Anne de Tinguy (dir.)

Looking into Eurasia : the year in politics provides some keys to understand the events and phenomena that have left their imprint on a region that has undergone major mutation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the post-soviet space. With a cross-cutting approach that is no way claims to be exhaustive, this study seeks to identify the key drivers, the regional dynamics and the underlying issues at stake

Anne de Tinguy (dir.)

Looking into Eurasia : the year in politics provides some keys to understand the events and phenomena that have left their imprint on a region that has undergone major mutation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the post-soviet space. With a cross-cutting approach that is no way claims to be exhaustive, this study seeks to identify the key drivers, the regional dynamics and the underlying issues at stake

Anne de Tinguy (dir.)

Looking into Eurasia : the year in politics provides some keys to understand the events and phenomena that have left their imprint on a region that has undergone major mutation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the post-soviet space. With a cross-cutting approach that is no way claims to be exhaustive, this study seeks to identify the key drivers, the regional dynamics and the underlying issues at stake

Bayram Balci, Juliette Tolay

While the issue of Syrian refugees has led an increasing number of countries to work on curbing arrivals, one country, Turkey, hosts almost half of these refugees. Yet, far from imposing restrictions, Turkey has distinguished itself for its open border policy and large-scale humanitarian contribution. Turkey’s generosity alone is not sufficient to understand this asylum policy put in place specifically for Syrians. There are indeed a number of political factors that indicate a certain level of instrumentalisation of this issue. In particular, Turkey’s benevolent attitude can be explained by Turkey’s early opposition to Assad in the Syrian conflict and its wish to play a role in the post-conflict reconstruction of Syria, as well as by its willingness to extract material and symbolic benefits from the European Union. But the refugee crisis also matters at the level of domestic politics, where different political parties (in power or in the opposition) seem to have used the refugee issue opportunistically, at the expense of a climate favorable to Syrians’ healthy integration in Turkey

"Looking into Eurasia" provides some keys to understand the events and phenomena that have left their imprint on a region that has undergone major mutation since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991: the post-soviet space. With a cross-cutting approach that is no way claims to be exhaustive, this study seeks to identify the key drivers, the regional dynamics and the underlying issues at stake.

Gilles Lepesant

One week before the third Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius on November 28-29, 2013, Ukraine suspended the preparation of an association agreement with the European Union, which had been under negotiation since 2007. When the agreement was finally signed in June 2014, President Yanukovych had fled the country under people’s pressure, and the integrity of Ukraine was challenged in the East by separatists and their Russian allies. These events came paradoxically at a time when the country's cohesion seemed stronger than in the 1990s. Far from being divided into two parts, Ukraine consists of the pieces of broken empires that all have good reasons to join in the state, as recent as this one may be. Indeed, its geography, electoral or economic, does not show a split between two blocks, but various lines of division that do not necessarily herald the breaking up of the state. Since the independence, this diversity had never been translated into new institutions: for several reasons, the reshaping of the centralized regime inherited from the Soviet era was deemed untimely by the country’s political forces. Presented as a priority by the members of the Parliament elected in 2014, the reform of territorial government is being implemented while Ukraine’s driving regions are either paralyzed or threatened by war.

Youth delinquency has been a hot topic in Russian society for many years. Numerous associations, NGOs and international organizations have raised public awareness of the problem and have encouraged the government to place judicial reform on its agenda. However, debate over how to apply it, the various possible models and how to structure the relationship between social and judicial institutions has been limited. Discussion has instead focused on the relative priorities to be given to the interests of children versus those of the family, so-called “traditional” versus “liberal” values, and the extent to which the State should interfere in the private lives of Russian citizens. Discussion of the actual situation of children at risk and the concrete problems posed by reform have been overshadowed by rumors, encouraged by a discourse of fear in an increasingly violent society that tend to distort the real problems. Additionally, implementation of international norms and judicial reform has been largely blocked by the patriotic agenda of the State.

Françoise Daucé

Many online newspapers were created in Russia during the early 2000s, which gave rise to hopes concerning further developments of media pluralism. Their day-to-day operations differ little from those of their Western counterparts. They are subject to the same technical possibilities and to the same financial limitations. Under the increasingly authoritarian Russian regime, however, these common constraints can become political. Economic constraints on editorial boards, limitations on their sources of advertising revenue, administrative requirements, and surveillance of Internet providers are all tools used for political purposes. This article uses the examples of the major news sites that are lenta.ru and gazeta.ru, and the more specialized sites, snob.ru and grani.ru, to show how this political control is based on the diversity of ordinary constraints, which procedures and justifications are both unpredictable and dependent on the economic situation. The result is that political control is both omnipresent and elusive, constantly changing.

Due to the growing importance of religion in post-Soviet Russia and the prevalent place of the Orthodox Church in Russian politics, certain analysts have argued that Russia is undergoing a process of desecularization today. While this phenomenon is also occurring in other parts of the world, Russia is different from these cases—notably because of its sociopolitical history and its particular religious context. Instead of opposing this trend toward desecularization to the earlier trend toward secularization at the time of the Soviet Union, the emphasis is put on the continuity of governemental practices. Religion today has become an essential part of a mode of governing that was made possible through a form of identity-building reinvented by the elites. This mode of governing reflects to a certain extent the continuity of the Soviet mode of governing characterized by a non pluralist ideology.

