Between Europe and Asia: The Origins, Theories and Legacies of Russian Eurasianism

AndreasUmlandAndreas Umland, Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation, Kyiv

Book Review: Political Theory

Until recently an obscure concept in the humanities and social sciences, the term “Eurasianism” has considerable political and intellectual prominence today. With Vladimir Putin’s 2011 announcement of his plan to create a new international organization to be labeled “Eurasian,” and the official launch of the “Eurasian Economic Union” (EEU), by Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, on January 1st, 2015, the question of what “Eurasianism” refers to has become more than an academic one. Kyrgyzstan, by its free will, and Armenia, after some Russian pressure, have now also entered the EEU while several countries around the globe are negotiating, with Moscow, the creation of free trade zones with the Russia-dominated Union. Ukraine, on the other hand, has consistently refused to identify itself as “Eurasian,” and had decided instead to sign a far-reaching Association Agreement with the European Union in 2014. The finalization, initialing, and imminent conclusion of this large treaty was one of those developments that Russia used as a pretext to annex Crimea and start a “hybrid war” against rump-Ukraine in the Donets Basin, thereby unsettling Europe’s post-war security order. Numerous Russian nationalist intellectuals as well as some Western observers would not hesitate to interpret this entire conflict as one between “the West” and “Eurasia.”

Against such background, the appearance of this collected volume, edited by three of the most accomplished experts on Eurasianism, can only be welcomed. The collection focuses on what is often called “classical Eurasianism,” i.e. a little-known Russian inter-war émigré intellectual movement, rather than on Alexander Dugin & Co.’s notorious so-called “neo-Eurasian” movement of the post-Soviet period. To fully appreciate the novelty and value of these papers, one needs some previous knowledge of 19th– and 20th-century Russian socio-political thought.

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Perspectives on Politics / Volume 14 / Issue 01 / March 2016, pp 210-211 / Copyright © American Political Science Association 2016