A quarter-century after the communist collapse prompted many Russians to hope for Western integration, why did they change their minds? And how did so many in the West get Russia so wrong, former ICWA fellow and current executive director Gregory Feifer (Russia 200-2002) writes for the Ax:son Johnson Foundation’s Engelsberg Ideas.

“Russians in the 1990s had largely accepted the loss of empire as a price for the prosperity and individual freedoms that had eluded their country for centuries,” he writes. “It was Putin who, after his chance ascendance to the presidency in 2000, consolidated power by returning Russian political culture to its traditional roots, founded on an identity defined in relation to the West and reliance on a 19th-century vision of geopolitics as a territorial struggle over spheres of influence.”


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This essay originally appeared under the title “Identity and Misperceptions in US-Russia Relations in The Return of Geopolitics, published by Bokförlaget Stolpe in 2019.


Painting: Siege of Sevastopol 1855 by Grigoryi Shukaev (Wikimedia Commons)