Françoise Daucé

Collective mobilizations in post-Soviet Russia constitute an enigma for Western political sociology due to their numerical weakness and their incapacity to strengthen democratic practices in the country. This perplexity can be explained by the unsuitability of the research tools used for their study. Academic research on social mobilization has long been based primarily on postulates concerning the modernization of social movements in a economically and politically liberal context. Western and Russian leaders involved in the transition process demonstrated a will to foster the constitution of organizations independent from the State and the creation of a civil society as an opposition force. In the early 90’s, the practices of voluntary organizations in Russia became closer to Western ones. Notions such as “associative entrepreneurship”, “professionalization” or “frustration” were shared by Russian movements. However, later evolutions showed the unsuitability of these concepts to understanding the full complexity of these movements. That is why this issue of “Research in question” aims to suggest new theoretical perspectives for studying associations in Russia. These are at the crossroads of various grammars, where civic and liberal principles are combined with domestic and patriotic preoccupations. This complexity, which resists a purely liberal vision of social organizations, draws convergent criticisms against their action. In order to investigate this complexity of practices as well as criticisms, the tools produced by a pragmatic and multiculturalist sociology are useful to show the diversity of social and political bonds that link militants in contemporary Russia.

Myriam Désert

What are the roots of the informal sector and what effects does it have? Is it a blessing or a curse? Changes in post-Soviet Russia contribute new food for thought to a debate that had previously been nourished primarily by considerations on the situation in developing countries. In Russia can be observed processes of formalization - and “deformalization” – of the rules governing not only the practices of economic actors, but also in the rarified distribution of public services publics. The analysis of actual informal practices feeds thinking about the relations between economic and political changes: what impact do they have in setting up a market economy and the rule of law, and in the reconfiguration of both the economic and social arena? An investigation into the way Russian academic circles and social actors view the informal sector sheds light on the various behavioral determinant: reaction to the economic context, cultural roots, social beliefs, and so on. The case of Russia illustrates how the informal sector is not only a mode of action that circumvents legal guidelines, but also a mode of sociability that rejects anonymous social relations. It helps examine ways to reinject the social aspect into economics

Françoise Daucé, Myriam Désert, Marlène Laruelle, Anne Le Huérou

Since the second half of the 1990s, the theme of national revival crystallized in Russia, notably in the form of a promotion of patriotism. The apparent convergence between an offer “from above” and a demand “from below” supports the idea that there exists a kind of patriotic consensus in Russia. This new tense and autarchic fusion between state and society summons old stereotypes about Russo- Soviet culture. This issue of Questions of Research seeks to go back over these stereotypes in order to show the diversity of “patriotic” practices in Russia today (which widely surpass the “militarist” variant generally evoked) and the connected social uses that are made of it. Following an overview of the existing literature on Russian nationalism and patriotism, as well as a presentation of the patriotic education curricula being implemented by the Russian state, our study on “patriotic” practices continues through several points of observation (patrioti c summer clubs and camps for children and adolescents in Saint- Petersburg, Moscow and Omsk; ethno-cultural organizati ons; Orthodox religious organizations; and the discursive practices of economic actors). The examination of these different terrains reveals the diversity of everyday “patriotic” activities; and illustrates their utilization to multiple ends (pragmatic concern for one’s professional career, search for a personal source of inspirati on, opportunities for enrichment, pleasure of undertaking activiti es with one’s friend and relations…). In the end, these fieldwork surveys reveal motivations and commitments in which official patriotic discourse and the image of state are often secondary, sometimes even denied.

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski

The post-Soviet Russian army, having decided to maintain the draft, must address issues associated with the existence of ethnic and religious minorities; specifically the growing numbers of Muslims and the proselytizing by the Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church’s policy of blessing the troops is the source of growing discontent among the Muslim community. The two conflicts in Chechnya have further contributed to the difficulties faced by the army’s Muslim minority. However, protests by Muslim leaders have lost their legitimacy since 1999. The policies of reconciliation led by Vladimir Putin have born fruit. The Muslim religious authorities have become increasingly involved in the draft, army officers have been educated about the basic principles of Islam, and “stroibaty” have been dismantled. The management of the forces however remains a source of tension, most notably the official policy of using the reorganization of local and ethnic groups to eradicate the “dedovchtchina”. Given the growth of the Muslim population what can we expect from a move to a professional army? Will the armed forces mirror the diversity of the nation or will they be ethnically and religiously homogeneous?

