This paper has attempted to set an agenda for border research by expanding the notion of border beyond its traditional territorial sense to include the many other notions of border which enclose groups and identities. We live within a world of hierarchical borders, each of which defines the diverse set of affiliations and identities to which we belong. Our ability to cross these borders is fraught with difficulty, although globalization provides us with some of the mechanisms which make that crossing process easier to negotiate. The perceptions, the management mechanisms and the semantics which we use should constitute a focus for a new generation of border studies which will take us well beyond the traditional description of territorial boundary delimitation and demarcation. Perhaps the most important question concerning borders is the extent to which they function as barriers to movement and interaction, or as an interface where meeting places and points of contact are created. Border research then takes on an applied dimension, as we seek to discover, and promote, those mechanisms which enable borders to be opened, reducing the frictions and tensions of socially constructed difference. In the words of the editor of this set of papers, we seek to "overcome" borders through re-imagining them as places where people can meet, to overcome the social construction of spatial fixation (Van Houtum, 2002). This is a major challenge of border research – to understand the functional impact and role of borders in a world which has become more spatially flexible, where territory and group affiliations and identities are undergoing a process of internal restructuring. Borders shift and change but they do not disappear altogether. What we are left with is not the search for a common open space, but the search for a "good" border (Falah & Newman, 1995; Williams, 2003), for coexistence in spite of the border (Galtung, 1994), a border around which enables interaction and cooperation to take place and for difference to be valued rather than feared.
Agnew, J (1994) `The territorial trap: the geographical assumptions of international relations theory. Review of International Political Economy 1, 53-80.
Albert, M, Jacobson, D & Lapid, Y (2001) Identity, Borders, Orders: New Directions in International Relations Theory. University of Minnesotta Press: USA.
Alvarez, R. (1995) `The Mexican-US border: the making of an anthropology of borderlands', Annual Review of Anthropology 24, 447-70.
Anderson, M (1996) Frontiers: Territory and State Formation in the Modern World. Polity Press: Cambridge, UK.
Becher, T. (1989) Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Enquiry and the Cultures of Disciplines. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.
Best, U (2002) `A regression analysis of transgressive practices and discourses in the German-Polish borderlands', Paper presented at the International Symposium on Communicating Borders, Nijmegen Center for Border Research, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sep 27-29, 2002.
Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Symbolic Order. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Brenner, N (1999) `Globalisation as reterritorialization: the re-scaling of urban governance in the European Union', Urban Studies, 36 (3), 431-451.
Castellino, J & Allen, S (2003) Title to Territory in International Law. Ashgate Publishers: Aldershot, UK.
Dittgen, H (2000) `The end of the nation state? Borders in the age of globalization’, In M. Pratt & J. Allison-Brown (eds) Borderlands Under Stress. Kluwer Law International: London, pp. 49-68.
Dzurek, D (1999) `What makes some boundary disputes important?', Boundary and Security Bulletin, 7 (4) 83-89.
Falah, G & Newman, D. (1995) `The spatial manifestation of threat: Israelis and Palestinians seek a "good" border', Political Geography, 14 (8), 689-706.
Forsberg, T (1996) `Beyond sovereignty, Within territoriality: Mapping the space of late-modern (geo) politics', Cooperation and Conflict, 31 (4), 355-386.
Forsberg, T (2003) `The ground without foundation: territory as social construct', Geopolitics, Vol 8 (2),
Galtung, J. (1994) `Coexistence in spite of borders: on the borders in the Mind. In Gallusser, W, (ed), Political Boundaries and Coexistence, Bern: Peter Lang.
Hakli, J (2001) `In the territory of knowledge: state-centered discourses and the construction of society', Progress in Human Geography, 25 (3), 403-422.
Heifetz-Yahav, D (2002) From Fighters to Peacekeepers: Negotiating Relations in the Israeli - Palestinian Joint Patrols. Ph.D Thesis, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Tel Aviv University.
House, J. (1980) The frontier zone: a conceptual problem for policy makers. International Political Science Review 1, 456-77.
