Drawing heavily on the original interviews conducted during the research,
this chapter provides a comprehensive account of the history of the Prevent
policy. This chapter identifies the key discursive and organisational shifts
that have occurred within the development of Prevent, periodising Prevent
into three distinct phases: 2001–6; 2007–10; and 2011–15. It demonstrates
that the changes to Prevent reflect an underlying debate that sits at the
heart of the policy: should Prevent focus on those at imminent risk of
radicalisation? Or should the focus be broader, engaging with the ideas and
values of communities that may justify and enable violent extremism? A
security and an identity strand. The debate between these positions,
narrated in the interviews and policy documents, represents the conventional
narrative of Prevent, where, at times, the strands are brought together, and
at times, it is their separation that is advocated.
This chapter explores the reasons for the state of surprise, sketching them out from the starting point of the significant impact of the collapse of the USSR on Western understandings of Russia. It also explores the practical ramifications for the decline of Russia as a political priority on the wider political stage. The chapter outlines some of the problems of the current mainstream discussion of Russia, which is drowning in a discourse of speculation and rumour, 'Putinology' and historical analogies. Despite the dominance of transitological/regime question approach and the perceived eccentricity of Kremlinology, for many it has remained a truism of Russian political life that the final decisions are made behind the closed doors of the Kremlin. In fact, the collapse of the USSR has had serious ramifications for the study of Russia in the West, resulting in a major reassessment of Soviet studies, often bitter and acrimonious.