Geopolitical cultures, pragmatic patriotism, and Russia’s disputed islands

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This paper draws on the notion of “geopolitical culture” as a conceptual tool for understanding debates over the formulation of foreign policy in contemporary Russia. To draw out the value of this concept, the paper explores the symbolism of territory as a means for restoring Russia’s status, respect, and power. However, in contrast to previous studies, it traces the ways in which a concession of territory has been promoted as a device for achieving Russia’s great power ambitions. More broadly, the paper seeks to stimulate a wider debate on reconceptualizing the relationship between territory and identity in Russia, at the same time as it places Russia’s Far Eastern borderlands at the heart of debates on the spatial imaginaries of the Russian homeland. By drawing on and advancing recent theoretical innovations in critical geopolitics, and recognizing the significance of the discourse of nationalism within these framings, the paper explores the nuanced and multiple story lines that constitute Russia’s geopolitical culture. Through this approach, intriguing and complex plot lines and unexpected twists are revealed, which have at times been obscured by nationalist-territorial-revanchist narratives on Putin’s Russia. It is suggested that such approaches can also provide insights for interpreting cases and contexts beyond Russia and Eurasia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-27
JournalEurasian Geography and Economics
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jan 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Geopolitical cultures
  • Southern Kurils
  • Russia
  • Eurasianism
  • Japan
  • territorial disputes


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