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Article

Research on LGBT politics in Russia is a growing but still relatively small field. The current conditions of LGBT politics in Russia have been shaped by various historical processes. A key event was the 1933–1934 Stalinist anti-homosexual campaign and the recriminalization of sodomy; during this period a discursive frame was established that, to a large extent, continues to structure public perceptions of homosexuality: according to this framework, it is a political as well as a national transgression, associated with imagined attempts to undermine Russia by Western states. A near-total silence about homosexuality in the post-Stalin Soviet Union—where same-sex relations were regulated by criminal (in the case of men) and psychiatric (in the case of women) institutions—was broken during late 1980s perestroika, leading up to the 1993 decriminalization of sodomy. The Putin years have seen the gradual rise of a nationalist conservative ideology that opposes LGBT rights and stresses the importance of “traditional values.” The latter concept became state ideology after Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, as manifested in the 2013 ban on “propaganda for nontraditional sexual relations” and the foreign policy profiling of Russia as an international guardian of conservatism. In neighboring Eurasian countries—the post-Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus—the rise of “traditional-values” discourses and proposed propaganda bans in the 2010s indicate the extent to which LGBT politics have become entangled in geopolitical contestations over identity and regional influence. In Russia, a first wave of gay activism in the early 1990s failed to develop into a vital and lasting political movement but established a queer infrastructure in larger cities. It was followed by a second generation of activists in the mid-2000s, for some of whom the organization of Pride marches have been the main strategy, leading to controversies that have increased the public visibility and politicization of LGBT issues. In scholarship on LGBT politics in Russia and Eurasia, two important subjects of discussion have been visibility and geopoliticization. The first includes a critique of identity-based visibility politics and how it has structured perceptions of queer life in Russia as well as LGBT activism itself. Researchers have examined the multiple and contradictory effects and meanings of public visibility in the Russian context and have pointed at alternative forms of activism and organizing. Second, researchers have explored the geopolitical underpinnings of sexual politics, mapping how LGBT issues are interwoven in complex negotiations over national and civilizational identity, sovereignty and regional domination, security, progress, and modernity.

Article

Relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia have gone through a dramatic journey from close partnership to confrontation. The narratives of the crisis that erupted over Ukraine in late 2013 and early 2014 are diametrically opposed. The root causes of the crisis are primarily related to colliding visions of the European order that have existed ever since the end of the Cold War. Yet, to understand why the escalation happened at that time, one also needs to understand the dynamics of a process of increasing tensions and dwindling trust. The Ukraine crisis was thus both the outcome of an escalation of tensions and a radical rupture. In the run-up to the Ukraine crisis (2003–2013), EU–Russia relations were characterized by a Strategic Partnership. The latter was launched in 2003, closing a decade of asymmetrical EU-centric cooperation and redressing the balance in a formally equal partnership, based on pragmatic cooperation and a recognition of mutual interests. Despite high aspirations, the Strategic Partnership gradually derailed into a logic of competition. Tensions eventually crystallized around colliding integration projects: the Eastern Partnership (aiming at Association Agreements) on the EU’s side and the Eurasian Economic Union on Russia’s side. The crisis erupted specifically as the result of the choice Ukraine had to make between the two options. This choice radicalized the negative geopolitical reading that Moscow and Brussels had gradually developed of each other’s behavior. Since the start of the Ukraine crisis (2014), EU–Russia relations have been characterized by a harsh confrontation in the field of high politics. The Strategic Partnership was suspended and the EU imposed sanctions in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and destabilization of Ukraine. Moscow retaliated and relations became highly acrimonious. Security-related issues dominate the agenda: Russia accuses the West of neo-containment, while Moscow is blamed for undermining the pan-European border regime and security order. The stalemate between Russia and the EU (and by extension the Euro-Atlantic Community) is ambivalent. On the one hand, it has taken the form of a systemic crisis, where both parties risk running from incident to incident in the absence of effective pan-European instruments that may constrain or reverse the conflict. On the other hand, in the field of low politics, in particular trade and energy, business often seems to continue as usual.