Gwyn, R. (1995) Nationalism without Walls: The Unbearable Lightness of Being Canadian. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.
Jones, S. (1959) `Boundary concepts in the setting of time and space', Annals of the Association of American Geographers 49, 241-55.
Johnson, D. (1994) `Who is we? Constructing communities in US-Mexico border discourse', Discourse and Society 5, 207-31.
Kaplan, D (1999) `Territorial identities and geographic scale', In G. Herb & D. Kaplan (eds) Nested identities: Nationalism, Territory and Scale. Rowman & Littlefield: Lanham, USA. Pp. 31-49.
Kemp, A. (2000) `Dramatizing sovereignty: the construction of territorial dispute in the Israeli-Egyptian border at Taba', Political Geography, 19, 315-344.
Kolossov, V & O’Loughlin, J. (1998) `New borders for new world orders: territorialities at the fin de siecle’, Geojournal,
Leimgruber, W. (1991) `Boundary, values and identity: the Swiss-Italian transborder region', In Rumley, D. and Minghi, J.V., (eds), The Geography of Border Landscapes. London: Routledge.
Martinez, O. (1994a) Border People: Life and Society in U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. University of Arizona Press: Tuscon, USA.
Martinez, O. (1994b) `The dynamics of border interaction: new approaches to border analysis', In C. Schofield (ed) World Boundaries Vol I: Global Boundaries. Routledge: London, pp.1-15.
Morley, D. and Robins, K. (1995). Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries. London: Routledge.
Newman, D (1999) `Forging a cross-boundary discourse: political geography and political science’, Political Geography, Vol 18 (8), 873; 905-911.
Newman, D (2000) `Into the millenium: the study of international boundaries in an era of global and technological change’, Boundary and Security Bulletin, Vol 7 (4), 63-72.
Newman, D (2002a) `Boundaries’, In J. Agnew, K. Mitchell & G. Toal (eds) A Companion to Political Geography. Blackwell: Oxford, UK. pp. 123-137.
Newman, D (2002b) `Loosening or tightening: Do borders still exercise a control function'? Paper presented at the International Symposium on Communicating Borders, Nijmegen Center for Border Research, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sep 27-29, 2002.
Newman, D. (2003) `From the international to the local in the study and representation of boundaries: some theoretical and methodological comments’, In H. Nicol & I. Townsend-Gault (eds) Over the Borders of the Borderless World. University of British Columbia Press: Vancouver, BC.
Newman, D (2004 – in press) `Conflict at the interface: The impact of boundaries on contemporary ethno-national conflict', In C. Flint (ed) Geographies of War and Peace. Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Newman, D & Paasi, A (1998) `Fences and neighbours in the post-modern world: boundary narratives in political geography', Progress in Human Geography, 22 (2), 186-207.
Oommen, T. (1995) `Contested boundaries and emerging pluralism',. International Sociology 10, 251-68.
Paasi, A. (1996a) Territory, Boundaries and Consciousness. John Wiley: N. York
Paasi, A (1996b) `Inclusion, exclusion and territorial identities. The meanings of boundaries in the globalizing geopolitical landscape. Nordisk Samhallgeografisk Tidskrift 23, 3-18.
Prescott, V. (1987) Political Frontiers and Boundaries. Chicago, IL: Aldine.
Rumley, D. and Minghi, J., (1991) `The border landscape concept. In Rumley, D. and Mignhi, J., (eds) The Geography of Border Landscapes. London: Routledge.
Schack, m (2001) `Regional identity in border regions: the difference borders make', Journal of Borderland Studies, Vol 16 (2), 99-114.
Shapiro, M.. and Alker H., (eds), (1996) Challenging Boundaries: Global Flows, Territorial Identities. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press.
Sibley, D. (1995) Geographies of Exclusion: Society and Difference in the West. London: Routledge.
Struver, A. & Best, U (2002) `Tunnel visions', Paper presented at the International Symposium on Communicating Borders, Nijmegen Center for Border Research, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sep 27-29, 2002.
