Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
This neat volume makes the 215th entry in the impressive series Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society (ISSN 1614-3515) started in 2004, edited by Andreas Umland with the help of an Editorial Committee and an Advisory Board. The Committee and the Board include 95 names of renowned specialists in this department of area studies. Most of the chapters were previously published as peer-reviewed articles or essays in collections, but the author invested due effort in updating and fitting them together. He applies the theoretical perspective of critical geopolitics to examine the phenomenon of 'Renaissance' of geopolitical thinking in Russia. This power-centric interpretation of international relations has become as dominant as Marxism-Leninism in the Soviet era. It might appear peculiar that the research informed by the theory, which rejects realist interpretations of spatial competition and sees national territory as discursive construct, focuses on Russia, where the interplays between power, territory and politics are taken as unquestionable objective reality. Suslov, however, leaves aside the geopolitical imperatives in Russian strategic culture and examines the utopian aspects of geopolitical imagination, which arise from the discontent with the reality of Russia's loss of status and seek to offer a set of feasible goals for reversing the marginalization. The first part of the thoroughly researched book deals with the key elements of geopolitical imagination, focusing in particular on the production of knowledge about Russia's 'unique civilization'. The second part investigates four cases of distinct utopian traits featuring religious aspects ('Holy Rus'), Eurasian tradition, alternative history, and the proposition of 'Novorossiya', which is instrumentalized in Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Russia's behavior is often perceived as utterly pragmatic, but this analysis reveals its underlying fallacious idealism.