Article

Jeremiah J. Castle and Patrick L. Schoettmer

An increasingly important area within the subfield of religion and politics is the study of secularism, an ideology that seeks to limit the influence of religion in public and private life. Secularism can refer to conditions at the societal level (public secularism) or at the individual level (private secularism). In addition, it can take the form of simply an absence of religion (passive secularism), or it can include an affirmative acceptance of secular ideals (active secularism). Comparative studies highlight the complex ways in which secularism both influences and is influenced by politics. In Western Europe, the long-standing practice of established and/or preferred religions has led to a lack of vitality in the religious marketplace, resulting in high levels of private secularism. In Russia and other Eastern European nations, the end of communism and political motivations are leading to both decreasing public and private secularism. In the Middle East, secularization throughout the 20th century seems to have led to a fundamentalist backlash. Similarly, in the United States, the increasing association between religion and political conservatism seems to be driving increasing levels of private secularism. Together, these lessons suggest that both political factors and local context are key to understanding the relationship between secularism and politics.

Article

Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) is the only region in the world where annual HIV infection rates continue to grow. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), in 2019 approximately 1.4 million people in the region were living with HIV. The main factors that have contributed to the spread of the epidemic over the past two decades include injecting drug use, the stigmatization and marginalization of vulnerable groups, the increasing spread of HIV into the general population, and the lack of evidence-based prevention and treatment programs necessary for controlling the epidemic. Limited access to life-saving antiretroviral treatment has intensified the impact of the epidemic in EECA and increased mortality rates among people living with HIV (PLWH). In the post-Soviet space, Russia is experiencing by far the biggest HIV/AIDS epidemic. This can be attributed largely to the government’s failure to introduce evidence-based prevention measures for vulnerable groups, e.g., harm reduction programs, which are recommended by international health organizations. Other countries in the region have been more pragmatic in their approach and introduced harm reductions programs on a broader scale. In Ukraine, the efforts to combat HIV, which led to an initial stabilization of the epidemic in 2012, have been endangered by the military conflict in the eastern part of the country and subsequent internal displacement, which has increased HIV vulnerability. In comparison with Russia and Ukraine, the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia are less affected by HIV. However, labor migration to Russia constitutes a persistent risk factor for HIV transmission from higher-prevalence Russia to lower-prevalence South Caucasus and Central Asia. Although initially the HIV/AIDS epidemic has been mainly driven by injecting drug use, it is also clearly linked to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) politics and policies in EECA. Because of widespread stigmatization and marginalization, the spread of HIV within LGBT communities remains underreported and is barely visible in official HIV statistics. This makes it difficult for prevention programs to reach out to vulnerable groups. In all countries in the region, prevention efforts among LGBT communities remain inadequate and largely depend on local civil society organizations (CSOs), which lack the capacities to provide nationwide information campaigns and other prevention programs for the LGBT community. In addition, the work of CSOs that advocate for HIV prevention among LGBT groups is further undermined by repressive laws, e.g., the 2013 “gay propaganda law” in Russia, which has increased the stigmatization of LGBT people and has made prevention outreach more difficult. Research has contributed to our understanding of HIV vulnerability and its impact in EECA. Further research is needed, however, into the social and political factors that explain the persistent failure of regional decision-makers to adequately address the growing HIV epidemic.

