Статья 'Геополитические конструкты в структуре образа России' - журнал 'Вопросы безопасности' - NotaBene.ru
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Security Issues

Geopolitical Constructs in the Structure of the Image of Russia

Shmygin Vladislav Andreevich

Graduate student, Department of Social Engineering HSCSS, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow region, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1, -

Other publications by this author

Shultz Vladimir Leopoldovich

Doctor of Philosophy

Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor, Department of Social Engineering, Lomonosov Moscow State University

119991, Russia, Moscow, Leninskie Gory str., 1










Abstract: The article is devoted to the study of the geopolitical image of Russia, namely the structurally filling elements - constructs. The geopolitical constructs characteristic of the Russian case are considered by the authors, both from the point of view of the geographical and spatial representation of the country, and from the position of the geopolitical processes in which Russia is included. The geographical-spatial component of the geopolitical image is revealed by the authors through the analysis of the classical constructs of geopolitics represented by the theories of X.Mackinder, N.Speakman, G. Vernadsky, Z.Brzezinski. The geo-economic, cultural and civilizational, status-political and conjectural components of the geopolitical image of Russia, which determine the system of representations and the geopolitical identity of the country, are analyzed in the work. The main conclusions of the work are formed from the analysis of the geopolitical image and consideration of its internal elements. The authors indicate the integral nature of the geopolitical image, the complexity of which is analyzed on the basis of each individual component. In the spatial and geographical plane, the idea of Russia's position in the "core" of the Eurasian continent is recognized as the main geopolitical construct. The geo-economic component is revealed through the geopolitical configuration of the core and periphery, in which Russia will only have to take its stable positions, depending on the future structure of the economy. The status component defines the Russian geopolitical image through the available official and unofficial (image component) elements. At the same time, the cultural and civilizational issue is the most ambitious in the context of the multiplicity of geopolitical constructs: for example, the authors consider the idea of Eurasianism in the structure of the geopolitical image.


the geopolitical image, geographical space, the image of russia, geopolitics, world politics, geographical image, heartland, Eurasianism, geostrategy, the geopolitical construct

This article is automatically translated. You can find original text of the article here.

The geopolitical status of nation-states in the modern world is becoming more important due to the permanent increase in the number of transformations of world politics and international relations. Russia, striving to become a "great" or world power, directly forms its geopolitical image on the basis of the geopolitical constructs available in theoretical and applied terms. This approach is actualized, due to Russia's geostrategic plans.

The features of the construction of the geostrategy of our country are based on the geopolitical position and status of our country, as well as the evolution of these components. Russia, after the abolition of the Soviet Union, has certainly undergone a colossal rollback of its status and geopolitical prestige. This was due to:

· Restructuring of the geopolitical space. 19 states and state entities (de facto) appeared on the world political map. This indicates that the world political map has acquired a more fragmented character.

·                   The emergence of pockets of separatism within newly formed states. Among these, successful examples of secession can be distinguished: Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh, the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, Crimea (taking into account the transition of the territory from one state entity to another). So are examples of a failed secession, among which Chechnya (Ichkeria) and Tatarstan can be singled out. This demonstrates the growth of general political instability in the region.

·                    The temporary transformation of the bipolar world into a unipolar one. The United States of America tried on the status of a world hegemon, but at the same time the territory of Eurasia as a whole remained important from the point of view of geopolitics. In this situation, Russia is beginning to become an important part of geopolitical influence, because the United States of America is not interested in Russia's return to its former positions. "Russia ... remains a major geostrategic actor, despite weakened statehood and, possibly, prolonged ill health… It cherishes ambitious geopolitical goals, which it proclaims more and more openly. As soon as it regains its power, it will also begin to exert a significant influence on its eastern and western neighbors ..." [14].

Against the background of increased fragmentation and lack of balance of power between the geopolitical poles, the West (as a geopolitical and civilizational entity) has expanded its sphere of influence. Thus, the region of the former socialist camp – CEE (Central and Eastern Europe) found itself in a situation of "choosing patterns" or institutional anchors. Henry Kissinger described the situation with the CEE region and the sharp weakening of Russia's positions: "The Soviet Union should not have left Eastern Europe so quickly. We are changing the balance in the world very quickly, and this can lead to undesirable consequences."[13] Such consequences can be considered the activation of other states striving for geopolitical hegemony: Turkey, China. These states have begun to enter directly into the uncodified strategy of the national-state interests of Russia, because the national-state interests of these countries directly intersect with Russian interests.

