¹ 2, 2020
The struggle for space is one of the relatively new phenomena that have become relevant in the recent decades — it has transferred from the field of international relations and geopolitics into the domestic political sphere. This tendency is especially noticeable in Russia. Moreover, the struggle for space itself takes in Russia various forms, determined by the specifics of a particular territory. While in metropolitan cities the primary forms are rallies and other collective political actions, in the relatively sparsely populated northern and eastern regions of the country it often takes the form of distancing, or going away, from the state.
In fact, this type of social behavior has already been studied by researchers. However, such research was usually devoted to the question of marginal social groups that did not seek self-presentation. This article considers a different situation when distancing is a conscious choice rather than a forced measure, and such choice generates a new type of discourse about social space and a new way of its understanding.
During the initiative field research in the Irkutsk Oblast and Khabarovsk Krai, L.Bliakher and K.Grigorichev found examples of a situation when, contrary to the conventional wisdom, remoteness and isolation are becoming a mechanism for the redevelopment and appropriation of “empty” lands, rather than factors of contraction of the developed space. Their analysis of the genesis and structure of a special type of settlements that arose in the remote regions of the east of Russia over the past decade, their internal stratification and features of communication with the “big world”, indicates the emergence of a new way to fill social space with meanings, which is only possible outside of political authorities’ regulations and large-scale economic projects. Although the cases identified and investigated by the authors are too few to draw generalizable conclusions, they indicate the hidden processes of redevelopment and redefinition of “empty lands” in the eastern part of the country.
¹ 1, 2020
The article describes and explicates the political meaning of the social practices of trans-territorial communities that consist of former Far Easterners who moved to the European part of the country and residents of the Far East. The authors hypothesize that after migration people from the eastern regions of Russia do not completely break ties with these regions, but live as if they were “above the borders”, maintaining stable social ties with communities both in the regions of origin and in the regions where they migrated. The authors assume that the specificity of the eastern territories of Russia is determined by a combination of large-scale transregional and transnational migrations with intense intra-regional population movement. The permanent nature of migrations makes the territorial community a “flowing” community, for which migrations are a natural form of existence. Since the majority of the region’s population is relatively new settlers (one or two generations), ties to the place of a departure — usually in the western part of the country — are maintained. This creates the conditions for a relatively painless movement (return) in a western direction. The dual identity associated with the “flowing” position, active contacts with the host and home communities, and the use of the resources of both sides make it possible to propose a theory of transmigration as an analytical framework. This theory, traditionally used in the analysis of transnational migration processes, can also be very productive in the study of domestic Russian migration, because it provides the key to understanding the causes and mechanisms of its high intensive “western drift” and opens up opportunities for revealing the specifics of community organization in eastern Russia, as well as the repertoire of practices that determine the current migration (and not only migration) landscape of the country.
¹ 1, 2019
The article attempts to describe the political form of Russia on the basis of the specifics of the landscape of Northern Eurasia, as well as the characteristics of settlement and management on this territory. In their turn, these factors determine such important features of Northern Eurasia as the initial autonomy and autarky of households, the lack of need for local communities to resort to external “tools” and forms of macro-social organization (including political structures). At the same time, as shown in the article, external forces (sedentary civilizations) found it too costly, or even
economically meaningless, to exploit such communities, because the costs of controlling the territories of Northern Eurasia exceeded the benefits of the surplus product.
Under special conditions, primarily related to climatic cataclysms, local communities, however, united into large systems that implied certain political structures. In this case authorities played a borderline role between society and the exogenous highest force, acting as a mediator of political meanings. At the same time, authorities did not so much extract the surplus product produced in the society — rather they distributed the resources received from the outside sedentary civilization. They did so in accordance with the place of an individual in the hierarchy, his/her proximity to the mediator. Which political form was built — a “common dress” for different communities included in the political body — depended on the source of higher meanings, the method for obtaining monopoly on translating those meanings, the existing options for acquiring the distributed resources, and the principles of distribution.
The author traces how these features, which are in general inherent in Northern Eurasia, manifested themselves in the establishment and evolution of political forms in Rus, Russia, the USSR, and the Russian Federation.
