Russian preferred self-image and the two Chechen war

Simone Ispa-Landa*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


In this article, I will argue that divergent Russian responses to two remarkably similar wars were based on Russians' preferred images of the Russian state and were strongly influenced by anxieties about forming a positive national identity. The first Chechen war was unpopular with Russians because the way it was conducted contradicted Russians' preferred image of Russia as a benevolent and militarily proficient state, whereas the second war is widely supported because it projects an image of Russia as a strong country capable of protecting its citizens and territory. Russians' preferred self-image has been influenced by Soviet experiences of a powerful central government providing for citizens' basic needs, as well as by more recent experiences of social upheaval. Russians would like their new state to have territorial integrity, economic and social stability, and domestic security. Russian citizens, used to decades of state-provided services, would also like to feel that their society is caring and benevolent, rather than aggressive and imperialistic. The Soviet state guaranteed its citizens free or affordable housing, day care, medicine, education, and cradle-to-grave employment; propaganda reassured all "comrades" that they belonged to the most powerful, benevolent union in the history of the world. Thus Russian citizens, raised on decades of state-guaranteed prices and services, have had to contend with great economic and social instability and the struggle to define a "national idea" in an unstable social and economic environment. That search for a national idea both in Russia and in other post-Soviet societies exemplifies the void left by the departure of communist ideology as a guiding force in political life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)305-319
Number of pages15
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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