The geostrategy of the Russian Federation is characterized by a number of complex aspects listed above, each of which is associated with a separate side of geopolitical processes. Russia, striving to realize itself as a world power, is involved in such geopolitical processes as globalization, hybrid wars (based on local conflicts), information, economic confrontation, and the arms race. In this regard, it is necessary to develop a geostrategy aimed at protecting national and state interests on the world stage. The basis of geostrategy can be the geopolitical image of the country, considered as a product of geopolitical interaction with the rest of the world, as well as a geographical and spatial representation of the country.

We can find the definition of the concept of "geographical image" in D.N. Zamyatin, who defined it as a set of bright, characteristic signs, symbols and key representations of a certain geographical space [9]. From the point of view of the phenomenological approach, the geographical image includes all the key public perceptions and stereotypes concerning the issues of attractiveness, special status, uniqueness of a particular territory. The Russian case is revealed in this context through the geopolitical concept of "Heartland", proposed by Halford Mackinder at the beginning of the 20th century [11]. The scientist described this concept through a geographical dimension: the northeastern part of Eurasia, mainly occupied by Russia (the Russian Empire at that time). Mackinder argued that the most advantageous geographical location for the state would be central. This criterion is relative, but from a planetary point of view, the Eurasian continent is located in the center of the world, and the continent itself, in turn, has its own center – the "heart of the world", "Heartland" – the most favorable geographical scope for control over the whole world [11]. The scientist comes to the conclusion about the most important, from the point of view of geopolitics, world space – the Heartland or the core of the world. The state controlling it is capable of controlling the whole of Eurasia, which at that time was the scene of world politics. The national and state interests of any country seeking to dominate world politics are in this space.

G.V. Vernadsky also referred to the significance of Eurasia in his works, defining the continent not as a combination of Europe and Asia, but considering it as a middle continent - a special geographical and historical world [6].

The continuation of the Heartland theory can be seen in the works of Speakman, in which he conducts a revision of the category and introduces the concept of "Rimland" - coastal space [10]. Speakman analyzed the importance of containing the Soviet Union on the territory of the Heartland and preventing the United States of America from joining Rimland as a national-state interest. Within the Russian image, the significance of Rimland is leveled despite Russia's access to a part of the coastal zone, but not initially associated with maritime dominance. Russia is close to the model of tellurocracy, that is, land power based on the possession of a significant part of the land, and opposed to tallosocracy – sea power [18].

The American theorist of geopolitics, Zbigniew Brzezinski, further also designates Eurasia as the most important region in terms of world hegemony [2]. In addition, Brzezinski, being a theorist of geopolitics and an adviser to the political elite of the United States of America in the field of foreign policy, determined the national and state interests of his country through diminishing the influence and role of undemocratic countries to strengthen global leadership [3]. That is, he went beyond the spatial representation (the geographical part of the image) and considered geopolitical processes in the context of the system of international relations. In this case, the disclosure of the Russian case is difficult.

From the point of view of spatial representation, Russia of the 20th and 21st centuries (in retrospect, the change of the Russian Empire – the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, respectively), although partially lost its territorial potential, but retained a significant advantage over regional competitors, also remaining the "holder of the Heartland". This construct is the basic one in the structure of the country's geopolitical image in the context of the spatial and geographical representation of Russia and its use is relevant for the Russian "Soft Power" in order to obtain third-party recognition [4].

At the same time, public perceptions of the geopolitical image are not formed solely on the basis of the geographical component. The geopolitical image is an integral category that also includes the political aspects of international relations:

- geoeconomics;

- cultural and civilizational interaction and identity;

- political statuses of the state;

- the conjuncture of world politics.

And if the last of these aspects currently does not contribute to the construction of a positive image of Russia as a whole, it can allow the formation of the image of a powerful state, which is much more important in the geopolitical confrontation than the aspect of the attractiveness of the image of the country. The conjuncture of world politics is formed on the basis of political acts that currently include both war and diplomacy. Success in these areas is the key to creating the desired geopolitical image within this component.

