The Putin Doctrine? How the concepts of a 20th century thinker ostracized by the Soviets assist to form Russia’s new international coverage

By Piotr Dutkiewicz, a member of the Valdai Club Academic Council and Director of the Center for Governance and Public Policy at Carleton University, Canada.

In latest years, Vladimir Putin has talked about a number of occasions the concepts of Lev Gumilev – one of many fathers of contemporary Eurasianism – within the context of the roles of civilization and cultural elements in Russian home politics.

In an article ostensibly about Ukraine, printed final week, the Russian president expanded Gumilev’s preliminary argument, outlining what we would now name Putin’s Civilizational Doctrine in International Relations.

Before analyzing this doctrine’s key factors and potential worldwide penalties, let me take a step again to briefly hint its roots. Why Gumilev, and why now?

Lev Gumilev was the son of Russian literary icon Anna Akhmatova and Nikolay Gumilev, a tsarist officer and poet. He grew to become a outstanding social geographer, ethnographer, and anthropologist whose work centered on the function of tradition, historical past, geography, and spirituality within the technique of the formation of the Russian nation. He was an exponent of Russian uniqueness and greatness.

Such ideas weren’t fashionable with the leaders of the multinational Soviet Union and the authorities rejected his concepts, whereas banning most of his texts from publication. However, he lastly attracted mainstream public consideration throughout the Perestroika years, within the late 1980s.

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Being a novel civilization doesn’t, in line with Gumilev, preclude the acceptance of both European values or political multipolarity. His views present a template, as British journalist Charles Clover has argued within the Financial Times, “for a synthesis of nationalism and internationalism that could form the founding idea of a new Eurasia, a singular political unit enjoying much the same frontiers as the USSR.” Gumilev’s Russia has its personal nice future however must be open to inter-civilizational dialogue. This stands in stark distinction to some extra excessive and closed variations of neo-Eurasianism. 

For a conservative politician like Vladimir Putin, main Russia throughout a interval of worldwide turbulence, Gumilev’s mixture of cultural and spiritual-based prophesy of Russian greatness has served as an excellent basis for Putin to counsel that the civilizational uniqueness of Russia can be utilized in not solely the home but in addition the worldwide agenda. Thus, Putin proposed that Russian civilization can grow to be a body of reference for relations with neighboring nations.

In different phrases, he has proposed that historical past, tradition, and religion are de facto elementary various bonds that unite Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus as well as, alternation, and even opposite to the extent of state-to-state relations.

Basically, Putin put ahead 4 propositions. First, he acknowledged that historical past issues quite a bit in worldwide relations, as “Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians are all descendants of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe,” creating a really sturdy unifying basis for his or her statehood and nation-building. Secondly, the actual fact Russian civilization embraced concurrently three nations and Soviet insurance policies disrupted that: “[…] Soviet national policy secured at the state level the provision on three separate Slavic peoples: Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian, instead of the large Russian nation, a triune people comprising Velikorussians, Malorussians and Belorussians.” Thirdly, he argued that […] trendy Ukraine is solely the product of the Soviet period: “We know,” writes Putin, “and remember well that it was shaped – for a significant part – on the lands of historical Russia.” Finally, he proposed that cultural, religious and historic unity is disrupted by the present Ukrainian political elites.

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I’ll go away it for the historians, anthropologists, and sociologists to debate Putin’s historic claims about previous relations between Russia and Ukraine, and I’m positive his arguments will stir lots of heated debate amongst them.

But what’s most fascinating from a global relations perspective are the concepts that kind the muse of Putin’s new Russian IR doctrine, which treats civilization as a potent body of reference in inter-state relations. In the circumstances of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, cultures might exceed different formal associations. “Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians,” writes Putin, “are [all] the heirs of Ancient Rus, which was the largest state in Europe.” The suggestion right here is that civilizational bonds is perhaps extra steady, deeper, and much more human than inter-governmental relations based mostly on nationwide pursuits and intermediated by the three nations’ present political management.

Putin’s article opens not less than 4 interconnected avenues for interpretation of how Russia might behave internationally and construction her relations with the rapid neighborhood.

It might sign that Russia is becoming a member of different highly effective actors like China, India, Iran, and different “revisionist states” in viewing world politics as coming into a brand new period outlined by the multiplicity of cultural and civilizational discourses, by which civilization turns into one of many essential components within the new construction of worldwide relations (along with states, worldwide organizations and regulation, and regional/world social actions).

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It might counsel that the Russian chief believes that the lengthy interval of the final three centuries by which the West has been a dominant financial, cultural, and political pressure is just not solely ending however is being changed by a brand new paradigm. This paradigm options the emergence of the civilizational mannequin of worldwide relations and regional dialogue, by which cultural/civilizational similarities and variations will probably affect world patterns of collaboration, confrontation, and dependence.

It additionally might imply that on the planet of civilizations, some smaller- and mid-sized states (like Belarus or Ukraine) should make essential selections which will reshape the present type of geopolitics based mostly on energy relations to suit a mannequin based mostly on adherence to a regionally or globally dominant civilization.

Given that civilizations have gotten a vital aspect of worldwide politics, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus might want to sq. the circle between rational and cultural/religious elements that affect the evolving inter-state dialogue with Ukraine and Belarus. This want arises as a result of civilizations embody spiritual, cultural, unconscious, and historic concerns – as described by Putin’s paper – which will grow to be an essential issue within the political decision-making. Civilization rests on its contributors’ religion in becoming a member of a selected stream of historical past. While the ultimate historic vacation spot is unclear, an embedded sense of belonging varieties the bottom upon which members of a civilization floor their sense of goal 1. So, the selection of being collectively or separate (within the case of Ukraine and Belarus) is usually the selection of the folks moderately than the political institution of the day.

It stays to be seen whether or not Putin’s intention was to stipulate a framework for a coherent civilization-based approach – a doctrine of worldwide relations – that begins with Ukraine and Belarus and can then be utilized to different nations. For now, his article has supplied us with quite a bit to consider with regards to the shift in Russia’s framing of her approach to the rapid neighborhood.

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