Center for Strategic Research «North – West» (CSR-NW)

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Center for Strategic Research «North – West» (CSR-NW)

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2.4. Center for Strategic Research «North – West» (CSR-NW)

The CSR-NW was established by its Moscow-based «big brother», also named the Center for Strategic Research and patronized by German Gref, the Minister of Economic Development and Trade. The purpose of the CSR-NW was to serve as an expert unit for the administration of the presidential representative, who is inexperienced in regional issues. The initial ambitions of this institution were rather far-reaching – indeed, at one point it pledged to rediscover the «national idea» in this part of the country326.

CSR-NW works in close contact with a (limited) number of local public policy research institutions such as the Regional Foundation for Scientific and Technical Development327, the International Management School «Leti-Lovanium» and some others. In this sense, this is a networking institution with a scope of analysis not limited to the NWFD's boundaries328. Notably, it tries to position itself as a «Russian RAND Corporation», orienting towards the model of a think tank which is mostly state-funded, but also able to maintain its relative independence329.

The most important intellectual product of the CSR-NW is the «Doctrine of Russia’s North West Development». Presently only a few analysts have commented on its role in region building and it is unfortunate that some of these comments have been irrelevant and misleading. For example, two Russian authors have argued that the Doctrine sticks to a «classical neorealist approach» and «zero-sum-game» theory, which is not wholly true330.

Conceptually, the CSR-NW Doctrine is based on a set of assumptions that were initially espoused in a report entitled «On the Doorstep of Russia’s New Regionalization», that was prepared by the Volga Federal District Center for Strategic Studies. In fact, both think tanks treat each of the federal districts as the «assembly terrain» which might eventually constitute the new centers of economic modernization in Russia331.

Here are the most important assumptions of the Doctrine that make it very distinct from the previously discussed Strategy:

  • the Doctrine is, from the outset, outward-oriented. It posits that one of the main features of globalization consists of «the erosion of administrative borders» that makes state-centric approaches obsolete;

  • the Doctrine says that the NWFD neighbourhood with Western Europe is an important source of inspiration and innovation for adjacent parts of Russia;

  • the Doctrine gives priority to non-administrative tools of region-building. It says that the confines of Russia’s North West are still being shaped, and this process is far from being over. The Doctrine presumes that «the boundaries of the North West will be drawn where we deem it proper, or, should be keep low profile, where others will draw them for us».

  • The Doctrine is of a non-technical character. It posits that territorially and administratively fixed resources yield to mobile and flexible ones that are driven by the spirit of innovation and what is called humanitarian communications (human-capital-based and knowledge-driven332);

The CSR-NW contends that the NWFD is ready to start implementing the new concept of spatial development. This would include the redistribution of labour resources, migration management, zoning, etc333. Experts working on the NWFD Doctrine blueprint offer a number of priorities for this district. These are, the mega-project «Kaliningrad»; the new management of Russia’s North; energy supply and energy preservation; the building of an infrastructure for economic innovation; reforming the wood processing industry; and, developing cultural capital and investing in human resources334. Taken together, the projects of the CSR-NW are a voice of post-modernism in Russian regional strategic planning. What is remarkable is that this voice comes out of political milieu centered around the administrative structures of the Cherkesov administration and the Gref Ministry.

However, as in the case of the above mentioned Strategy, the practical implementation of the CSR-NW Doctrine, again, has been inhibited by tacit resistance from most of the authorities of the subjects of the federation. Thus, the initial blueprint of the Doctrine was criticized in the regional media for a lack of precision and excessive theorizing335. Regional expert communities also complained that there were no public debates on the CSR-NW's activities whatsoever.

In response Alexei Tupitsin, a CSR-NW expert, has argued that this criticism reflects a lack of long-term strategic thinking among the regional political elites. In his view, none of the NWFD's constituent territories has been able to form a core policy-making group able to pursue effective regional policies. Likewise, none of the North West territories is taking full advantage of trans-national networks like the Barents or Baltic regional projects. Furthermore, none of the regional leaders is seriously prepared to invest in human capital, education, tourism and other related sectors336.

Of course, the CSR-NW was not the first institution to raise the issue of strategic planning in Russia’s North West. In Vologda oblast and Karelia, for example, initial attempts to start drafting a regional strategy were undertaken in 1998337, in Murmansk oblast – in 2000338. Karelia is, by the way, the only region in which the local constitution requires the chief executive to develop a regional strategy. The problem, however, was that these regional strategies were basically designed for the purposes of regional executive authorities. Therefore, there is little room in them for big business or NGOs, or for region-to-region cooperation.