The geo-economic component of the geopolitical image of Russia is also clear, due to the natural resource potential and does not require additional geopolitical constructs to enhance the image. The natural resources that Russia possesses are in demand and in this case the rational-economic approach is exhaustive. A potential threat in this direction is the raw nature of Russian exports and the lack of Russian positions in other sectors of the international division of labor. Structural changes and the innovative nature of the Russian economic system are an obvious step to prevent the threat of transformation of Russia's geo-economic status. If at the moment Russia has the political and economic resource to maintain the status of the core (center) states, then in the future, with an ineffective economic policy, it has the risk of assuming the status of a peripheral state. In the geo–economic component of the geopolitical image, the construct of a country belonging to the "core" is desirable, although it has been disputed by a number of scientists since Soviet times [5] [21].

The political statuses of Russia (both official and unofficial) were formed both in political practice and political discourse. For example, the geopolitical image of Russia includes the concept of a "Nuclear power" (official status) on the basis of the succession of the Soviet nuclear program and retaining the role of a key nuclear state (unofficial status) [20]. Russia plays a high role in supranational cooperation, due to its status as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. These concepts influence the perception of the country as an important geopolitical player and are also included in the system of the geopolitical image. This part of the image is complemented by informal statuses constructed in public political discourse. Based on the analysis of the American journalistic discourse conducted by the Russian scientist O.G. Orlova [12], the geopolitical image of Russia is characterized by lexemes:

- "Russia is a huge, great country";

- "Russia is an opponent of the USA";

- "Russia is aggressive."

Such statuses describe the Russian geopolitical image, both from the point of view of space and from the point of view of its place in the system of international relations. At the same time, the list of the most popular stereotypes does not include descriptions of a cultural and civilizational nature. Russian Russian characteristics in this area include a system of ideas about the "Russian world" - a complex category that includes both the idea of pan-Slavism (unification of Slavic peoples, especially Eastern Slavs) and the idea of unification of various peoples among whom the Russian language is widespread (for example, the post-Soviet space). The "Russian world" as a geopolitical construct is contrasted with the "Western World", consisting of the Romano-Germanic and Anglo-Saxon worlds [1]. Such ideas are not qualitatively new and were developed by Russian sociologists (social philosophers) back in the 19th century: N.Y. Danilevsky proposed considering Russia as a Slavic-Orthodox civilization separate from Eurocentrism. The sociologist's approach translates the idea of Russia's own vector of development, unrelated to the illusory progress of Western civilization. At the same time, Russia is not part of the East opposed to the West. Russia as a Slavic civilization is the third force in this civilizational balance, due to the special harmony of development, which puts the country in the position of the highest stage of social progress [17]. The Slavic type of cultural progress according to N.Y. Danilevsky is such, due to the possibility of performing all types of cultural and historical activities by this cultural and historical type (which the scientist singled out): religious activity, cultural activity proper (science, art, industry), political and socio-economic [8].

The cultural and civilizational models of Russia's development were further developed in the construct of "Eurasianism". The phenomenon arose in the ranks of the Russian intellectual emigration – the beginnings of Eurasianism belong to the works of N.S. Trubetskoy, who proposed a revolution of consciousness consisting in the establishment of an original national culture in all spheres of life [19]. Eurasianism is a form of nationalism that has yet to be created. The philosopher analyzes the leaders of the Russian revolution, who use all the products of the European world, including egocentrism.

The continuation of Eurasianism as a geopolitical idea can be found in the works of P.N. Savitsky, describing the geographical features of the region, which differs from Europe and Asia [16]. Geography and history (including political) interact in the concept of Eurasianism, which makes it possible to consider it a geopolitical construct. The peculiarity of the geopolitical construct according to Savitsky lies in the cultural and civilizational nature of the idea, and not military or political, which is characteristic of the European world. The advantage of Russia according to Savitsky is the "median", that is, such a geographical position that determines its historical identity and uniqueness. But what is the uniqueness of the central position of the country? According to the scientist, if the "middle ground", for example, of Germany is limited to the European context, and Europe itself is only the "western cape" of Eurasia, then Russia occupies a central position within the entire continent. The "middle ground" of Russia for Savitsky is the basis of its historical identity. It is not part of Europe and not an extension of Asia. It is an original world, an independent and special spiritual and historical geopolitical reality, Russia—Eurasia [15].

The geopolitical constructs analyzed in the work are auxiliary conceptual foundations of the structural elements of the geopolitical image of Russia. Their use and development in the format of social knowledge (addition, transformation, dissemination) affect the system of ideas about Russia as a geopolitical leader, which is an important component of geostrategy, due to the dictates of information influence on the modern political map and the hybrid nature of wars taking place on the world stage.