¹ 1, 2018
In the article the authors utilize the term “Zomia” coined by Willem van Schendel, the Dutch researcher, to refer to a giant “mountainous country” located at the junction of a number of states in South-East Asia, in order to derive a concept, which reflects a specific form of social self-organization, a special type of everyday life that does not require the usual structures of the state of Modernity — it coexists with them and defends its right to be different. The authors study such form of self-organization using the example of the community of the resettled peasants that developed in the east of Russia in the second half of the 19th — early 20th centuries. Having analyzed the factors that led to the emergence of Zomia on the Amur, they come to the conclusion that the main factor was the big size of the territory, which killed any administrative efforts. The control over the giant territories with a relatively poor network of roads was too costly, which rendered it meaningless. The situation inevitably triggered the mechanism of social self-organization, which made the usual political forms superfluous and hostile to the people. They developed specific practices of distancing themselves from the state and using the latter in their own interests. The article describes these practices, as well as the resistance of the resettled peasants to the attempts made by the power structures to “domesticate” the disobedient territory thatincreased as the state strengthened. Although Zomia lost its fight against Leviathan, its defeat, as shown by the authors, was a mere transition to a different form of existence. Zomia continued to exist so that at a time when the Leviathan, exhausted by the vast void space, retreats, Zomia will appear out of nowhere and once again save the Far East.
¹ 4, 2017
Repopularization of Classics (Weber M. Power and Politics / Translated from German by B.M.Skuratov, A.F.Filippov; foreword by A.F.Filippov, comments by T.A.Dmitriev, A.F.Filippov. — Moscow.: RIPOL classic, 2017)
L.Bliakher in his review of the re-edition of the works by Max Weber, one of the renowned classics of the world sociology, attempts to explicate those new meanings that compilers of the volume and commentators found in the chrestomathy texts. According to the reviewer’s assessment, the very composition of the book and the introductory article by A.Filippov set out a new, quite unusual context for comprehending works collected within one volume, demonstrating how purely theoretical tools can be used to analyze current political issues. Thereby the classic’s masterpieces are consonant with the tasks that social and political sciences face today, when searching for tools to study an increasingly complex reality is becoming the main intellectual challenge.
¹ 2, 2017
The article considers the problem of the formation of a new enforcer in the Russian regions. The author shows that the usual enforcers — regional governors — cease to fulfill this function within the regional economy that is gradually losing its legal segment. The “power vertical” is also becoming less monolithic, turning into a set of competing structures that drift along the uncoordinated trajectories. As a consequence, the regional divisions of the secu- rity forces are moving to the forefront of the regional socio-economic and political life. For now it is hard to tell who will assume the role the main enforcer. This will depend on the relative size and strength of the legal vs. “shadow” segments of the economy. According to L.Bliakher’s conclusion, the struggle between the candidates for the role of the main enforcer and its results will determine not only the future of this or the other region, but also the overall configuration of the “political class” in Russia.
¹ 3, 2016
On the basis of the analysis of the survival strategies of state employees under the conditions of consistent reduction in government spending and liabilities, L.Blyakher traces two possible scenarios of Russia's development. The first scenario implies the increasing pressure of state on shadow sphere, resulting in even greater split of reality into the legal one, which is characterized by the struggle of political groups, participation of social activists, etc., and the invisible one, which is increasingly assuming the main function. Blyakher states that if this scenario comes true, the gap between the actual situation and the forms in which it is presented may reach catastrophic proportions, calling into question the very existence of the social “fabric” beyond the local community. The second scenario is associated with the recognition of the objective limits of state control. In this case, the “shadow” reality associated with self-sustainment is simply set free, which, according to Blyakher, opens up an opportunity for the establishment of fruitful, although not quite formal, contacts between the weakening state and self-sufficient population.
¹ 2, 2016
The article studies the specifics of mythologization and stigmatization of the peripheral communities in the Soviet empire on the example of the civil war in Central Asia. Focusing on the phenomenon of Basmachi movement, L.Blyakher and I.Yarulin show the reasons for why the very term “basmachi” emerged, how its volume and content were formed, and what functions it performed in relation to the peripheral community. According to the authors’ conclusion, the attempts to reconsider Basmachi movement that have been increasingly undertaken in the recent years have failed precisely because within the Soviet stigmatizing discourse this term referred to the movements that were extremely different both in their political preferences and social nature, but at some point were declared enemies by the Soviet authorities.