Adeline Braux

Hostile, sometimes even xenophobic discourse towards migrants remains generally the norm in Russia. However, the Russian Federation’s migration policy appears relatively flexible, particularly in regards to the member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), whose nationals benefit from simplified procedures when it comes to entering Russian territory and obtaining a work permit. Russian authorities, reticent after the Western Europe experience, intend therefore to promote labor immigration and limit family immigration. At the same time, in order to encourage the cohesion of the Russian nation as a whole, the Russian Federation intends to undertake an ambitious policy to promote cultural diversity, including both the many different constituent groups among Russians and the immigrant communities in Russia. This multiculturalism “à la russe” recalls the “folklorization” during the Soviet period involving the cultures and traditions of the Soviet Union’s different populations. In the absence of a real political directive a the federal level, local authorities have been more active on the matter, notably in Moscow.

Marlène Laruelle

When the USSR collapsed, about 25 million Russians suddenly found themselves outside the Federation borders. This Russian diaspora has since then been defended by various lobbies based in Moscow. Some have simply the status of an association; others enjoy considerable institutional recognition in Parliament, various ministries or the executive in Moscow. The diaspora theme has undergone a profound evolution in the Russian political space: during the early 1990s it was first considered as a nationalist demand initiated within marginal circles, and since then has progressively been taken up by the state as a “politically correct” stance. In the space of 15 years, organizations defending the Russian diaspora’s rights have managed to become totally institutionalized and have gained influence on legislation regarding federal aid to the diaspora. The wide variety of terminology used to name this phenomenon, the use of the word ‘compatriot’ (judicially improper), the ethnicisation of the discourse, as well as the administrative efforts made to develop new and depoliticized conceptions of the Russian diaspora all show the underlying identity issues behind the diaspora question.

Caroline Dufy

Barter was a prominent issue in public debate during the 1990s in Russia: it prompted a more overall reflection on the nature of the Russian economy and the aim pursued by economic reforms. These major issues shaped a number of divisions: the government opposition portrayed barter as one of the pernicious effects of economic policies that gave priority to finance to the detriment of the national productive sphere. For others, it was to be interpreted as the legacy of the Soviet industrial sector and its lack of competitiveness. The ruble crisis in 1998 paved the way for a reverse trend leading to the sudden decline of barter. Unlike the initial growth phase, the decrease in barter gave rise to little comment. Yet these two colliding changes provide an opportunity to review the relevance of the various interpretations offered. Furthermore, the effort to recontextualizing barter in an historic perspective provides keys to understanding the immense changes that occurred in Russia in the 1990s. The statistical indicator of barter will serve as a basis to formulate a central question: how should this swift decline of barter, offer a long, sustained increase, be interpreted: is it an adaptation in trade behavior to the new economic conditions or the effect of more restrictive legal standards? In the latter case, does this official decrease mask economic practices that are moving toward the informal sector? To understand the barter trade requires looking beyond stylized facts. By nature, statistics tend to objectify multifaceted phenomena. Our analysis fits within the anthropology of economic exchanges, striving to reconstitute the dynamic and subjective dimension that the actors’ practices and discourses give to barter. From this standpoint, we show that barter is the product of constant interactions between legal processes, economic context and socio-cultural context. The statistical decline of the barter indicator in that case seems to be one of the visible effects of deep-seated changes that have marked the new working environment for Russian business.

Sébastien Colin

Since the resumption of talks between China and Russia – still the Soviet Union when this occurred in the mid- 1980s, relations between the two countries have been particularly dynamic. On the international level, the two countries in fact share the same viewpoint on a number of issues. These mutual concerns led to the signing of a strategic partnership in 1997, then a new treaty of friendship in 2001. The complementarity between the two countries in the energy and arms sectors also stimulates cooperation. However, this alliance is not without its limits. The United States, its primary target, can easily short-circuit it, as it did just after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In the field of cooperation, the intensity and structure of trade between the two countries are both inadequate. The rise in trade during the 1990s was very uneven and marked by a drop between 1994 and 1996. The main causes of this are situated at the local echelon along the Chinese-Russian border. After the dynamism characteristic of the 1988-1993 period, the opening of the border triggered new problems, such as illegal Chinese immigration in the little-inhabited border zones of Russia. Although this trend caused friction among the local Russian population, it was mainly the retrocession of certain Russian territories to China when the border was demarcated between 1993 and 1997 that radicalized the inhabitants, paralyzing border cooperation. The Russian and Chinese government played an active role in attempting to resolve most of these disputes, as the Tumen program illustrated. Since then, the various authorities in the two countries have tried to revitalize border cooperation, but a number of problems remain that are mainly economic in nature and vary depending on the border region.

Anne Gazier

A year after the failed putsch of August 1991, what kind of power system has been established in Russia? This study of changes in local power in five neighbouring regions (Kursk, Lipetsk, Tambov, Voronez, Belgorod) which all belong to the same economic zone throws light on an amazing continuity with the past. New local, ostensibly "democratic" institutions have been set up in the region and "liberal" free market reforms have been introduced. Yet despite these changes power still remains in the hands of the former nomenklatura. Moreover this has occured with the tacit approval and support of the Moscow authorities. Furthermore the way power is exercised harks back to the authoritarian methods and means which characterized the Soviet system

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