the electoral statistics from the Russian Presidential Election of 2018, this article researches the political consequences caused by the changed relationship between the center and the regions, as well as the changes in functioning of regional political machines in the circumstances where the governors’ institutional and resource autonomy has been reduced. The data analysis allowed for the discovery of the diversified electoral behavior of ethnic minorities in different republics. The reasons for the above diversification have been explained based on a comparative analysis of five case studies (the Republic of Bashkortostan, the Republic of Tatarstan, the Komi Republic, the Chuvash Republic, and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)).

Mari Aburamoto

United Russia (ur), which has served as one of the pillars of Russian authoritarianism, experienced a radical decline in its support around the time of Putin’s return to Presidency. In this study, I examine the regime’s responses to the declining support for ur by focusing on the nuanced relationship between the regime and ur. Especially important in this context is that ur can be characterized as a “party of power” that is embedded in the political system; this allows the regime to be opportunistic toward the party, but there is also a limitation in the extent that the regime can distance itself from the party. I demonstrate that the regime took various measures, including the creation of the All-Russia People’s Front (onf) to escape the ire of voters; however, the range of responses adopted did not lead to the replacement of ur.

Alexey Levinson

The 2018 Russian presidential election was effectively a contest not between Vladimir Putin and the other seven candidates on the ballot paper, but between Putin and the level of election turnout. Anything less than a large majority based on a respectable level of turnout would have undermined Putin’s legitimacy to serve for a further six-year term. In the event, Putin achieved his goal. Through the analysis of public opinion polls conducted by the Levada Center, we examine the background to the election. Putin’s success can be traced, first to long-standing patterns of differential turnout across the regions and, second, administrative initiatives by the election authorities which created a renewed confidence in the integrity of the election process.

Andrew M. Akin

An ever-growing body of scholarship on Russian foreign policy focuses attention to redefining concepts such as sovereignty and power. Aggressive and successful Russian foreign policy initiatives in the last decade give urgency and relevancy to such initiatives, from invading Georgia to deploying an aircraft carrier to support ground operations in Syria. While these proactive Russian foreign policies may characterize a reclamation of Russia’s great power status in the international community, I argue that the goal of Russia’s foreign policy is to create a new system, not beholden to the u.s.-led Western world. By undermining the legitimacy of Western style democracy and pushing the boundaries of existing norms in the international community, Russian President Vladimir Putin offers a new construct for international relations: the polycentric world order. Using Role Theory, I discuss the domestic and international pressures on the Russian state to create its identity and the evolution of Russian roles in previous international systems. Formal leader statements and official policy documents provide evidence of the changing roles Russia plays in the international arena, while role theory provides an explanatory context for the purpose of new Russian foreign policy.

Richard Sakwa

A revisionist state would seek to challenge the existing balance of power in the system and threaten the foundations of the system itself. This does not apply to contemporary Russia. It seeks to enhance its status within the existing framework of international society. Russian neo-revisionism does not attempt to create new rules or to advance an alternative model of the international system but to ensure the universal and consistent application of existing norms. Russia’s neo-revisionism represents a critique of western practices in defense of the universal proclaimed principles. It is not the principles of international law and governance that Russia condemns but the practices that accompany their implementation. This reflected Russia’s broader perception in the post-Cold War era that it was locked into a strategic stalemate, and that the country was forced into a politics of resistance. This has taken many forms, including the creation of an anti-hegemonic alignment with China and others. For Moscow, it was the West that had become revisionist, not Russia. Although the implementation of applicable norms was patchy, Russia did not repudiate them. In its relations with the European Union, Russia’s neo-revisionist stance means that it was unable to become simply the passive recipient of eu norms, and instead tried to become a co-creator of Europe’s destiny. The struggle is not only over contested norms, but also over who has the prerogative to claim their norms as universal. However, it was precisely at the level of practices that there was least room for compromise, and thus Russian neo-revisionism became another form of the impasse, and only intensified tensions between Russia and the Atlantic system.

