Illiberal geographies: popular geopolitics and Russian biopolitical regionalism
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In this article, we focus on how a variety of illiberal discourses construct a scene for new geopolitical and geocultural imageries of the post-Soviet space, Europe, and Eurasia. Academically, our approach falls into disciplinary niches known as popular geopolitics (when it comes to territories) and biopolitics (when it comes to people). More specifically, we try to see how Russian artistic personalities and public intellectuals contribute to the re-imagination of the post-Soviet space along the lines of Russian illiberal – and largely anti-Western – thinking. Among our protagonists are Valery Gergiev, Iosif Kobzon, Yulia Chicherina, Gleb Kornilov, Ivan Okhlobystin, and Zakhar Prilepin. All of them are important cultural figures who produce cultural justifications for imperial foreign policy in general, and Russia’s annexation of Crimea and de facto occupation of Donbas in particular. Our main argument is that the illiberal imagery of the post-Soviet world drastically reduces the validity of the major pillars of international society, such as state territorial borders, national jurisdictions, citizenship, and legal obligations and commitments. Instead of the rule of law Russian performative illiberalism puts a premium on a series of loosely defined yet foundational for this type of imagery concepts such as patriotism, national spirit and pride, and “natural,” “organic” bonds defining the sense of belonging to Russia as a trans-border political community.