1st Edition

The “Russian Idea” in International Relations Civilization and National Distinctiveness

By Andrei P. Tsygankov Copyright 2023
    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    190 Pages
    by Routledge

    The "Russian Idea" in International Relations identifies different approaches within Russian Civilizational tradition — Russia’s nationally distinctive way of thinking — by situating them within IR literature and connecting them to practices of the country’s international relations.

    Civilizational ideas in IR theory express states’ cultural identification and stress religious traditions, social customs, and economic and political values. This book defines Russian civilizational ideas by two criteria: the values they stress and their global ambitions. The author identifies leading voices among those positioning Russia as an exceptional and globally significant system of values and traces their arguments across several centuries of the country’s development. In addition, the author explains how and why Russian civilizational ideas rise, fall, and are replaced by alternative ideas. The book identifies three schools of Russian civilizational thinking about international relations – Slavophiles, Communists, and Eurasianists. Each school focuses on Russia’s distinctive spiritual, social, and geographic roots, respectively. Each one is internally divided between those claiming Russia’s exceptionalism, potentially resulting in regional autarchy or imperial expansion, and those advocating the Russian Idea as global in its appeal. Those favoring the latter perspective have stressed Russia’s unique capacity for understanding different cultures and guarding the world against extremes of nationalism and hegemony in international relations.

    This book will be of interest to students and scholars of Russian foreign policy, Russia–Western relations, IR theory, diplomatic studies, political science, and European history, including the history of ideas.

    1. Introduction

    2. Russian Civilizational Ideas

    3. Slavophiles

    4. Communists

    5. Eurasianists

    6. The "Russian Idea" for Russia and for the World


    Andrei P. Tsygankov is Professor of International Relations and Political Science at San Francisco State University, USA. Recent publications include Russian Realism: Defending ‘Derzhava’ in International Relations (2022) and Russia and America: The Asymmetric Rivalry (2019).

    "The Russian Idea describes the way Russia thinks about itself and its place in the world. As never before, the world needs to understand the concept, and Tsygankov provides a brilliant, historically-grounded and detailed analysis that guides us through the labyrinth. Clear, balanced and supremely well-informed, this is essential reading for all those looking to understand Russia today."

    Richard Sakwa, University of Kent, UK

    "As relations between Russia and the West have worsened, Russians have increasingly accepted the idea that their country constitutes a distinct civilization. But the nature of that distinctiveness remains a matter of debate. Andrei Tsygankov ably summarizes the different strands of thought concerning the "Russian Idea", and in the process sheds valuable light on the ideological underpinnings of current East–West conflict."

    Paul Robinson, University of Ottawa, Canada

    "The "Russian Idea" in International Relations traces over centuries the three central notions of Russia as a unique civilization and helps us understand how Russian elites' views of their conflict with the West is rooted in such longue durée visions of the country. Andrei Tsygankov's refined analysis is a must-read to comprehend the roots of today's tensions."

    Marlene Laruelle, The George Washington University, USA

    "In this intellectually persuasive book, Andrei Tsygankov analyses the competing civilizational ideas of the Russian nation that challenge Western liberal ideology. This is an essential contribution to the main debates about Russia and its deteriorating relations with the West."

    Glenn Diesen, University of South-Eastern Norway

    "With this book, Professor Tsygankov cements his reputation as America’s preeminent scholar of Russian foreign policy and intellectual thought. Deftly guiding us through the deepest debates over Russian identity, he illuminates Russia’s struggle to preserve its freedom in an interconnected and mutually responsible world. A vital part of this, for Russia, is preventing the global dominance of any one civilization, even the Western civilization of which it is a part. An intellectual tour de force!"

    Nicolai N. Petro, University of Rhode Island, USA, author of The Tragedy of Ukraine and Russian Foreign Policy