¹ 4, 2015
The article discusses the relationship between the sphere that constitutes the economic basis (“fodder base”) of the state, the specificity of the mechanism by which the state extracts resources and the distinguishing features of the political structure of the society in the post-Soviet Russia. Based on the analysis of the transformations that the Russian state has undergone over the past 25 years, L.Blyakher identifies three stages in its development (state as a seller of services; state as a distributor of goods; and a modern, transitional stage), demonstrating that these stages are conditioned upon the nature of the “fodder base”. The author focuses on the role of the informal economy in this interaction. The article shows that during the crisis of the traditional “fodder base” of the Russian state the low-level informal economy reproached in everyday life is the only sphere that is not harmed.
¹ 3, 2015
The article describes the role of Dushanbe as an imperial city in the social space of Tajikistan. Having carefully analyzed the functions performed by Dushanbe and its Russian-speaking residents in the internal structure of the Tajik community in the Soviet era, L.Blyakher shows that these functions are still relevant after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to his conclusion, today the identification within the “Russian” town of Dushanbe, originally isolated from the local territorial communities, appeared to be one of the few options of the Tajik political identification that can serve as a basis for the formation of the political nation. And since the Russians as such left, a layer of the “Tajik Russians” (ethnic Tajiks who accepted Russian language and culture) is emerging to form the main population of Dushanbe. Thanks to their “Russianness” they can rise above the local identity and thereby preserve the overall balance of power in the republic.
¹ 1, 2015
On the example of the Russian-Chinese border areas L.Blyakher and K.Grigorichev analyze transformations within the structure of the “image of the border” and the “image of the other” when translating these images into spaces that are far enough from the zone of contact between the two countries. The article shows how the Russian-Chinese border areas gradually grow into each other converging at the level of behavioral matrices and social networks, bringing to life such phenomena as “Russian China” and “Chinese Russia”. At the same time for the inhabitants of the Russian regions situated far from the border areas it is these border areas that serve as an “authentic” China, and depending on the special characteristics of the region that “reflects” this “China” its image acquires novel, sometimes unexpected features.
¹ 3, 2014
This article is devoted to the analysis of one of the patterns associated with the nature of and perception of the processes occurring in the post-Soviet Russia, which finds its expression in the contradiction between an incredible speed of change in political forms, business rules of the game etc., and a feeling of going around in a circle. Empirically, the author supports his arguments with the narrative on comprehension and permanent “exploration” of the Amur River Region as a historically emergent part of the Far East. The choice of this region is justified by the fact that a special type of discourse has been established in relation to this frontier, the essence of which can be rather adequately conveyed by the term “empty space”, and “emptiness”, especially when encased within the political boundaries, inevitably engenders a desire to “explore” it. Trying to understand reasons for failure of all such “exploration” projects, L.Blyakher reveals a number of interesting trends inherent, albeit in a blurred form, in Russia as a whole.
¹ 1, 2014
Despite all the differences in the political climate in Russia in the 2000s and in the 2010s there is an important overarching feature – almost maniac passion of state structures for introducing norms and regulations. At most various levels, from the local to the national, authorities seek the possible strongest control over all actors located on the territory under their jurisdiction. Focusing their attention on the ideological justification of this attitude by the governors and a response to such justification by the governed, the authors show how stable semantic complexes (myths), which guide the governors, manifest themselves when confronted with the governed reality. The clash between reality and mythology of political management is analyzed on the example of the Russian system of higher education.
¹ 2, 2013
The article discusses versions of spontaneous order that emerged in the small towns of the Far East against the background of the state control weakening, types of confrontation arising from the “return” of the dirigiste state as well as the conditions under which such confrontation might end up with the interests reconciliation. It is shown that although state and local communities interests are rarely the same, such a situation does not necessarily produce conflict. The decisive factor here is an institutional opportunity to articulate community specialty and interests that in its turn hinges upon the availability of a legal and legitimate “negotiator” as well as space for negotiations. However, the long-term alignment of interests is hindered by inarticulate interests of the state itself. Such circumstances make it extremely difficult to avoid the perception of the state version of the public weal as a form of structural violence.