Article

Bas Hooijmaaijers and Stephan Keukeleire

Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) have, since the beginning of the 21st century, gained greater influence in global political and economic affairs and, since 2006, also steadily developed and increased their political dialogue and cooperation. South Africa joining the BRICS political grouping in 2011 was matched by a strengthening of the BRICS dialogue. This was reflected in the broadening range of issues covered, the increasing level of specificity of the BRICS joint declarations and cooperation, and the institutionalization of BRICS cooperation in various policy fields, including the creation of the New Development Bank (NDB). Notwithstanding the increased interaction between the BRICS states on the various political, economic, and diplomatic levels, the countries differ considerably in their political, economic, military, and demographic weight and interests and in their regional and global aspirations. China particularly stands out among the BRICS due to its political and economic weight. There are sufficient reasons to question the significance and impact of the BRICS format. Still, the BRICS countries have found each other in their commitment to counter the “unjust” Western-dominated multilateral world in which they are generally underrepresented. The EU did not develop a “BRICS policy” as such, which is understandable given the major differences between the BRICS countries and the ambiguous nature of the BRICS format. To deal with the various emerging powers and complement its predominantly regional partnerships, the EU instead institutionalized and deepened the political and economic bilateral relations with each of the BRICS countries, including through the objective of establishing a bilateral “strategic partnership” with each of these countries. However, the analysis of the EU’s relationship with the BRICS countries indicates that the label “strategic partnerships” mainly served as a rhetorical façade which belied that the EU failed to turn these relationships into real strategic partnerships and to behave strategically toward the BRICS countries. Another challenge for the EU appears when analyzing the BRICS within the broader context of various emerging power constellations and multilateral frameworks, including variations of the BRICS format (such as BRICS Plus, BASIC, and IBSA), multilateral frameworks with one or more BRICS countries at their center (such as the SCO, EAEU, and BRI), and regional forums launched by China. Taken together, they point to an increasingly dense set of partially overlapping formal and informal networks on all political, diplomatic, and administrative levels, covering an ever-wider scope of policy areas and providing opportunities for debate, consultation, and coordination. Whereas most of these forums are in and of themselves not very influential, taken together they have an impact on the EU and its traditional view on multilateralism in several ways. Seen from this perspective, the BRICS and other multilateral forums pose major challenges for both European diplomats and European scholars. They will have to make considerable efforts to understand and engage with these various forums, which are manifestations of an increasingly influential and powerful non-Western world wherein the role of Europe is much more limited.

Article

Angelos Chryssogelos

The topic of populism in foreign policy is receiving growing attention in academic and public discourse as populist parties and movements proliferate around the world. Yet foreign policy analysis (FPA) scholars interested in the role of populism in foreign policy have to deal with a concept that is notoriously slippery and contested. The existing literature on populism and foreign policy has already offered interesting insights. Focused primarily on Europe, it usually applies the conceptualization of populism as a thin-centered ideology that attaches to thicker ideological traditions and reformulates them in terms of the elite-people divide. Following this conceptualization (that is today the dominant framework for the comparative analysis of populism, particularly in Europe), this literature argues that populist parties of the right have foreign policy positions that reflect their nativism, opposition to immigration, focus on national sovereignty, and rejection of economic and cultural globalization. Populist parties of the left on the other hand reject in their foreign policy positions neo-liberalism and open markets. Together, European populist parties of all persuasions are Eurosceptic, anti-American, and usually pro-Putin’s Russia. Highlighted are the breadth of critical and discursive approaches on populism that scholars of populism and foreign policy can use, particularly because they have been applied successfully to cases outside of Europe, where populists have long held political power and have influenced foreign policy in practice. Such conceptualizations commonly view populism as a reaction to crises of political representation engendered by dislocations caused by globalization and other shifts in international politics. These dislocations will take different forms, but populism in the West and populism in the Global South can be seen, despite more specific differences of outlook, at the very least as a specific type of reaction to concurrent political and economic crises in a rapidly denationalized and deterritorialized world. In this context, most populist foreign policies reflect a preoccupation with popular sovereignty and unmediated projection of popular demands and national interests outside of established processes of global governance. Populists will also tend to perceive and analyze foreign policy issues through the lens of the elite-underdog opposition. Populism is commonly associated or conflated with nationalism (especially in the case of the European radical right) and isolationism, but in practice this does not always have to be the case. The “people” for whom populists speak in international affairs can very well transcend national borders, as evidenced, for example, in the foreign policies of Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who aimed to represent transnational constituencies like the Global South, the Islamic world, the world poor, etc. And while populists generally eschew commitments to broader milieu goals of the international system, they can still engage with foreign affairs if they see immediate material benefits. The same goes for trade: populists (particularly in the United States) are seen usually as ideological protectionists, but most often they do not mind striking trade deals if these favor their interests (see, e.g., Donald Trump’s discourse on this issue). In terms of theoretical and methodological advancements, foreign policy scholars interested in populism are urged to embrace the large variety of conceptual approaches on populism (ideological, critical, discursive) and to build on the growing literature on cross-regional comparison of populist politics, something particularly pertinent in a world characterized by the presence and prominence of populism in almost all world regions.

