Between Pravda and Prada: the negotiation of geopolitical identities at a Russian elite university


Be it the gas dispute with Ukraine, the American missile shield in Eastern Europe or the Iran crisis - for several years now Russia has demonstrated growing self-confidence in interstate diplomacy and international politics. Not only has coverage of Russia-related issues increased in Western media, but there has also increased a particular kind of coverage which depicts Russia as having shed the conformity of the 1990s to boldly and independently pursue its national interests. Russia's role in the world is changing and this change begs key questions as to Russia's geopolitical position: What role should Russia play in world politics? What are its interests, who should it be loyal to? Where does it belong?

While foreign policy is an important component, the search for Russia's geopolitical identity takes place at all levels of Russian society. The Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) occupies a prominent position in the negotiation of geopolitical identities. Once dubbed the ‘anvil of cadres' of the Soviet nomenclatura, it has developed into a particular kind of ‘elite university' in the post-Soviet age. With the reassertion of Russia's self-confidence, a young generation of students is educated at MGIMO who knows of Russia primarily as an emerging country.

Between Pravda and Prada a multiplicity of geopolitical imaginations of Russia's role and place in the world compete for constitutive hegemony at MGIMO. In this vortex the articulation of geopolitical identities unfolds as a hybrid in its own right - a product of transformation processes which are marked by unprecedented openness but at the same time, inevitably, are subject to attempts at hegemonialisation and closure.

My dissertation conceptualises the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 as a dislocation effect within Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theory, serving as a trigger of antagonistic struggles for the articulation of new identities. Drawing on material from ethnographic field research and interviews, I aim to describe these antagonisms as well as the processes by which geopolitical identities are articulated and how they play out seen through the particular lens at MGIMO.

Additional Informationsunspecified
Commencement Date1 July 2005
Contributors Mueller, Martin (Project Manager)
Datestamp 16 Sep 2022 10:57
Completion Date 8 September 2008
Publications Mueller, Martin : Making great power identities in Russia: an ethnographic discourse analysis of education at a Russian elite university. Zürich : LIT, 2009,
Mueller, Martin (2007) Zusammen, aber doch getrennt? Vorstellungen von Russlands Platz in Europa an einer russischen Eliteuniversität. Europa Regional, 15 (4). 193-202.
Mueller, Martin: Geopolitics and the geographical imagination: the social construction of global space in Russia : [in Russian]. In Russian Pathways: continuity and change in social development. School of Social and Economic Sciences, 2007, S. 239-248.
Mueller, Martin: The inevitable flaws in Russia's great power project., 2009, S. 4.
Mueller, Martin (2010) Doing discourse analysis in critical geopolitics. L'Espace Politique, 12 (3). 1-18.
Mueller, Martin (2011) Market meets nationalism : making entrepreneurial state subjects in post-Soviet Russia. Nationalities Papers, 39 (3). 393-408. ISSN 0090-5992
Mueller, Martin (2011) Education and the formation of geopolitical subjects. International Political Sociology, 5 (1). 1-17. ISSN 1749-5679
Mueller, Martin: Rethinking identification with the hegemonic discourse of a ‘strong Russia' through Laclau and Mouffe. In Identities and politics during the Putin presidency: the foundations of Russia's stability. Stuttgart : ibidem, 2009, S. 327-347.
Mueller, Martin (2013) Lack and jouissance in hegemonic discourse of identification with the state. Organization : the critical journal of organization, theory and society, 20 (2). 279-298. ISSN 1350-5084
Keywords Russia, foreign policy, critical geopolitics, discourse, poststructuralism
Methods discourse analysis
Funders External Financing
Id 55844
Project Range Institute/School
Project Status completed
Subjects other research area
Topics Russia, foreign policy, critical geopolitics, discourse, poststructuralism
Project Type dissertation project
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