Igor Okunev: Russian geopolitics

Introducing Igor Okunev

Igor Okunev (St. Petersburg, 1986) holds the Russian nationality and graduated in Intercultural Communication (MA) at St. Petersburg University. Currently, he is a Ph.D. student in Political Science at the Moscow Institute of International Relations. Moreover, Mr Okunev is President of the Student Department of the Russian Political Science Association.

This interview addresses current trends in Russian geopolitics. What are the leading schools of thought? Which global issues dominate the intellectual debate? What views on Russia’s global position are most popular? In another interview, Mr Okunev explains the role that federational structures can play in the management of conflicts.

Interview

Russian geopolitical scholars and schools of thought

What are the most influential Russian geopolitical scholars and schools of thought?

The first Russian geopolitics were N. Danilevsky and L. Mechnikov, who lived in the XIX century.

“The fundamental idea of the ‘Eurasian School’ is that Russia neither Europe nor Asia forms a unique geopolitical system”

The only stable geopolitical school of thought in Russia, that I could name is a “Eurasian School”. It was founded by brothers George and Evgeny Trubetskoi in the beginning of the XX century. The fundamental idea of that school is that Russia neither Europe nor Asia forms a unique geopolitical system – Eurasian. The contemporary leader of this school is A. Dugin.

Except this school there is a number of independent influential scholars in Russia, namely M. Ilyin, I. Busygina, K. Gadzhiev, V. Kolosov, V. Tzimburgsky, R. Turovsky, D. Zamyatin.

How influential are foreign geopolitical scholars and schools of thought, such as Halford Mackinder (Classical Geopolitics), Gerard Toal (Critical Geopolitics) and Aymeric Chauprade (contemporary French geopolitics) in Russia?

“Russian geopolitics till now developed mostly in paradigm of classic geopolitics.”

Russian geopolitics till now developed mostly in paradigm of classic geopolitics. I would rather say that it forms a unique school of thought (in the list of Anglo-American, French, German, etc.) within classical geopolitics. This school concentrates it attention mainly on the question of relations between the West and the East, and especially the place of Russia in this relations.

The modern geopolitical schools of thought are not popular in Russia at the moment, although there are scholars, whose ideas are very close to the postmodern schools (for example D. Zamyatin works in critical geopolitics paradigm).

What global issues are currently dominating the debate among Russian geopolitical academics?

“Russian geopolitics traditionally concentrates more on internal issues and Russia’s position in the world.”

Russian geopolitics traditionally concentrates more on internal issues and Russia’s position in the world more than on the global issues. So the list of global issues is quite ordinary: globalism, civilizations, North-South, West-East.

Which visions about Russia’s global position in the 21st century are most popular among Russian geopolitical scholars?

A huge debate between two groups of scholars and philosophers on that issue is traditional for Russian geopolitics.

They are: “westerners”, those support he idea that Russia has to develop in mainstream of Western countries, because the Western values are universal ones, and so-called “slavicphilers”, who think that Russia has to develop in it own unique direction, that differs from the Western one, because the Western values are not universal ones.

This debate is basic for the whole political landscape in Russia and it is not finished till now.

How do Russian geopolitical academics view the rise of China?

Let me express my own position, answering this question. From my point of view, the China rise we face nowadays comes from the country economic development lag in the previous time.

“Very soon China will face the problem of inconsistency between its industrial and socio-political development.”

China at the moment comes through the stage of industrialization, that the developed countries overcame in XIX-XX centuries. Very soon China will face the problem of inconsistency between its industrial and socio-political development. The future of this country will depend on how it will solve this problem. I am not sure that the solution process will be easy for China.

At the same time, anyway, this country no doubt will play more and more important role in world politics.

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