Skip to main content

The power of civilizational nationalism in Russian foreign policy making


The article draws upon theories of identity to understand Russian foreign policy towards Ukraine since 2000. The article argues that contemporary Russian foreign policy can be best understood as an articulation of ‘civilizational nationalism’ which relies on the myth of cultural superiority. The focus is on not only treating Russia as an imperial power, but on the cultural claims that this relies upon and its configuration within changing historical ideas of ‘Russianness’. Since the Orange Revolution, Russian presidents have accused Ukraine of following anti-Russian policies. This has been aided by a discourse of ‘civilizational nationalism’ where Ukraine is described as being part of a ‘Greater Russia’, rather than as a sovereign territory. This article analyses how imagined civilization and greatness of Russian culture is driving foreign policy making towards the Ukraine. Rather than an external territory, Ukraine is constructed as a ‘little brother’ which renders interventions legitimate.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nuray Aridici.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Aridici, N. The power of civilizational nationalism in Russian foreign policy making. Int Polit 56, 605–621 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Civilizational nationalism
  • Putin
  • Nationalism
  • The Russian state
  • Russian foreign policy