Designing a new geopolitical reality or a part of it, which is the geopolitical image of the country, is a complex task that includes all the structural elements listed in the work, but is not limited to them, due to the permanently developing nature of social knowledge. At the same time, the development of existing constructs or the creation of new ones (based on existing ones) is a key advantage of the information confrontation characteristic of the conjuncture of international relations.


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The subject of the reviewed research is the geopolitical image of Russia, as well as the technology of its formation. Given the increasing tension in international relations and geopolitical pressure on Russia observed in recent years, the relevance of this topic cannot be overestimated. The author chose the theories of "geographical images" and "geocultural branding" by the famous Russian geographer and cultural critic D.N. Zamyatin as the conceptual framework of his research. However, the author does not disclose the methodology of his research (let alone argue for it), leaving methodological reflection on the reader's work. From the context, it can be established that in addition to general scientific analytical methods, conceptual analysis of geopolitical constructs contained in the works of prominent theorists of geopolitics, as well as some elements of discourse analysis, were used. The use of these methods allowed the author to obtain results with some signs of scientific novelty. First of all, we are talking about the very approach to the construction of a geopolitical image, developing the results of D.N. Zamyatin's research in relation to Russian geopolitical realities. Certain elements of novelty are also contained in the critical conceptualization of some aspects of Russia's geopolitical image, explicated from the works of geopolitical theorists (although not all of the author's conclusions can be agreed). Structurally, the article also does not cause any particular complaints: its logic is quite consistent and reflects the main aspects of the research. Although the rubrication of the text would not hurt. The following sections can be conditionally distinguished in the text: - the introductory part, where the problem of research is formulated, its relevance is argued, but theoretical and methodological reflection is completely absent; - analysis of the conceptual base of geopolitics in order to explicate the main geopolitical constructs of the image of Russia; - analysis of the geopolitical, geo-economic statuses of Russia, as well as its cultural and civilizational development models in order to form the geopolitical image of Russia; - the final part, which summarizes the results of the study and draws conclusions. Stylistically, the article can be described as acceptable. There are a number of stylistic ones in the text (for example, the strange expression "indicates the acquisition of ... a map ... of character"; the equally strange expression "Russia ... becomes ... part of ... influence"; another example: "CEE ... found himself in a situation of "choosing patterns" or institutional anchors"; or redundant words and expressions, for example: "it is beginning to become", "they began to enter directly"; or a strange gap in the sentence: "It was due to: . Restructuring of the geopolitical space" – if the author tried to make a bulleted list in this way, then he clearly failed, because the text is very difficult to read with such a strange design; it is better to start a bulleted list with lowercase letters, and put a semicolon instead of a dot at the end of the paragraph; then the text reads much easier, there is no sense of semantic gaps) and grammatical (for example, inconsistent sentences: "We can find the definition of the concept of "geographical image" in ..."; "I referred to the meaning of Eurasia in my works..."; or extra commas separating the word "as a result" in the sentence: "This approach is actualized, as a result of Russia's geostrategic plans"; or an extra comma in the expression "...The territory of Eurasia ... remained important, from the point of view of geopolitics"; or, conversely, the missing comma before the clarifying expression: "Heartland or the heart of the world"; or the separate spelling of the union "also" in the expression: "... Zbigniew Brzezinski further also designates Eurasia as the most important region..."; "... the same while remaining the "holder of the Heartland") of errors, but in general it is written more or less competently, in an acceptable language, with the correct use of scientific terminology. The bibliography contains 21 titles and sufficiently reflects the state of research on the subject of the article. Although it could be significantly enhanced by including foreign-language sources. The appeal to opponents takes place in terms of a critical analysis of geopolitical constructs when they are explicated from the works of theorists of geopolitics. GENERAL CONCLUSION: the article proposed for review can be qualified as a scientific work that meets the basic requirements for works of this kind. She has some scientific innovation gained through the application of scientific methodology. But, unfortunately, the text of the article sins with a certain number of stylistic and grammatical errors. In addition, there is no illustrative material in the text dedicated to the image of Russia. Nevertheless, the results obtained by the author will be of interest to political scientists, sociologists, cultural scientists, specialists in the field of public administration, world politics and international relations, as well as for students of these specialties. The presented material corresponds to the topic of the magazine "Security Issues". The article is recommended for publication after the elimination of the comments made.
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