Thus, we see that the two cognitive actors of the NWFD discussed in 2.3 and 2.4 not only inform but also alert political elites. The situation of uncertainty, however, has produced a demand for alternative sources of advice. Importantly, there is some competition between the institutions discussed, and it seems that so far neither of them has a monopoly on policy planning in the district. In order to influence the political agenda, think tanks have to become »policy entrepreneurs» and find their niches in the policy milieu. Giving priority to cognitive practices, the think tanks are, nonetheless, also embedded in normative approaches, since some of their arguments take a normative form (i.e., what is Russia, and how does the NWFD fit into this). The major challenge they face is perhaps the politicization of knowledge,339 since both are eager to gain political influence in the district.

There are some important institutional differences between the two institutions discussed above. The Expert Council seems to favour a »committed think tank» model, with a clear focus on providing expertise to the presidential representative in the NWFD. The CSR-NW, for its part, gravitates more towards a »forum think tank» model340, with a more accentuated public relations strategy, and the perspective task of negotiating its implementation terms with the governors – still the key decision makers in the bulk of regional policy issues. The CSR-NW aims to replicate its proposals in the constituent parts of the NWFD. So far, however, its success has been modest. Another important difference between the two think tanks is that the CSR-NW – unlike its counterpart - is reluctant to limit its sphere of interest to the NWFD, and instead tries to project its activities beyond the administrative borders341.

As I have suggested, political institutions are to large degree constructed in and through discourses that might help achieve specific political aims – be it through coercion, legitimization or something else342. However, ideas can also be regarded as «symbolic technologies» of region building, which, for example, is easily seen in the case of Kaliningrad oblast. Here the constructivist metaphors of Kaliningrad as, «The meeting place» of Russia and Europe, Russia’s «cradle of internationalization», a «free customs stock of global scale», the «Russian Hong-Kong», the «five-stars-hotel», «testing ground» and «Eurobridge», conflate and clash with metaphors of a more realist background – like «the island» or «garrison», «infrastructural hole», «poor neighbor», «black hole», «the colony» and so forth.

The example of St.Petersburg illustrates even better the roles and functions of images, myths and stereotypes within the frameworks of discourses in the subjects of the federation. At the sub-district level, cognitive ideas have to share intellectual space and compete with other products of intellectual creativity, all of which are also parts of specific PR-based manipulative technologies.

3.1. St.Petersburg: Competing Images

Unlike the other main cities of the federal district, St. Petersburg faces no regional challenger to question its supremacy in the NWFD343. The city's political elites have far-reaching ambitions. For example, the goal of the «Volia Peterburga» («St.Petersburg’s Will») party is to turn the city into the «innovative locomotive of Russia»344.

St. Petersburg has multiple images, both in Russia and internationally. In this paper I propose to group them into two broad categories. Each of the images is supported by its own narratives and discoursive practices.
Capitalizing on the Past

The first group comprises what could be figuratively called «export variant» images. These are outward-oriented, predominantly retrospective and are aimed at taking advantage of the city’s historical resources. To some extent they can be equated with what Viacheslav Morozov has called the «official discourse»345, and they are based on certain stereotypes – which can be treated as «pictures in our heads», or «maps» that simplify cognition346.

Since there are relatively few resource constraints on the (re)production of symbols, local authorities widely use them to further corroborate their international credentials. As Malcolm Waters puts it, «symbolic exchanges» are easily transportable and hence easily «go global»347. Furthermore, globalization has widened opportunities for trading international images348. The result is that St. Petersburg has surrounded itself with multiple myths, each of which, in a sense, is quite consonant with the city’s cultural legacy.

First, St. Petersburg is baptized as being «Russia’s window to Europe», which initially symbolized the empire’s foreign policy ambitions, and later was transformed into the «bridge» metaphor. In particular, the city authorities are eager to use the symbolic capital related to this historical legacy whilst celebrating the 300th anniversary of the city in 2003. On the eve of the city’s «birthday celebration» the local authorities have launched a robust campaign aimed at converting the symbolic capital of St. Petersburg into a tangible asset. For example, to give more international publicity to the city he runs, in March 2002 governor Vladimir Yakovlev visited a town of the same name in Florida.