¹ 4, 2012
The article is devoted to analyzing the reasons that encouraged actualization of the corruption topic in the Russian society. Tying the evolution of anticorruption discourse to the twists and turns of the post-Soviet Russian political history, the authors show why corruption that was so obvious in the 1990s was neither purposefully curbed nor even viewed as an acute problem, whereas in the 2000s, when there was significantly less corruption in its legal understanding, all of a sudden it moved to the front of the public opinion and then, in the 2010s, it transformed from being a social and economic problem that it used to be during the whole previous time period, into the highly important political problem.
¹ 3, 2012
Alexander Abramovich Galkin, Patriarch of the Russian Political Science, Deputy Chair of the Editorial Board of the Journal Politeia, celebrated his 90th anniversary on the 24th of July. The material that is offered to the attention of the readers is composed in the form of the “homage” and presents the collection of texts written by friends, colleagues and students of Alexander Abramovich that tells us about the hero of an anniversary as well as his contribution to the development of the social science knowledge in our country and the emergence of the Russian political science community. The collection contains works by Boris Koval, Anatoly Chernyaev, Tatyana Alekseeva, Kirill Kholodkovsky, Sergey Mikhailov, Aleksey Shestopal, Oksana Gaman-Golutvina, Olga Zdravomyslova and Leonid Blyakher.
¹ 1, 2012
In the article the author explores opportunities of presenting regional problems within the framework of the federal political discourse. Relying on the material of the discourse presented by the concept of “migration”, L.Blyakher demonstrates how virtual homogeneity of the political space eats out the real specificity of regions hindering the elaboration of the regional agenda and conditions for self-awareness. A gap arises between practices and their naming. The established system of names that is supported by political institutions prevents from the emergence of the conceptual row tied to the regional reality and therefore, according to the author’s conclusions, the only possibility to take into account and describe this reality is by provoking and destroying the official discourse, the official system of names.
¹ 4, 2011
On the basis of the analysis of the situation in the Post-Soviet Siberia and Far East the authors show that inconsistencies in the migrant policies conducted at different levels are in no small measure caused by the fact that these levels target at distinct public fears and social interests. They conclude that de facto the migrant policy conducted at regions is not anywhere near the federal one or the more or less consolidated regional system of migration regulating measures. Almost each actor implements his own “migration policy” that is constructed according to his own private interests. As a result, there is a “sum” of weakly interconnected “migration policies” that only nominally fit the Procrustean bed of the federal legislation. Such situation allows for the creation of an illusion of being within the legal space while in fact pushing the corresponding activity into the sphere of informal practices.
¹ 3, 2011
The closer the elections to the State Duma, the more the researchers talk about parties rankings, level of confidence in them, their social base, about whom this gubernator or that lends support to etc. Having analyzed the specificity of the electoral process organization in Russia, L.Blyakher doubts the relativity of these discussions. He concludes that the situation that the country faces on the eve of 2011 electoral marathon is qualitatively different from the previous electoral cycles. The author demonstrates that out of three most important factors that used to determine elections predictability (gubernators’ authority and their administrative resource; popularity – whether true or “inflated” – of “the national leader” and the belief that “the party of power” will win anyway), at least one factor does not exist anymore and the other two are also rather ambiguous, which makes “the party of power” extremely unstable.
¹ 1, 2011
The article describes the processes of nation-building taking place in the Amur River Region in 1920–1930s that resulted in the emergence of the Jewish Autonomous Province. Having analyzed in details twists and turns of the struggle surrounding the idea of the “Jewish autonomy” and instruments employed for its formation, the authors demonstrate that in contrast to the conventional wisdom, “Project of Birobidjan” was not only the means of propagandistic influence over the international community or the way to attract investments from the international Jewish organizations. They conclude that it was a unique attempt to build a “secular” Jewish state based on such mechanisms as artistic culture, construction of history and commonality of fate created by immigration.
¹ 3, 2010
The article considers peculiarities and dynamics of the law-enforcement practices in the Russian Far East. Departing from the specificity of the force operator that defined the character of these practices, L.Blyakher determines three stages of the law-enforcement evolution in the region: the criminal one, when the main force operator was the criminal community; the regional one, when this role was assumed by governors of the federal units; and the federal one. According to the author’s evaluations, the federal center’s victory in the fight for the inclusion of the Far East into the united legal space leads to the elimination of those lacunas where the citizens of the Far East were the most active during the previous stages. The informal game rules between the political power and the people found themselves irrevocably at odds. The capitulation of the regional government causes vanishing of the so called “layer-absorber” that allowed local community to exist despite their considerable distance from the power center and therefore, the very existence of the efficient communication with the government disappears.
