Popular geopolitics in Russia
and post-Soviet Eastern Europe


A two-day research workshop hosted by University College London
19–20 February 2015



Understandings of the world held by ordinary citizens affect political dynamics both between and within states. In Ukraine, the popular appeal of a ‘European’ future and antipathy towards the Moscow-oriented alternative helped to draw thousands onto the streets during the ‘EuroMaidan’ protests of 2013–14. In Russia, popular mistrust of the West has persisted since the end of the Cold War and has lately been exploited and encouraged by the authorities to justify domestic and foreign policy decisions. Western and non-Western states alike engage in public diplomacy with the aim of enhancing their image in the eyes of foreign populations and thereby increasing support for their international agendas. Yet popular perceptions of foreign ‘others’ and their relationship to the national ‘self’ tend to have deep roots in a complex nexus of influences, including education, personal experience, popular culture and the mass media.

This workshop is intended to advance research into the societal or ‘popular’ dimension of geopolitics in Russia and post-Soviet Eastern Europe. Participants are invited to tackle the following interrelated questions:

  • How do citizens (‘the public’) in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other post-Soviet states perceive ‘the West’ and its constituent parts (the European Union, the USA and other individual countries), their regional neighbourhood and their place on the geopolitical map?
  • How are geopolitical narratives sustained and/or challenged by domestic and transnational media, popular culture, government policies (including education and public diplomacy) and processes outside state control (such as travel and increasing internet use)?
  • How do public attitudes reflect, contradict and/orshape official geopolitical rhetoric and policy choices?
  • How might theoretical approaches and evidence from different disciplines and geographical areas be combined to further our understanding of such issues?

Contributions are invited from all relevant disciplines, particularly Political Science and International Relations, Geography, Anthropology, Sociology, Education and Media/Communication/Cultural Studies. Although the workshop’s empirical focus is post-Soviet Eastern Europe, papers which tackle methodological and theoretical questions would be most welcome, as would relevant comparative studies incorporating other parts of the world. Papers will be circulated to all participants a month in advance in order to generate thorough and thoughtful feedback. It is expected that papers presented at the workshop willbe published as an edited volume.

The workshop is being organized under the auspices of the UCL Mellon Programme 2013–15: Communities, Globalisation and Cultural Exchange , with financial support from the UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects and the UCL European Institute. Some funding is available to assist with travel and accommodation costs, although applicants are strongly advised to seek alternative sources of funds as well.

In order to apply, please send an abstract of 250–300 words to the workshop convener, Dr Joanna Szostek, at j.szostek@ucl.ac.uk. Please indicate your name, title, institutional affiliation, research interests and the level of financial assistance you would require to attend (if any).

The deadline for abstract submission is Friday 17 October 2014.

Notifications on decision will be sent out by Friday, 7 November 2014.

Papers will be due on Friday 16 January 2015.

The workshop will take place at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, 16 Taviton Street, London, WC1H 0BW.


This page last modified 15 July, 2014 by Richard C. M. Mole

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