Nationalist Identity Politics of Vladimir Putin in Russia: Analytical Essay

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Nationalist Identity politics in Russia Introduction: In this report, Russian nationalist identity politics will be examined through the use of findings and discussion. Below a list of results from extensive research will be listed, then followed by a brief discussion on how Putin uses Russian Nationalism to assert dominance and control over the west. Firstly though, a brief overview. Relations between the west and Russia are at their worst since the Cold war, yet Nationalism is on the rise with Moscow and Vladimir Putin being on the forefront of the March and the prime figurehead leading the movement. Russian pride has been thrust onto the world stage since the unite the right rally in Charlottesville, where the white nationalist protestors chanted ‘Russia is our friend’. It is clear to see that Putin and his aim to assert Russia as a strong and dominant country within the west is occurring.


Finding Number 1 -

President Vladimir Putin has a 90% approval rate which makes him one of the most successful leaders in the World. When the Soviet Union (SU) fell in 1991, 1 large country became 15 separate countries. In today’s contemporary Russia, Putin’s party Unite Russia has the overall aim to reunify the former satellite states and have a new Russia, the key component here is Russia having the most ‘robust economy’. It has also been stated by others that Putin is ‘determined to construct the Soviet Union 2.0’. Due to Russia’s much stronger economy compared to the states which surround her (Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, etc), Russia is experiencing an immigration issue with over 11million immigrants currently residing in the country. As with other countries, immigrants become an easy scapegoat and over 50% of Russians hold anti-immigration views. After the fall of the SU, ultra-nationalist groups have risen. One of these groups being the Slavic Union, founded by Dmitry Demushkin. However, the Slavic Union was banned by Putin himself in 2010 for being too extreme, Demishkin is now the founder and leader of another group called ‘the Russians’ who’s key belief is Russian Supremacy. Many groups like this one meet on National Unity Day (founded by Putin) to march for Russian Supremacy and some, a white Russia However, each year the march turns violent and in 2016, around 20 people were arrested for extreme right-wing views.

Finding number 2 -

Russia’s recent rise in nationalism can be linked to Putin’s evolving leadership style of populism. As ‘ideas of Russian ‘sovereign democracy’ and Russia as a great power’ started to take flight in order to secure his power over the presidency and as a response to the colour revolutions. The idea that Russia was rising again and become an empowered state after the west had tried their best to keep her down was what aided Putin to return as president in May 2012. It can be seen that Putin is not content with provoking nationalism in Russia alone. Far right nationalistic movements are taking Europe by force and Vladimir Putin is using this to his advantage with his ‘numerous photo-opportunities with the likes of France’s Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini of the Italian Northern League’.

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Finding number 3 -

After the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia an assertive move by bringing the Crimea back under Russian power. Putin violated treaties in order to do so and when annexing the Crimea, he ‘claimed that Russian identity was under threat in Ukraine…he also claimed to be protecting Russians in Ukraine from Western expansion.’

Finding number 4 -

Imperial Nationalism is the most popular type of nationalism within Russia today. Imperial nationalism holds its beliefs that Russia renders a different Europe, one that hasn’t been tainted by American ideals of liberalism. Many Russians identified Russia as being its own civilisation and fewer examined themselves as part of European identity (please refer to figure 1). Furthermore, nationalism is displayed through the favourability of ethnic Russians (please refer to figure 2)


Putin’s popularity plays a key role in Russian nationalism. His identity itself is classed as a real muzhik which, by definition means that his ‘nation recognised him as macho in the national style’. This not only legitimises his power but enforces nationalistic rhetoric to his civilians. They have a man that will protect and guide them through difficult times, something which was needed after Russia struggled with her identity, often being portrayed ‘as a woman of easy virtue’. Furthermore, there is a need for a ‘real man’ to be the leader of Russia as symbolism betrays Russia to be a mighty/strong ‘Russian bear’. Putin’s certitude that the west was ‘waging a war’ on Russia, meant that he needed to protect whilst also present Russia as a powerhouse country. Therefore Putins alignment with other Nationalistic Movements supports the argument presented by Shekhovtsov that Russian nationalism is being compelled in order to not only protect Russia but to also assert her dominance. Shekhovtsov further states that some of Putin’s ‘illiberal ideas clearly originate from the far right’. The far right movements typically depicting nationalistic and fascist rhetoric. There has been always been a strained relationship between Russia and her former satellite state Ukraine. It is clear to see that through Ukraine’s unwillingness to accept Russia’s dominance and desperation to remain an independent state, Russian nationalism has thrived on that and as result so has Ukrainian nationalism. After the Orange revolution in late 2004, early 2005 a ‘Rise of openly Pro-Russian parties’ occurred. Through Russia’s intervention within Ukraine such as; Russia reverting back to ‘traditional soviet conspiracy theories’ in examining Ukrainian affairs in 2004 and 2013-14 and investing in ‘Russkii Mir’. Through Russia’s actions, Ukraine gained ethno-culture resources to mobilise the people, which led to events such as the Euromaidan and the Orange Revolution which in turn fuelled Russia’s desperate need for identity. Moreover, Putin believed that he needed to protect ‘Russian identity against Ukrainian nationalism’ and as a result wanted to create a buffer zone of New Russia to protect his citizens, although he had previously claimed that both Ukrainians and Russians were one. This anti-Ukrainian rhetoric can be seen in figure 2, through the slogan ‘Russia for Russians’.


Figure one:- NEORUSS survey data, 2013 -2014. Russians were asked “Do you consider Russia to be part of European civilization or something else? Figure 2:- NEORUSS survey data, 2014. Russians were asked “What do you think of the slogan ‘Russia for Russians’?”


  1. Alcock, Chris, Reggie Yates' Extreme Russia (Russia: BBC, 2017)
  2. Arnold, Richard, 'Surveys Show Russian Nationalism Is On The Rise. This Explains A Lot About The Country’S Foreign And Domestic Politics.', The Washington Post, 2016 [Accessed 10 January 2019]
  3. Clover, Charles, 'The Return Of Russian Nationalism | Financial Times', Ft.Com, 2019 [Accessed 8 January 2019]
  4. Hill, Fiona, 'This Is What Putin Really Wants', Brookings, 2019 [Accessed 10 January 2019]
  5. Kuzio, Taras, 'Competing Nationalisms, Euromaidan, And The Russian-Ukrainian Conflict', Studies In Ethnicity And Nationalism, 15 (2015), 157-169
  6. Plokhy, Serhii, Lost Kingdom (Cambridge: Penguin Books), p. 339
  7. Riabov, Oleg, and Tatiana Riabova, 'The Remasculinization Of Russia?', Problems Of Post-Communism, 61 (2014), 23-35
  8. Robinson, Neil, and Sarah Milne, 'Populism And Political Development In Hybrid Regimes: Russia And The Development Of Official Populism', International Political Science Review, 38 (2017), 412-425
  9. Shekhovtsov, Anton, Russia And The Western Far Right (Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, 2018), p. 250
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Nationalist Identity Politics of Vladimir Putin in Russia: Analytical Essay. (2022, December 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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