PhD seminar: Civic, ethnic, imperial, etc: Varieties of nationalism, and how they can help us understand nationalism in Russia

This seminar is aimed at PhD candidates from various disciplines whose doctoral projects deal with nationalism.

Please sign up here by the end of 23 May.


In Putin’s third term, nationalism is increasingly used as a strategy of regime legitimation. Most clearly this is expressed in how the annexation of Crimea was sold in to the Russian public. But nationalism is a notoriously fuzzy concept, particularly when applied to Russia which has a different history of nation-state building from not only most West European but also most East European states.

The course will give an overview of some common theories and typologies of nationalism with a particular focus on typologies that distinguish between Eastern and Western varieties of nationalism. What we understand by “nationalism” inevitably depends on our definition of “the nation” and much confusion in discourses about nationalism clearly is caused by the authors’ different terminology. In the course we will discuss in particular how the concepts of civic, ethnic and imperial can be used/have been used in the general literature and in particular as applied to a Russian context.

  • What distinguishes nationalism in a state that officially sees itself as “multinational”?
  • Are “civic” and “ethnic” meaningful concepts, and if yes, should they be understood as a dichotomy?
  • Is “imperial nationalism” a contradiction in terms?
  • What are the dynamics between societal nationalism and state level nationalism in Russia?


1000-1045: Some theories and typologies of nationalism

1045-1115: Discussion

1115-1145: Nationalism in Russia: historical preconditions

1145-1215: Discussion

1215-1315: Luncheon

1315-1400: Contemporary Russian nationalism: societal level

1400-1430: Discussion

1430-1445: Break

1445-1530: Contemporary Russian nationalism: state level

1530-1600: Discussion

ECTS credits

Attendance, active discussion, and reading the required course literature gives 2 ECTS.

Reading list

  • Michael Hechter: Containing nationalism, Oxford: Oxford University press, 2000, chapter 1, pp. 1-17
  • Rogers Brubaker 1995, “National Minorities, Nationalizing States, and External National Homelands in the New Europe”, Daedalus, 124, 2, pp. 107-132
  • Umut Ôzkirimli, Theories of nationalism: a critical introduction, Palgrave 2010 (2nd edition). From chapter 4: (Modernism): ‘political transformations’ and ‘social/cultural transformations’; chapter 5:  (‘Ethnosymbolism’);, from chapter 6 (New approaches to Nationalism): subchapters on Michael Billig and Robert  Brubaker, plus ‘a critique of new approaches’. In the 2nd edition this is pp. 83-174 & 187-198; in the first edition  (2010) page ranges may differ. The book is available on for GBP28)
  • Taras Kuzio, “The myth of the civic state: a critical survey of Hans Kohn’s framework for understanding nationalism”, Ethnic and Racial Studies 2000, 25, 1, pp. 20-39 
  • David G. Rowley, . “Imperial versus national discourse: the case of Russia”, Nations and Nationalism 6 (I), 2000, pp. 23-42
  • Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud (eds.) The New Russian Nationalism: Imperialism, Ethnicity and Authoritarianism, 2000–15, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University press, 2016. The book is available on Open Access, The following chapters:
    • Pål Kolstø,  chapter 1.”The ethnification of Russian nationalism”, pp. 1-17
    • Henry E. Hale chapter 8 “How nationalism and machine politics mix in Russia”, pp. 221-248
    • Helge Blakkisrud, chapter 9. “Blurring the boundary between civic and ethnic: The Kremlin’s new approach to national identity under Putin’s third term”, pp. 249-274
  • Emil Pain: “Contemporary Russian nationalism in the historical struggle between ‘official nationality’ and ‘popular sovereignty’”, forthcoming in Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud  (Eds.), Before and after Crimea: convulsions on Russian nationalism and national identity, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University press, 2018.
  • Vladimir Putin. (2012), ‘Rossiia: natsionalnyi vopros’ [Russia: the national question], Nezavisimaia gazeta, 23 January,, 10 pages
  • Vladimir Putin:  Address by President of the Russian Federation to State Duma deputies, Federation Council members, heads of Russian regions and civil society representatives in the Kremlin. March 18, 2014, 10 pages (in Russian: ‘Obrashchenie Prezidenta Rossiiskoi, 18 March,

Total: 243 pages

Practical information

There is no course fee. Participants must arrange their own travel and accommodation. Lunch will be provided.

Published Apr. 7, 2017 2:59 PM - Last modified Apr. 20, 2020 10:52 PM