Russia’s Ministry of Ambivalence: The Failure of Civic Nation-Building in Post-Soviet Russia

J. Paul Goode

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This article argues that the sources of official and societal ambivalence towards civic nationhood in today’s Russia are found in the institutional instability and personalist dynamics of hybrid regime politics in the 1990s. Successful civic nation-building should institutionalize inclusive criteria for citizenship as a basis for policymaking, which in turn should create incentives for dominant ethnicities to embrace civic nationhood. While the shifting views of Boris Yel’tsin on nationalities policy and the constant turmoil in the government’s nationalities ministry have received little scholarly attention, they illuminate the endogenous sources of regime instability in relation to civic nation-building. Russia’s experience thus challenges the traditional view of ethnic nationalism as fostering authoritarianism and civic nationalism as fostering democracy: rather, competitive authoritarianism in the 1990s confounded the regime’s own efforts toward civic nation-building and laid the groundwork for the “ethnic turn” in Russian politics under Vladimir Putin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-160
Number of pages21
JournalPost-Soviet Affairs
Issue number2
Early online date21 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2019


  • hybrid regimes
  • nation-building
  • nationalism
  • institutions
  • Russia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Sociology and Political Science


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