Second, St. Petersburg proudly bears the image of being Russia’s cultural capital (the «Northern Palmyra» or «Northern Venice» metaphors), the depository of world-class masterpieces of art and architecture. Here, it is traditional to treat St. Petersburg as «a living chronicle of the Russian empire, Soviet Union and today’s Russia»349. The fact that the last tsar’s family was re-buried in the city is of symbolic importance to the city’s pride.

The third (and very much imagined) «mask» of St. Petersburg is the metaphor of the «free Hanseatic city». This image combines the «nostalgia for Europe», «the spectacle of Russian Europeanization», and the idealistic dream about the «mythical European city-state» – making St. Petersburg «the city of memory», «longing for a home which no longer exists or, perhaps, which has never existed»350.

Reviving the cultural capital and selling/exporting it to the West has been a rather successful enterprise. In the West, the general attitude to St. Petersburg is quite favourable. It could be read that « unlike many Russian city administrations, that of St. Petersburg continues to have a presence at Western trade shows, and thus hopefully in the minds of those who sit in the boardrooms of Western business»351.

St. Petersburg is one of the few Russian cities deeply embedded in the international political milieu. For example, St. Petersburg is a member of the «Baltic Palette», a group of cities consisting of Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga and Stockholm. The «Baltic troika», involving the mayors of Helsinki, Stockholm and St. Petersburg, is another example.

Within the city polity there are groups that lobby for specific international orientations – for example, the local media has published a number of articles encouraging Yakovlev to give priority to relations with Finland, and to play down contacts with Sweden, Denmark and Norway352. This debate means that the international situation and environment is an organic part of policy debate in St. Petersburg.
Back to the Present

Analyzing these images as the products of «symbolic technologies», we should ask what are the alternative discourses of St. Petersburg. At least three can be discerned. All are much more inward-oriented and based upon predominantly domestic narratives.

First, one of St. Petersburg's images is as «the heroic city», the symbol of proletarian revolution with its legendary «Aurora» cruiser and the glorification of Vladimir Lenin. This image has strong connotations with Soviet concepts of equality, socialism and nationhood353. These were exactly those concepts that divided Russia and the West for the bulk of the 20th century, and St. Petersburg unfortunately bears its part of historical responsibility for their unfolding and implementation.

The second alternative discourse is that of being «Russia’s crime capital», evidenced by the practice of contract killing, rampant crime and corruption. «We do have a bad reputation», - admits Mikhail Amosov, an influential local legislator354. In 2000, for example, four deputy governors were indicted on charges of bribery and the misuse of administrative resources355. The Russian media has widely commented on gross mismanagement of the 1997 pilot project funded by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and that aimed at the renovation of the city's downtown356. In March 2002 the city legislature refused to accept the financial report on budget issues submitted by the city administration, and filed the case to the prosecutor’s office. Legislators have had good reasons to be suspicious of financial mismanagement, particularly in regard to the city administration’s dealing with a number of «proxy banks», and in the construction of the Ice Palace for the 2000 World Hockey Championship357. Policy experts openly say that the St. Petersburg authorities will inevitably steal a significant part of the federal grants allotted for the city’s 300-year anniversary celebrations358. Likewise, well informed observers have called elections in St. Petersburg «a tournament of provocateurs» and a humiliating farce359.

Those trying to counter the «criminal capital» image by referring to statistics – showing that in some respects the crime rate in St. Petersburg does not differ much from the Russian average – seem to misunderstand the very nature of regional symbolism. Images are not about figures and/or numbers at all, but overwhelmingly about human stories and narratives. In this respect, the negative image of St. Petersburg associated with crime is due to the symbolic importance of those people that have either been indicted (four vice governors) or killed (like Galina Starovoitova, a Duma member and former advisor to President Yeltsin on ethnic issues).

The third and most recent facet of St. Petersburg is as the home of President Putin and a significant part of the federal political elite. Putin’s personal affiliations to St. Petersburg re-direct the city discourse from culture to politics, from spirituality to power sharing. Since the fall 2000 there has been much talk about moving the nation’s capital to St. Petersburg. Due to Putin’s benevolence some of the federal ministries and agencies are to be transferred to St. Petersburg, which means that the city has been granted some of the functions of a capital. St. Petersburg has also been given a prominent position within the Commonwealth of Independent States as the CIS parliament is to be located in the city360. St. Petersburg has therefore taken under its control some of the federal property361.

What unites all discourses in the second group is their strong attachment to political authority, power distribution and Realpolitik. These three alternative discourses distract us away from St. Petersburg's cultural affinities and illuminate the other side of the local identity. Since these discourses are very much about territorial politics and ambitions, it is likely that they will «reduce the chances that St. Petersburg could sooner or later play a role in bringing Russia closer to European post-modernity»362.

