‘But in Asia we too are Europeans’: Russia’s multifaceted engagement with the standard of civilisation

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Abstract

The standard of civilisation served Western states to hierarchically organise international politics and reproduce Western pre-eminence. Russia, depending on the historical period, has been interpreted as either an ardent follower or a major challenger to Western projects, but it has been markedly absent from debates regarding the standard. This article proposes to engage Russia in the standard of civilisation discussion with reference to the standard’s two most considered expositions: the colonial-era ‘original’ and what the literature interprets as the standard’s contemporary revival. In order to do so, I trace Russia’s nineteenth-century colonial practices and analyse Russia’s selected policies towards post-Soviet states in the post–Cold War period. On the basis of these explorations, I argue that Russia’s application of the standard of civilisation goes beyond the mere reproduction of hierarchical arrangements between an imagined centre and peripheries. The practices of the standard of civilisation have been employed to improve Russia’s desired, and imagined, status in international politics – that of a great power equal to the West. From that it follows that the concept of the standard of civilisation should be recognised as ordering relations not only of the strong and the weak but also of those in position of power in international politics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-455
JournalInternational Relations
Volume30
Issue number4
Early online date21 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Dec 2016

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