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Laruelle, Marlene. “Misinterpreting nationalism: Why Russkii is not a sign of ethnonationalism.” Ponars Eurasia (2016).


Many observers of Russian political life have noted a shift in President Vladimir Putin’s language toward greater “ethnonationalism.” While this trend has been present for a few years, it became especially prominent after the start of the Ukraine conflict. In his March 2014 speech justifying the annexation of Crimea, Putin stated that Crimea was a russkii (Russian) land, Sevastopol a russkii city, and Kiev “the mother of russkie cities.” Conventionally, russkii is interpreted as defining Russians linguistically and ethnically, while the adjective rossiiskii is used to refer to the Russian state and citizenship. A number of scholars have built on this observation to argue that Putin has shifted from statist to ethnic nationalist and that Russia’s growing ethnicization endangers Russia’s traditional multinational character.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.