Natsuko Oka

Previous studies on informal exchanges in the health care sector in post-socialist states have extensively discussed their complex and diverse nature, in particular the difficulty in distinguishing between gratuities and bribes given to health care providers. In examining this in Kazakhstan, I argue that the ongoing privatization of health care has blurred the boundary between official user fees and informal payments given as a reward for quality care. This has, in turn, sharpened the contrast between informal payments given in the expectation of proper treatment and money extorted by health practitioners. This paper also demonstrates that ordinary people often circumvent formal procedures by using money to obtain services to which they are not officially entitled or to gain access to public medical funding.

Lukas Anderson

Iran’s state identity is frequently described as Islamist, Shia, and anti-imperialist when discussing its behavior in the Middle East, but as pragmatic and even non-ideological in its approach to Central Asia. By parsing Iranian officials' speeches and purpose-written schoolbooks for ideology, this article documents the multiple identities that cultural diplomats present in Tajikistan and the functions they perform, including propagating normative Iranian identity among Iranian expats, lobbying Tajik officials, and influencing Tajik citizens. In contrast to the Middle East, Iranian cultural diplomacy in Tajikistan prioritizes a Persian identity as the basis for economic, scientific, cultural, and political integration in the region. Moreover, this identity is being discursively securitized as a strategic asset and an answer to threats from Salafism and globalization.

Scaling the Balkans

Essays on Eastern European Entanglements


Maria N. Todorova

Scaling the Balkans puts in conversation several fields that have been traditionally treated as discrete: Balkan studies, Ottoman studies, East European studies, and Habsburg and Russian studies. By looking at the complex interrelationship between countries and regions, demonstrating how different perspectives and different methodological approaches inflect interpretations and conclusions, it insists on the heuristic value of scales. The volume is a collection of published and unpublished essays, dealing with issues of modernism, backwardness, historical legacy, balkanism, post-colonialism and orientalism, nationalism, identity and alterity, society-and nation-building, historical demography and social structure, socialism and communism in memory, and historiography.


Mirosław Rudnicki

The The Olsztyn Group in the Early Medieval Archaeology of the Baltic Region: The Cemetry at Leleszki deals with a much neglected problem of the archaeology of the early Middle Ages. Between the 5th and the 7th century, the region of the Mazurian Lakes in northeastern Poland witnessed the rise of communities engaged in long-distant contacts with both Western and Eastern Europe. Known as the Olsztyn Group, the archaeological remains of those communities have revealed a remarkable wealth and diversity, which has attracted scholarly attention for more than 130 years. Besides offering a survey of the current state of research on the Olsztyn Group, Mirosław Rudnicki introduces the monographic study of the Leleszki cemetery (district of Szczytno, Poland) as one of the most representative sites. The prosperity and long-distance contact revealed by the examination of this cemetery shows that the West Baltic tribes had considerable influence in early medieval Europe, much more than scholars had been ready to admit until now.

Teresa Maria Cierco

This article analyzes the conditions and challenges for security sector reform (ssr) in Macedonia since 2001. One of the main pressures which the Western community has been able to wield for reform and for post-conflict normalization in Macedonia has been the conditional offer of integration into key Western organizations – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (nato) and the European Union (eu). In the absence of a widespread domestic consensus, the sustainability of ssr relies on the leverage that nato and the eu can bring to bear. But, with no date to begin negotiations with the eu and with the Greek veto to Macedonia entrance to nato, what can happen to ssr in the country? Moreover, how can local ownership of ssr be cultivated in Macedonia where the international community has played the lead role in initiating reform? Addressing ssr developments in Macedonia, the article surveys the challenges in two key component areas of the country’s security sector – armed forces and police – arguing that, without clear perspectives of joining nato or the eu in the near future, ssr in Macedonia is seriously compromised.