¹ 2, 2010
REVOLUTION MANTRA, OR ABRUPT MODULATIONS OF REVOLUTIONARY METAPHORICS (Kapustin B.G. On Subject and Applications of Notion “Revolution”// Criticism of Political Philosophy. Selected Essays. – Moscow: Territory of Future, 2010)
The article is written as a response to the polemic essay by B.Kapustin directed against the interpretation of revolution proposed by the authors of the collected book Concept “Revolution” in Modern Political Discourse (St. Petersburg, 2008). Focusing on the differences in their views with Kapustin, L.Blyakher supposes that the reason for such fierce criticism that resulted in the essay, which size is comparable to the book’ one, lies within the domain of politics rather than political science or political philosophy. The revolution as interpreted by Kapustin resembles atomic energy being daunted by science, but still able to cause “Chernobyl accidents”. While the main extra scientific intention of the collected book Concept “Revolution” in Modern Political Discourse was a feeling that the increasing application of the notion in very different spheres is a terrifying symptom that indicates the end of Modernity, Kapustin adjures the “revolutionary atom” not to blow up, but to continue Modernity.
¹ 1, 2010
The article reveals the reasons of the cognitive dissonance appearing in the process of the political communication between the federal center and the Russian Far East. As L.Blyakher demonstrates, when the concepts used within the discourses are the same, their semantic meanings are different. The emergence of this gap is related to the radical reorientation of the region towards the Asian “gates into the global world” in the 1990s and de facto realization of the regime of the “free trade zone” (porto franco). Since this process occurred in the informal sphere and was not reflected in the official statistics, it stayed unnoticed by the central federal structures. The federal center’s aspiration of the last years to use the transit opportunities of the region came into collision with the already existing practices that are already partly legitimized in the framework of the regional government. Viewing such legitimization (perceived by the center as the “overall corruptness” of the region) as an instrument of the alternative social integration, Blyakher analyzes opportunities and risks of the assimilation of the alternative social networks by the state.
¹ 2, 2009
The article analyzes socio-political processes at the Russian Far East in recent years. The explanatory scheme used by the author is a “duple” model of region’s development: extension (when the country is on the rise) and compression (at the time of socio-economic or political disorder). In the latter case the region transfers to a conservation regime characterized by loosening of state control, focus on local types of economic activities, and trans-border cooperation. L.Blyakher and L.Vasilieva see the specificity of current situation in that the decrease of state “injections” into the region today is not followed by loosening of local activities, but rather by greater control and blocking.
¹ 1, 2009
The article analyzes the ways of formation of nation-states on the territory of the Central Asia. L.Blyakher and S.Kizima believe that one of the key characteristics of the establishment of state systems in the region, as well as in the whole post-soviet space, is that states of a modernist type are being formed here at the time of Postmodern, global reality and formation of supranational political structures. Despite specific features of the Central Asia, the challenges that face the states of the region are practically identical to those that emerge in other post-soviet countries. Moreover, the specific features of the process of building a nation-state, i.e. the new political phenomenon of the period of Modern, during the post-modernist era are manifested there most clearly and explicitly. The authors conclude that the “case” of the Central Asia is not a “unique case” but rather a matrix of changes that are happening on the whole territory of the former Soviet Union.
¹ 4, 2008
L.Blyakher evaluates the book by S.I.Kaspe as an achievement in the life of the Russian political science community, which allows portraying and methodologically interpreting the new layout of the political reality, as well as comparing it with classical patterns of politological description. L.Blyakher sees his task in drawing his colleagues’ attention to this work. He notes the contours of a new dimension of reasoning revealed in the monograph, which strongly prove that the book indeed permits to methodologically correctly “see” behind the kaleidoscope of various technical forms, organizations and institutions a new entity, new subject of politological description and analysis. The study is not yet an “answer” to the challenge that the contemporary political science has to take up, but a thoroughly formulated question that draws the answer closer.