A great many of the current practices of St. Petersburg are quite detached from the cultural symbols of the city’s Europeanness. Suffice is to recall that Dmitrii Likhachov, the most reputed humanitarian academician in Russia, on the eve of his death issued an open letter to the city authorities. In this letter Likhachov expressed his deep regret and sense of shame for the way the media operates in his native city, having definitely in mind negative political campaigning and servility to the government in power.

To sum up, one of the interesting (and sometimes overlooked) implications of regional discourses is how they can serve as tools for creating an artificial, illusory milieu of meanings, furnished by the rhetoric of «wise men». This is to say ideas can turn into labels, myths or stereotypical symbols of somebody’s political ambitions. The function of this type of discourse is that of making the ‘right’ impression by emphasizing certain traits and hiding others. Eventually, the result might be a deceptive imitation of reality, a sort of theater show with its own ‘stars’ and ‘funs’. As a result, the regional discourse generates new meanings that have to perform specific political functions. This is very much true in the case of St. Petersburg, which is heavily involved in a power struggle with the NWFD's «political machine». Since political competition is strong, the regional political discourse not only receives more publicity, but its cognitive structure contains propaganda, rumors, and information wars against opponents, etc363.

3.2. St. Petersburg’s Cognitive Actors

Institutionally, the intellectual scene of St.Petersburg is rather diverse and obviously understudied364. The major cognitive actors are non-governmental think tanks – the perfect illustration of the dramatic shift of explanatory resources from the government to non-state actors.

Leontief Center

The Leontief Center is perhaps the most reputed of St. Petersburg's think tanks. It is widely known for its innovative thinking – be it «The Strategy of Developing the Information Society in St. Petersburg», with its key idea of keeping the emerging networking patterns of communication beyond the state’s reach365, or «Creative Industries», a project aimed at conceptually framing and rediscovering the new social meaning for the operation of arts, media business, entertainment infrastructure, etc366.

Yet the most important document produced by the Leontief Center was the blueprint of the «Strategic Plan of St. Petersburg» in 1997. This important document is based on the idea of finding St. Petersburg’s economic and political niche within Russia. A number of conceptual assumptions are of prime significance for this Plan:

  • city-level strategic planning has to enhance its competitiveness in the increasingly demanding environment of inter-regional relations;

  • strategic planning has to extend beyond the administrative market and become a part of wider public debates on the nature of regionalism and the city’s role in it;

  • the main challenges for St. Petersburg are those related to the federal center. In particular the over large military industrial complex and too restrictive state customs regulations;

  • an economically open policy would bring more advantages to the city than the federal center’s protectionism which helps to keep afloat insolvent enterprises;

  • in promoting the idea of a «St. Petersburg mentality», the city authorities have to look pragmatically for further concessions from the federal center and make it take those decisions that will contribute to the city's well-being367.

The Leontief Center is also known for its contribution to the debate on the merging of the subjects of the federation. This issue has a long record of attention within and outside Russia. There are several speculative projects of this kind in the air. These include possible mergers between Arkhangel’sk oblast and the republics of Karelia and Komi, Nenets okrug, and Murmansk and Vologda oblasts; between Komi and Nenets okrug368; or between Arkhangel’sk oblast and Nenets okrug; or between Pskov and Novgorod oblasts369. Yet the most widely discussed possibility is uniting St. Petersburg and the adjacent Leningrad oblast into a single federal unit. In 1996 the two regions' chief executives signed a protocol of intention along these lines, and the presidential representative in Leningrad oblast has upheld this idea. As a result, a commission on integration was created with the aim of preparing for a referendum in these two subjects of the federation370. However, since integration was a high-profile issue in all local political campaigns, the whole problem became extremely politicized.

It would be logical to treat this experiment as a litmus test of St. Petersburg's ambition to become the pivotal gravitational pole of the whole of Russia’s North West. That is why ideas of merging St. Petersburg with Leningrad oblast were addressed by the Leontief Center's study on «Enhancing Synergy: the Project of Forming a Coherent Policy for St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast within the Context of Russia’s North-West Region». This study was undertaken along with TACIS and the Netherlands' Institute for Economics. Combining together four criteria – centralization and de-centralization, openness and closeness – the experts have singled out four alternative scenarios that I have presented in the following table371:

De-centralization/ regionalization

Centralization/strengthening the power vertical

Economic openness

The most optimistic option. St. Petersburg becomes the center of the North-West region. Private initiatives are supported and communications with Western countries are on the rise

Federal government prefers to deal with a select number of regional actors, and St. Petersburg has to struggle to be one of them. Most important sectors of the economy suffer from the lack of competition. Moscow is investing in military industry and sea port facilities and pays scarce attention to societal needs.


