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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

The Impact of the Russian Far Right on Foreign Policy: Conflict, Secession and War in Ukraine

Foreign Policy
Political Sociology
Sofia Tipaldou
University of Manchester
Sofia Tipaldou
University of Manchester

Even before events in Ukraine, in 2014 Russian nationalists had started to move from the fringe to the centre of Russian politics. The annexation of Crimea saw nationalism for the first time used as the main stabilizing force for the political system and Putin’s authority. Putin – who has until then used liberal and nationalist ideologies – presented the annexation both in imperialist terms, gathering Russian lands in a strong Russian state, and in ethnonational terms, as a defence of ethnic Russians abroad, and succeeded in boosting his popularity. However, the grassroots expressions of contemporary Russian imperial and ethnic nationalism have not yet been thoroughly researched. These are made up by non-professional activists who form a network of small, budget-constrained organizations, excluded from the Duma and resemble the new radical right of Western Europe. The aim of the proposed project is to investigate to what extent grassroots Russian ethnic nationalists and imperialists have shaped the country’s foreign policy towards Ukraine. Through critical discourse analysis, the paper presents the main ideological frames of representative nationalist organizations and tracks down ethnic nationalist and imperialist claims related to Ukraine in the elite discourse (2014-2016). This data is then presented on a table covering nationalist frames, governmental discourse (civic, ethnic, imperialist), and nationalist disruptive events (both supporting and opposing government policies). The influence of nationalists is considered as positive if a nationalist frame is adopted by the governmental discourse at a later date and if elite discourse changes after sudden disruption events organized by the nationalists.
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