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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: March 2008

3 - Geographies of imperial identity

from Part I - Empire
The problem of identity in modern Russia is commonly framed in terms of the elemental tension between the country's alternative embodiments as empire or nation. This chapter explores identity in pre-revolutionary Russia by examining three configurations of the imperial vision: as a European empire, as an anti-European empire, and as a national empire. The Europeanisation of Russia's imperial image involved many things including the need for a basic perceptual rebounding and rebranding of its domestic geographical space. The most important element of the ideological inversion proved to be the civilisational juxtaposition between Europe and Asia. There was an alternative response to the dilemmas thrown up by Russian nationalism regarding the quality of the country's identity vis-a-vis the West. The fact that the vision of Russia as an anti-European empire continued to accept the civilisational distinction between Europe and Asia set out in the eighteenth century insured that it would remain encumbered with the fundamental nationalist dilemma regarding Russia's European identity.
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The Cambridge History of Russia
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