¹ 3, 2008
The article makes an attempt to reveal hidden mechanisms that form the basis of the “nostalgic” mood overwhelming the majority of spheres and aspects of social life in modern Russia. In order to find out why the country that effectuated such a mighty heave towards the West in the 1990s turned back to the “sweet embrace” of the past and rejected era, L.Blyakher analyzes the specificity of Russian political space. He searches for the roots of such specificity in the principle of organization and substantial characteristics of the Russian Center. According to his findings, what played a decisive role in the country’s history was the fact that in Russia, unlike Europe, secular and spiritual spheres were merged in the face of the Ruler who, being endued with the supreme secular power and at the same time having sacred religious status, was the main mediator between proximal reality and the sphere of the transcendental. The study of the Russian political space itself is preceded by a brief analysis of the processes that determined structural features of the political space of Europe and the states at the world’s periphery.
¹ 2, 2008
The article sees political problems of contemporary Tajikistan as a reflection of contradictions typical of the whole Central Asian region. While looking for the root causes of these problems L.Blyakher and F.Salimov explore the specificity of “designing” the Tajik identity during the Soviet period. According to their conclusion, the basis behind the existence of the Tajik “socialist nation” consisted in the distribution of power between the chief ethnic groups that had formed it and in the two-tier character of culture. The first, “external” tier of this culture comprised real status relations that had been formed within the framework of traditional structures (makhala, avlod) wherein the elite had been shaped and selected for later to become part of the “external” tier and to perform the pumping of resources from the Soviet economy into the traditional economy. The collapse of the Soviet Union upset the established balance of forces. While having qualified the present-day situation in the republic as an unstable consensus of the elites, L.Blyakher and F.Salimov are showing that stability within the country directly depends on whether or not the authorities prove capable of finding an external resource for supporting the economy that would surpass or at least be comparable to what is supplied by the drug trafficking and the support of extremist Islamic organizations.
¹ 1, 2008
The article offers the interpretation of the CIS as a club of “non-accepted” states for which no place was found in the framework of the established geopolitical alliances. In the opinion of L.Blyakher, one of the key reasons for such turn of events is that the Soviet Union as a mental construct turned to be much more viable than its denotate. By praising or cursing the “soviet past” former republics of the USSR preserve their post-soviet status primarily for the reason that the Soviet Union is a starting point of their self-identification. Imperial meanings and imperial legacy hinder the construction of nation states. And although for the time being the aspiration for national sovereignty explodes any attempt to create something super-national, the inability of the CIS states to integrate into new imperial spaces, in view of L.Blyakher, opens up the possibility of turning the Commonwealth into a real union where “common past” could become common future.
¹ 3, 2007
Noting the doubtless merits of the collective monograph under the editorship of V.Gelman L.Blyakher still states that its authors could not get beyond the negative description of the Russian political regime as being neither "purely" authoritarian nor properly democratic. Moreover, although the book makes think about the structure of Russian political institutions and the principle difference between the "name" of an institution and the function it performs in the society the issue of the essence of Russian political regime is not raised there. Explaining such "narrow" point of view by the desire to stick to the scientific "purity of style" Blyakher reflects on the factors hindering the conceptualization of Russian political reality.
¹ 2, 2007
The article covers the analysis of sociopolitical processes taking place in the big cities of one of the most problematic Russian region — the Far East under the impact of the municipal reform started in 2004. The authors characterize the Far East as the region with “flowing culture” that neutralized the innovation drive conditioned by constant big migration flows and that was built on the simplest network systems. They show how with the disintegration of the organized recruitment system and consequently the disappearance of constant innovation “feeding” the “flowing culture” turned into a mechanism that “damped” any innovations. According to their conclusion the conduct of the municipal reform in Far East could not but disturb links between big cities and the “chorus” and cause the factual disintegration of the system of the interactions between the city and the territorial state. According to L.Blyakher and S.Levkov today, instead of “gateways into the global world”, “municipal units” appear legally and factually separated from the external impact and more and more reminding of an oligarch cityrepublic of the 16th century rather then of a global city of the 21st century.
¹ 4, 2005
The author reviews the project which finished at the beginning of 2006. The project covered the analysis of the concept of revolution used in modern political discourse. Within the project implementation different problems were addressed like why one political cataclysm is called a revolution and another, a similar one, not; what is the specific of the concept "revolution" in the Russian philosophic tradition and some others.
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