Editors The Journal of Belarusian Studies

Yaraslau Kryvoi

Imposed State-Building

Comparing Dayton and Minsk

Hanna Shelest

For the past two years, there have been constant discussions about the possible ‘Bosnianisation’ of Ukrainian conflict management and peacebuilding, meaning both the Dayton process mechanism’s implementation and the possible ‘federalisation’ of Ukraine due to the Minsk agreements. While the two conflicts have significant differences in terms of roots, reasons and development, attempts at their resolution, as well as possible outcomes of the peace processes, have certain similarities. In this article, based on the constructivist approach and method of induction, the author compares the outcomes of the agreements reached in Dayton in 1995 and in Minsk in 2015 and analyses securitisation of state-building, ‘federalisation’ and identity issues during the peace negotiations, along with a state structure imposed by the external actors. Hereby we argue that the Dayton scenario in terms of the state-building is significantly different from what has happened in Ukraine due to their respective historical and ethnic backgrounds. Moreover, a peace agreement per se is not able to form a federal state if there are not sufficient preconditions for substantial decentralisation of the state.

R. Craig Nation

The wars in former Yugoslavia from 1991–2001, and Ukraine from 2014 to the present, provide revealing examples of the ways in which contemporary armed conflict is evolving. Their origins lay in domestic rather than inter-state disputes, and they emerged as civil wars born of state failure. The belligerent factions were diverse, including established states, new national polities, and radicalized non-state actors. Operationally the wars were liquid conflicts where adversaries, lacking decisive combat power, often shunned conventional military objectives in favor of attacks on populations, terroristic posturing, and symbolic gestures. The conflicts were internationalized, with powerful external actors at odds over responsibility and preferred outcomes. They were European wars, with European and Euro-Atlantic institutions directly engaged in conflict management, peace enforcement, and post-conflict peace building. The conflicts have contributed to the break down of cooperative security in 21st century Europe and the re-opening of an East-West divide running through the heart of the continent. Managing and containing such clashes is and will remain a major strategic challenge.

Values for the Sake of the (Post-Soviet) Nation

Patriotism(s) and the Search for the ‘True’ Self in Ukraine

Marco Puleri

The aim of this paper is to deeply rethink and better understand the different approaches to ‘value-based’ politics – and social subroupings’ reactions to it – in the post-Soviet area through the lens of the Ukrainian scene, by analysing both the political and cultural narratives which have emerged in the aftermath of the recent Ukrainian-Russian clash of discourses. An accurate tracking of the policies normativising the field of culture on the one hand, and of blurred cultural boundaries on the other, will help us to question the fixed constructs of national and cultural identity when looking at the everchanging post-Soviet social milieus. This could lead to a general reassessment of the dynamics of self-representation in the post-Soviet cultural and political scene.

Jelica Minić

There are many questions to be answered regarding the future of Western Balkan stability. What has been done in establishing stability in the region in the last two decades? How much has the overall context of stabilization of the region changed? a) what were the developments at the regional scene — internal reforms, bilateral relations, functioning of multilateral cooperation mechanisms? b) how much has the constellation of external partnerships changed, influencing the internal processes in the Western Balkan states and their mutual relations? c) what are the prevailing perceptions and concepts regarding possible developments in the future? Different approaches could be chosen in answering these questions. In this paper attention will mainly be paid to the existing pillars of stabilization. Besides accession to the eu, with its standard procedures and phases, and the Berlin Process as an innovative tool complementing the enlargement policy and providing it with an additional impetus, a special focus will be put on the regional mechanisms of cooperation which involve various actors (with different political relevance), layers of governance, sectors and scope of coverage, and with different levels of impact on stability in the region.