Taylor, P. (1994) `The state as container: territoriality in the modern world-system', Progress in Human Geography 18, 151-62.
Van der Wusten, H (2002) `The view from the capital city', Paper presented at the International Symposium on Communicating Borders, Nijmegen Center for Border Research, Nijmegen, Netherlands, Sep 27-29, 2002.
Van Houtum, H (2000) `An overview of European geographical research on borders and border regions', Journal of Borderland Studies, 15 (1), 57-83.
Van Houtum, H. (2002) `Borders, strangers, doors and bridges', Space and Polity, 6(2), 141-146.
Van Houtum, H & Van Naerssen, T (2002) Bordering, Ordering and Othering, Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, Vol 93 (2), 125-136.
Waterman, S. 1994: Boundaries and the changing world political order. In C. Schofield (ed), World boundaries. Vol. I. Global Boundaries, London: Routledge.
Welchman, J. (ed) (1996) Rethinking Borders. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.
Williams, J (2003) `Territorial borders, international ethics and geography: do good fences still make good neighbours? Geopolitics, 8 (2) 25-46.
Wilson, T & Donnan, H (eds) (1998) Border Identities: Nation and state at International Frontiers. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.
RUSSIA AS SEEN FROM ITS EDGES.
DISCURSIVE STRATEGIES OF RUSSIA’S WESTERN BORDERLAND
Dr. Andrey Makarychev
Professor, Nizhny Novgorod Linguistic University
In a world conceptualized in post-modern terms, the multiple stories of spatiality are being increasingly told from the edges. The idea of semiotic dynamics being stronger and denser at the borderlands is not unknown to many countries, including Russia. Borderlands tend not merely to reproduce more or less fixed meta-images, but also fill them with their own imagery based on «sensualization», emotions and symbolism. In result, the regional spaces born out of interaction between different cultural flows and social environments may be understood as «a networking surface of animated pictures», consisted of multiple interpretative fragments that intermesh, «meet» and «collide» with each other526.
Stories of what is Russia as seen from its edges are increasingly manifested in a variety of Russian artistic representations, of which cinema is perhaps the most telling constitutive element. One of good examples is a movie called “Cuckoo” (“Kukushka”), featuring a situation of inter-cultural communication implicating three persons (a Russian and a Finnish soldier, along with a Saami girl) that accidentally encountered each other in course of the Soviet – Finnish war. They not only speak three different languages but also make up a ”love triangle”. In a culturally indicative way, the Russian character eventually becomes ”a nameless man”, only known to two of his fellows under a self-ascribed nickname of ”Pshol-ty”, which is the Russian slang for ”Get out of here”.
If ”Cuckoo” makes an effort of interpreting the border situation as a unique cultural interface that serves to uncover some of the most essential national mindsets, another Russian TV movie called “The Frontier. A Love-Affair in the Taiga” approaches the border from the perspective which might be apparently typical for the entire country. This film presents the everyday life of a frontier post as seen from the most intimate feelings of frontier-guards and their wives. Border features as a normal place to live in, a world filled with personal sympathies and antipathies. What is illustrative in these two different cinematographic examples is that they, so to speak, de-securitize and at the same time humanize the border narratives. All this is at stark contrast with the Soviet-times representations of borders that used to be explicitly politicized, ideologized and ultimately state-centric.
