The COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant inequities around the world; from disparities of access to healthcare and vaccines, to border policies and other domestic regulations. It also exposed just how much the modern world is enmeshed in and entrapped by the digital world – not only in Russia. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated that Russians share pandemic-related concerns with people around the world: they too seek to cope by buying their go-to “panic” foods, they too have their COVID memes and even surprisingly similar conspiracy theories. Everyday foreign policy during these times of the pandemic reflects similar tendencies around the world and shows how even minute consumption decisions shape who we are in times of crisis. The chapter also reflects on the history of healthcare in the Soviet Union and its continuing influence on health-related decisions in post-Soviet Russia.
Fancy a Putin-themed T-shirt or pair of knickers? This chapter is devoted to the phenomenon of Putin branding that has emerged both off- and online. President Putin’s likeness has become a veritable brand that serves to project alignment with the Kremlin’s foreign policy. The domestic market has embraced this campaign: stores featuring “patriotic collections” selling T-shirts with Putin became ubiquitous. The visage of President Putin has become a symbol of the rebirth of the great power identity. Virility, hyper-masculinity, and emasculation of others are among several aspects consistent with a patriarchal and sexualized perspective on international politics. Putin branding has, however, dangerous consequences given that disagreement with state policy is interpreted as a sign of disloyalty to the man who came to embody the nation.
Do you drink an americano or a rossiyano? Do you eat French fries or freedom fries? Our everyday choices are always political and ever more international. This book offers a way to theorize and expose how everyday foreign policy works at the grassroots level, using empirical material from Russia, sometimes literally from the kitchen table. The book argues that everyday foreign policy should be theorized as an assemblage of micro-practices and discourses across both physical and digital spaces, inside and outside the body. In this way, everyday foreign policy can be seen as a decentralized phenomenon, where biological and cultural elements are intertwined through physical and digital spaces, often expressed through consumerist and carnal practices. This book studies post-Crimea grassroots foreign policy and exposes motivations and coping mechanisms behind foreign policy practice on the individual level. The fundamental question this book seeks to address is: how do international relations, and specifically foreign policy, translate to the grassroots level? The book provides an overview of the most significant everyday foreign policy practices from the popular Russian perspective, ranging from sanctions to vaccinations.
What do political discussions in Odesa in the 1920s have in common with 2010s banter on Russian social media? They are both very much concerned with the place of Russia in international politics as voiced by regular citizens, not necessarily involved in foreign policy decision-making. This chapter sets the scene and identifies gaps in the existing IR research and discusses the everyday turn. The “Russian Internet” (RuNet) and Russian social media in particular have, for a long time, been regarded as an extension of a Soviet style of dissidence: kitchen talk 2.0. Social networks have replaced kitchen tables as the venue for the discussion of the everyday turn, but the desire to practice the foreign policy of a superpower – to be a part of a great nation – remains a particularly important need in the post-Soviet identity vacuum. However, it has become clear that social media are not exclusively a benevolent force as they often serve as outlets for pro-government rhetoric and hate speech. This book aims to disentangle the post-Crimea grassroots foreign policy that has centered around asserting the newly regained great power status.
The resurgence of “military-patriotic” organizations and institutions is widespread across Russia, contributing to a creeping militarization of society inextricably tied to the Great Patriotic War. War commemoration can be conceptualized as an assemblage of a range of carnivalesque practices and discourses together with a significant decentralized, grassroots component. Commemoration eventually becomes a nation-building exercise – much more performative rather than actual commemoration. Given the ubiquity and all-encompassing nature of GPW celebrations, with their inevitable side effect of militarization of Russian society, this chapter discusses how the GPW collective memory has become stripped of its traumatic component and has become a vector for geopolitical ambition. The author then investigates in more detail how militarization functions within different age groups in Russian society, be it through “toddler armies,” computer games, or military-themed entertainment parks. Finally, the chapter reflects on the dangers of GPW trivialization.
Russian and Turkish interests have collided on the issue of support for the Assad regime in Syria, especially following the downing of a Russian fighter jet on 24 November 2015 by the Turkish army in the Jabal Turkmen region of the Syrian province of Latakia, an area contested by Syrian government troops and rebel forces. After “waiting in vain for the Turkish President to apologize,” Russian President Putin announced a number of sanctions against Turkey, including suspending a visa-free travel policy, sanctioning Turkish companies, and banning food imports. These actions were met with a flurry of grassroots responses including the cancelation of vacations (#notgoingtoTurkey), a boycott of Turkish products, and the disparagement of Russian women married to Turkish nationals. The anti-Turkish sentiment is also a part of a much deeper anti-migration and xenophobic sentiment related to a racialization of people from the Caucasus and the Middle East as “Black,” drawing on the history of Russian–Turkish wars.
Sanctions are an easily implemented foreign policy tool on the everyday level. When it comes to everyday foreign policy assemblages, practices, and discourses, food offers one of the most compelling examples, given the essential, prominent, and visceral role of food in the public imagination. It is therefore unsurprising that the Russian food import ban and subsequent policy of food destruction captured Russian citizens’ attention. One of the main patriotic non-consumption strategies enacted by the Russian government after the bulk of EU sanctions against Russia was approved in the summer of 2014 after the Malaysian MH17 passenger flight had been shot down over eastern Ukraine. The Russian government banned European agricultural produce from Russian markets in retribution. Russian citizens took sanctions rather personally and embraced their government’s position, even extending it by banning targeted goods from their establishments, pets, and palates.
This chapter dives into the theoretical argument for everyday foreign policy and the methodology that underpins it. By bridging literatures on nationalism and international relations, practicing foreign policy on the grassroots level is theorized as a manifestation of an (individual’s) psychological desire for a positive self-identity and subjectivity. In this chapter, the author will show how assemblage theory can bring together diverging approaches to the study of the everyday, highlighting embodied and discursive practices. This way, everyday foreign policy becomes a rhizomatic phenomenon, where both biological and cultural elements create a network through bodies and physical and digital spaces. The nature of our digital everyday is a perfect fit for the rhizomatic ontology of assemblage theory with its constant state of becoming, its flux and flow. Moreover, a rhizome’s core characteristic of multiplicity celebrates multiple modes of thinking, acting, and being and is helpful to conceive of foreign policy as something beyond high-level meetings and diplomatic cables. The latter is reflected in the methodological approach for this book defined by discourse mapping and tracing, as well as ethnographic fieldwork.
Mega events are a perfect medium for the state to project its hegemonic national identity to the world. It is not surprising that the general population takes advantage of this narrative and promotes it in ways it sees fit. The World Cup in 2018 was especially important for the Kremlin as well as the Russian population: a successful championship was supposed to cement Russian status among other countries, even legitimizing the annexation of Crimea to a certain extent. The fact that national teams and their fans came to Russia was proof that the country was not ostracized by the community of states, in contrast to the 1980 Summer Olympics which were boycotted by several countries following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This chapter shows how the concept of soft power is practiced on the grassroots level and whether the foreign grassroots audience was receptive to it.