The worst alternative. State investments are ineffective and insufficient. The private sector is discriminated against. Integration between the two subjects of the federation is effected only in administrative terms.

Governors try to protect their regions from outsiders. The federal state is not interested in inter-regional integration, and the regions are on their own.

However, many parameters of unification are still open to debate. It is admitted for example that the two subjects of the federation are as much competitors as they are allies. For example, according to economic estimates, Leningrad oblast is well ahead of St. Petersburg in attracting outside investors, including foreign investors, by granting them tax bonuses372. The political compatibility of the two subjects of the federation is also questionable. One view is that many inhabitants of the more democratically oriented St. Petersburg are reluctant to join a more conservative surrounding oblast373. Yet another standpoint argues that St. Petersburg's system of power is more «vertical» and «authoritarian», while in Leningrad oblast there is more room for grass-roots activities on the level of municipal self-government374.

St. Petersburg Branch of the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences

This think tank is one of the leading centers of sociological analysis in St. Petersburg. It has also contributed to academic debates on the merging of Leningrad oblast with St. Petersburg. According to its research, St. Petersburg and Leningrad oblast differ in terms of the primary images of the future that are embedded in mass public opinion. These hierarchies of divergent outlooks can be presented as follows in the table below, which contains data taken from sociological research conducted in both subjects of the federation375:


Leningrad oblast

Cultural center

A region convenient for living

Center of science and advanced technologies

Gate to Europe

Center of domestic and international tourism

Free economic zone

Gate to Europe

Major financial center

Major industrial center

Center of science and advanced technologies

Financial center

Center of domestic and international tourism

Free economic zone

Cultural center

Military industry hub

Financial center

«Peterburg 2015» Club

This is a relatively new source of expertise that was established in 2000 by a group of local businessmen, managers, scholars and journalists, mostly of a liberal persuasion, and led by Andrey Likhachov, the local leader of the Union of Right-Wing Forces. The Club is known for offering three alternative scenarios for St. Petersburg:

  • »Russian Venice». This option gives priority to enhancing St. Petersburg’s cultural capital, and thus upgrading the tourist infrastructure376;

  • »Russian Amsterdam». This is a scenario of turning St. Petersburg into a transportation hub and communication center for East-West commodities flows377;

  • »Russian Boston». This idea lays the ground for making St. Petersburg one of the leading centers in Russian education378.

Center for Integration Research and Programs

The Center (CIRP) specializes in Western European questions and keeps close working relations with foreign diplomatic institutions and foundations located in St. Petersburg. It organizes summer schools and carries out some research on Russian-EU relations.

CIRP's former director, Igor Leshukov, is known as being one of the most pessimistic Russian analysts of this issue. In his view, the liberal expectations of Russia’s openness to Europe in the beginning of 1990s were based on the questionable assumption that, through increased interaction with their neighbours, the North-Western regions would evolve into the most advanced of Russia's entities, and would become compatible with Western norms and practices. On closer scrutiny, however, it turned out that the regional actors were not immune to corruption, mismanagement, and the abuse of law. In Leshukov’s assessment, civil society institutions are weaker in the regions than on the federal level, and there are few checks and balances to constrain the regional authorities. His prediction is that further opening up to Europe will channel prostitution, drug trafficking, AIDS and organized crime westward379.

The Russian government believes that EU enlargement might bring positive results for some Russian regions because it is expected that custom duties would eventually be lowered, and transit issues might be solved more smoothly380. However, in Leshukov's opinion, the European Union is guided by »double standards» in its policy towards Russia, either ignoring her interests or deliberately trying to block Russia’s way to Europe381.

«Strategia» Center

The «Strategia» Center agrees that the main problems for St. Petersburg – as well as other NWFD provinces – is the lack of transparency, the proliferation of «shadow politics», and the weak defence of human rights. However, this think tank’s attitude seems to be more optimistic than that of CIRP. Notably, it advocates the greater involvement of NGOs in lobbying and in strengthening the institutions of civil society. There are several priority areas in which «Strategia» works. These are, the introduction of an ombudsman for the regions382, anti-corruption campaigning, opening up the budget making process to the public,383 studying electoral behaviour, and the promotion of think tanks384. Alexander Sungurov and Mikhail Gorniy, two founders of «Strategia», are known as strong advocates of strengthening civil society institutions and stimulating dialogue between NGOs and the public authorities385.