Virginie Lasnier

An important literature on Russian civil society discusses its evolution, challenges, and prospects under Vladimir Putin. In particular, scholars show how the regime skillfully uses a mixture of coercive and channeling strategies to direct civil society into the ‘right path’, namely in the service of the regime. Perhaps the most glaring example of channeling strategies is the direct creation of CSOs from above, such as pro-regime youth groups. These groups are mean to orient public participation into accepted limits fixed by the state, often mimicking and duplicating grassroot organizations. But to what extent have they been effective in creating loyalty for the regime? In this paper, I focus on the little success that one of the most famous pro-regime youth groups, Nashi (Ours), paradoxically achieved in channeling civil society. While Nashi undeniably brought important benefits to some participants at the individual level, its effects at the societal level are significantly more limited. This is because, I argue, Nashi’s fate, just like many other state-projects, depended primarily on internal competition among self-interested elites. Instead of representing a coherent state strategy toward the youth and civil society, Nashi was mirroring the influence of power-maximizing individuals. The arguments of this paper are drawn from participant observations and from interviews with (then) current and former Nashi activists, as well as with other civil society experts

Ulla Pape

With more than one million people living with HIV, Russia is facing the biggest HIV epidemic in Europe and is one of the few countries in the world where infection rates are increasing. The response to the epidemic is shaped by the way Russian state actors and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) view the issue of HIV and how they define policy priorities.

In order to understand the factors that underlie HIV policies in Russia, this contribution analyses the framing of HIV. It thereby makes use of framing theory. Based on document analysis and interviews with NGO experts, the article differentiates between four main framings in Russia: the framing of HIV as a medical issue, as a security threat, as a moral problem or as a human rights concern.

In Russia, the moral framing of HIV has become dominant over the past decade. The epidemic is increasingly viewed as the result of harmful influences from the West which need to be overcome. As a result, Russia has departed from evidence-based approaches to HIV. Instead, it solely focuses on strengthening so-called “traditional values”, e.g. by engaging in healthy lifestyle promotion. The moral framing of HIV has also impacted the mobilization potential of Russian NGOs, as it favour those organizations that relate to the dominant framing of HIV and support government priorities.

Yana Gorokhovskaia

Conventional wisdom holds that civil society is a sphere of activity separate from the state and the private realm. Due to a combination of historical, developmental and institutional factors, Russian civil society today is dominated by the state. While not all interactions with the state are seen as harmful, scholars acknowledge that most politically oriented or oppositional non-governmental organizations today face difficult conditions in Russia. In response to the restrictions on civil society and the unresponsive nature of Russia’s hybrid authoritarian regime, some civil society actors in Moscow have made the transition into organized politics at the local level. This transition was motivated by their desire to solve local problems and was facilitated by independent electoral initiatives which provided timely training and support for opposition political candidates running in municipal elections. Once elected, these activists turned municipal deputies are able to perform some of the functions traditionally ascribed to civil society, including enforcing greater accountability and transparency from the state and defending the interest of citizens.

Alfred Evans and Eleanor Bindman

This article serves as an introduction to this special issue on recent developments in civil society organization and strategies in Russia. Despite the widespread assumption that the increased restrictions placed on NGO activity by the state in recent years have hampered their ability to operate, we argue that civil society in Russia continues to show signs of vitality. This is demonstrated by the fact that protests by ordinary Russians have grown and have often led to the formation of new groups and movements which have had some success in campaigning on specific issues. As the articles in this special issue highlight, one of the key tools affecting whether or not such movements can be successful in achieving their aims is that of framing. When organizations are able to frame the issue they are campaigning on in such a way as to resonate with ordinary people and avoid directly challenging the balance of power within Russia’s political system, they tend to enjoy more success than those groups which tend to take a more confrontational stance and thus face greater pushback and sanction from the authorities. This serves to highlight that NGOs and other civil society groups in Russia employ a range of different strategies and enjoy very different relationships with the authorities as a result.