Article

David Darchiashvili and Stephen Jones

The balance between civil and military structures is central to understanding the development of Georgian statehood since the beginning of the 20th century. The first modern independent Georgian state was established after the 1917 Russian Revolution. The Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence in May 1918. In February 1921, the young republic was incorporated into the Soviet state and had no separate army of its own. Since regaining its independence in 1991, Georgia has experienced multiple administrations, and despite significantly different policies on the military, the overall pattern has been one of civilian (though not always democratic) control. Georgian militias and paramilitaries, between 1918 and 1921 and again between 1991 and 1995, played important roles in determining political power at times of revolutionary or constitutional crises. Since 1991 there have been three presidents - Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Eduard Shevardnadze, and Mikheil Saakashvili - with strong executive authority. In 2013, the position of president was made semi-ceremonial and a prime-ministerial system was instituted. Since 2013, there have been multiple prime ministers. Bidzina Ivanishvili was the first and the most powerful. All of Georgia’s leaders have shifted from a Soviet to pro-Western orientation. Since the second half of the 1990s, the relationship with NATO has grown closer, which has had a major impact on the structure of the Georgian armed forces and on their relationship with Georgia’s civil authorities. The 2008 war with Russia had a major impact on the Georgian military, and, since then, the level of professionalization of the Georgian armed forces has increased dramatically. Samuel Huntington, Eric Nordlinger, and other Western students of civil-military relations have pointed to the important balance required between civil and military authorities for a stable democracy. Georgia still displays continuing features of nepotism, clientelism, corruption, and dominant political personalities, which has significant consequences for the independence of the Georgian military and for civil-military relations more generally. Western states such as the United States and Germany, and international organizations like NATO continue to urge reform and provide training to the Georgian armed forces

Article

In early 2014, a series of dramatic crises in Ukraine generated headlines around the world. Most scholarly attention was placed on the tensions between the West and Russia, and the emergence of a new Cold War, especially following Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and its military incursion in eastern Ukraine. The relations between Ukraine and the European Union (EU) have often been reduced to debates on whether the EU was to blame for the conflict, having “sleepwalked” into the Ukraine crisis by focusing on technical trade issues and failing to recognize the delicate geopolitical context. Other analysts pointed to the EU’s pursuit of regional hegemony, which has failed to recognize Russia’s legitimate geopolitical and economic interests in Ukraine. In practice, Ukraine-EU relations have been more complex and nuanced, certainly when considering that Ukraine already declared its ambition to “return to Europe” and to seek EU membership with its proclamation of independence, in 1991. Ukraine-EU relations are perhaps best understood along four levels of inquiry. The first is domestic dynamics in Ukraine. Since the end of the Cold War, all Ukrainian governments have underlined the “Europeanness” of Ukraine and have also by and large followed a pro-EU course in their foreign policies, including the government under pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych. However, Ukraine’s European choice has often been limited to foreign-policy declarations. Even the pro-European and reform-oriented governments that led Ukraine after the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Maidan Square protests struggled to introduce far-reaching reforms because of the power of the “iron triangle” of oligarchic rule, corruption, and financial instability. The second line of inquiry concerns Ukraine-Russia relations. Since gaining independence, Ukraine’s strategy has been one of limited participation in Russia’s post-Soviet regional integration initiatives in order to safeguard its independence. However, Russia always used “sticks and carrots” vis-à-vis Ukraine to further its own policy objectives, ranging from offering gas-price discounts to cutting off gas supplies, imposing import bans on Ukrainian produce, and, since 2014, threatening and using the military to force Ukraine to acquiesce to its demands. A third line of inquiry is the EU’s policy toward Ukraine, based on bilateral relations and cooperation through the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership. The EU has approached Ukraine as one among several neighbors in its attempt to build a ring of well-governed countries along its borders. Although the EU’s enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe generated more interest in Ukraine, member states have consistently ruled out EU membership for Ukraine. A fourth theme of inquiry is that of EU-Russia relations in the wider international context. Throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, the EU clearly prioritized good political and economic relations with Russia over its relationship with its neighbors in the East, including Ukraine. Even when Russia annexed Crimea and when evidence of the role of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine had become impossible to ignore, the EU struggled to find a common stance on Russia.