«Zapad – Zapad»

The «Zapad-Zapad» («West-West») Discussion Club represents a source of quite different regional discourse. It has formulated a number of ideas that have met rather controversial reaction, both in society and within the political establishment. Some of these ideas are as follows.

  • St. Petersburg is a peculiar city-region, very different from Moscow, which is portrayed as full of brutality and arrogance. Hence, St. Petersburg is treated as the natural opponent of Moscow, its perennial rival and challenger. It is argued that there is no space for autonomy for St. Petersburg within the framework of a Moscow-dominated polity. Thus, in the long-run perspective St. Petersburg has to be ready to take historical revenge and break away;

  • St. Petersburg ought to begin its cultural expansion to other North West provinces of Russia and become their genuine fore-runner;

  • Russia’s North West should become a «zone free of post-totalitarian vandalism», and should culturally distinguish itself from the rest of Russia;

  • Russia’s North West is the sole region of Russia capable of creating a civilizational milieu compatible with that of Europe, and thus should take the mission of being the buffer between a supposedly ungovernable Russia and Western European countries386;

  • Economically, it is suggested that St. Petersburg should build its policy upon liberal principles – e.g., market circulation of land, privatization of state-owned enterprises, creation of equal conditions for foreign business, targeted social support to those in need, and switching on the green light to private capital investment in the city’s industry387.

The views of «Zapad-Zapad» have become incorporated into wider political debate on the nature of St. Petersburg's identity. Daniil Granin, one of the living legends of Soviet/Russian literature, shares similar ideas. Russia, in his reading, is an «unmanageable monster», and as a country it could not be properly assembled. Granin’s message calls for turning St. Petersburg into the pivot of a North West region, which is economically self-sufficient and culturally distinct from the rest of the federation388.

The late Galina Starovoitova has also explained the peculiarity of St. Petersburg's identity in tones very similar to that of «Zapad-Zapad». As she puts it, «St. Petersburg as a part of European Russia is in contrast with Moscow which was historically oriented towards Asia and now perhaps tries to become oriented towards the United States… St. Petersburg residents find themselves alienated as to the system of power centered around Moscow. That is why they have reacted so fiercely and negatively to the 850th anniversary celebrations of Moscow»389.

Even St. Petersburg's governor, Vladimir Yakovlev, who is known for his loyalty to Moscow, has taken the view that «theoretically St. Petersburg could gain associate membership in the EU, and could be economically supported» by Europeans, although eventually this would lead to Russia’s disintegration390.

«Zapad-Zapad» is also known for its relationship with indigenous separatists – in particular, the Movement for Autonomy, which was legally registered in 1996. The Movement advocates the re-creation of ‘Ingermanlandia’, the imaginary hotbed of local historical legacies. It is also interesting to note that the political discourse of St. Petersburg's separatists is very much in tune with the rhetoric of nationalists in Tatarstan, another region with a very special understanding of its identity:

  • both deem that all federal institutions are «occupational» and «anti-popular»391;

  • their political philosophy is based on the principle of self-sufficiency («St. Petersburg is the whole Universe where you can find everything»392);

  • they negate geopolitical determinants (like war with the Taliban or the issue of the Kuril Islands) and opt for more accentuated geoeconomic orientations393;

  • they oppose Russia’s war in Chechnia and Russia’s unification with Belarus;

  • they wish to conclude a special «divorce» treaty with Russia and to institute regional citizenship394;

  • they advocate the transformation from federation to confederation as a step towards the further decentralization of Russia and the emancipation of its constituent territories.


The 2nd and the 3rd chapters have shown that there are many differences between the district and sub-district territorial units in terms of how and what kinds of ideas circulate in society. The symbols and myths, on the one hand, and long-term cognitive ideas, on the other, are widely used in the political discourse of region building. Both approaches entail a strategy of appealing to certain groups of people and mobilizing them. What makes the whole picture even more complicated for the NWFD is the conflation of domestic and international discourses that will be analyzed in chapter 4.

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  • 3.2. St. Petersburg’s Cognitive Actors
  • Leontief Center
  • St. Petersburg Branch of the Sociological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
  • «Peterburg 2015» Club
  • «Strategia» Center
  • «Zapad – Zapad»