Elizabeth Plantan

Despite the increasingly authoritarian atmosphere in Russia and China, mass protests in both countries are pervasive, including protest motivated by environmental grievances. Existing scholarship often focuses on the sources, spread, or volume of mass mobilization, but few examine how civil society actors themselves evaluate the tactic. How does the state respond to environmentally-motivated mass mobilization? In light of the state’s response, how have activists altered their approach to mass mobilization over time? Using case studies and interviews, I find that Russian and Chinese environmental groups approach mass mobilization in distinct ways. Over time, Russian activists have increasingly turned to mass tactics, including coordinated regional protest. Meanwhile, Chinese ENGOs have reduced their formal involvement in such campaigns, limiting visible horizontal linkages between environmental groups. These approaches are shaped by the different historical legacies of mass mobilization in either country, which also shape state perceptions of the threat posed by environmental activism.

Alfred Evans

Most protests in Russia in recent years have not demanded the transformation of that country’s political regime. Instead, most of those protests have focused on specific policy goals that have reflected disruptions in the daily lives of groups of citizens. In 2017 a heated debate erupted when Sergei Sobianin, the Mayor of Moscow, announced a plan to demolish and replace hundreds of thousands of old apartments in that city. While many residents of those apartments welcomed that plan, many others charged that it threatened to infringe on their right of ownership of private property. The plan was subjected to vigorous criticism both at the grass roots level and the elite level. The national leadership and the government of Moscow became involved in revising the legislation to authorize Sobianin’s plan that had been introduced in the national legislature. Before the law was approved, the leaders had made a number of concessions to its critics.

Murad Ismayilov

By the time Azerbaijan became independent in 1991, it had spent seven decades subsumed into the militant atheism of the Soviet modernization project. Moreover, it emerged into the staunchly secular international context of Western modernity. These two factors combined with the tough reality of the country’s precarious geography to promise a sustained indigenous effort to desacralize the country’s political space and exclude religion from politics, a blueprint common to the modern world and one which Azerbaijani state and society have united to pursue over the course of the country’s independent existence. Yet the specific dynamics facing the country in the third decade of independence and the changing contours of its international engagements have been working to loosen up the latter formula, laying the groundwork for a quintessentially Azerbaijani pathway of statehood that will combine the nation’s historical embeddedness in an Islamic milieu with its century-old practical experience of modern policymaking.

Tristan Kenderdine

China’s Belt and Road geoindustrial policy is dependent on upgrading transport logistics throughout the Middle East and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. However, the key International Capacity Cooperation policy also aims to move industrial plants abroad in support of China’s wider import strategy. Planning this industrial offshoring not only requires significant domestic industrial policy governance coordination, with policy being formed at the center and transmitted to lower levels of China’s administrative hierarchy, but also involves traversing largely unmapped policy territory, namely international multilevel governance cooperation with host countries in Central Asia. Taking the International Capacity Cooperation policy as its focus, this paper examines China’s geoeconomic industrial policy in Kazakhstan, arguing that greater public administration interdependence is needed to develop China’s foreign policy into genuine regional economic cooperation.

Aisulu Kulbayeva

This study illustrates a key existing challenge to realizing trilingualism as a major nation-building language ideology: the ideological polycentricity of multilingual signs—that is, the simultaneous orientation of multilingual signs to several authority centers. Combining diverse linguistic landscape (LL) methodologies such as code preferences (language choices and placement on a sign), indexical orders (patterns that index meta-messages), and polycentricity (a simultaneous orientation toward multiple centers), I examine how three state-approved languages (Kazakh, Russian, and English) are positioned on 346 state and private signs in a small town in northern Kazakhstan. The analysis reveals a range of indexical orders at the level of sign type: monolingual, bilingual, and trilingual sign types of horizontal, vertical, and centralized code combinations. At the level of signage group, bilingual Kazakh-Russian and trilingual Kazakh-Russian-English signs dominate in the top-down group, while monolingual Russian and bilingual Kazakh-Russian signs with centralized Russian dominate in the bottom-up group. The identified indexical orders indicate ideological polycentricity in town public signage, which presents a challenge for the nation-building process.