What was rather aptly picked up by the film makers is unfortunately still an underexplored field for social scientists. In particular, border-related and border-driven discourses and strategies they entail were only cursorily discussed in the Russian academic literature. This paper is designed so as to partially fill this gap. It is intended to apply and compare with each other basic discourses that are being developed in the group of Russia’s regions bordering on the European Union, to include the oblasts of Kaliningrad and Pskov, the Republic of Karelia, and St.Petersburg with adjacent Leningrad oblast. The aforenamed border regions generate multiple discourses that appear to unfold simultaneously in both mutually complimentary and contrasting ways. To some extent, regions could be seen as analogous to self-reproducing texts, turning the research of border spatialities into a “journey to the world of contexts”. In cultural landscapes they form, no meaningless territories are imaginable, since all of them could be viewed as containers and producers of certain discursive practices and interpretative logics. This is why the structure of the paper is not exclusively based on region-specific approach but rather on the analysis and interpretation of a variety of discursive strategies that intermingle and penetrate each other, making the whole picture of border spatialities rather fragmented yet intellectually intriguing. I do not intend to always “glue” discourses that I “unpack” and deconstruct to a specific piece of land, since these discourses transcend the scopes of geographic localities and outweigh them in terms of their cognitive roominess and dynamism. Analytical separation of discourses and their geographic “bearers”/”holders” turns the world of cultural landscapes into a playground of competing interpretations of border spaces. I am intended to operate not only with geographic subjects but also with discursive modalities that may live their independent lives in a space of their own. This approach seems to be in line with Anssi Paasi’s argument saying that territories are not “organisms” in a biological sense, but rather are to be “understood as being a complex synthesis or manifestation” of various practices of social reproduction that include symbols and identities527.
The discourses I study are instrumental in transforming traditional perspectives on the organization of space that are still powerfully shaped by rigidly linear and precise splits into distinct parcels. They are usually expected to be continuous in the sense that they ought to be “entirely filled” and “structured into an administrative hierarchy nested into the primary locus of sovereignty, the state”528. Placing discourses at the heart of the analysis makes the mapping of terrestrial space more flexible and constantly changing, sliding and shifting in response to altered situations. In some instances, these discourses may smoothly gravitate to and even reinforce each other; in other occurrences, they are in a conflict that fuels “the battle of the story”. Therefore, a number of different stories may co-exist and intermingle, laying foundations for and discursively framing different strategies of spatial development.
Discourses produce a set of geographical images that verbalize the dominating cultural trends. Each of these discourses gives a birth to a type of identity policy embedded in peculiar narratives and speech acts concentrated around dominant cultural features. Geo-cultural images that result from these discourses are premised upon certain coherence but not fullness in the subjective representation of the totality of region’s particularities. Neither discourses nor images lay claim to complexity since each of them appears to be a product of selecting the dominant features from the endless menu of multiple contexts529. One may claim that “social life is itself storied … and narrative is an ontological condition of social life… People construct identities by locating themselves or being located within a repertoire of emplotted stories… People act, or do not act, in part according to how they understand their place in any number of given narratives – however fragmented, contradictory, or partial… Agents adjust stories to fit their own identities, and, conversely, they will tailor ‘reality’ to fit their stories”530.
This study is structured according to three discursive perspectives pertaining to spatial representations and based on conceptualizations developed, consecutively, by Russian domestic (central and non-central) and external (EU-related) subjects. I start with more traditional viewpoints rooted in those discourses generated and imposed from the center(s). Then I add a new dynamics to the topic by turning to the discourses emanated from the borderlands. I shall start introducing the non-central discursive perspectives by placing them as a counter to different representations of domestic centrality, and then by bringing in the outside center that makes the entire picture even more mobile and multilateral.
Chapter 1. DOMESTIC CONCEPTUALIZATIONS OF SPATIAL RELATIONS: CENTRAL AND NON-CENTRAL PERSPECTIVES
The bunch of discursive strategies that I identify and intend to operationalize in Russian domestic context comprises three general patterns, each one representing contrasting/polar options pertaining, consecutively, to the realms of geography, culture and politics. Each of these patterns includes, on the one extreme, those discourses calling for and requiring greater centrality and, therefore, envisaging strong subjectivity and autonomous actions. On the other end are placed those discursive constructions exemplifying greater dependency and, therefore, lesser autonomy.
It has to be noted that the binaries I discuss further make sense only and if they recognize the agency of each other. Put differently, each of the two parts of the given nexuses is conditioned by the second one. The effacement of one part of a dualism leads to logical disappearance of its counter-part, since each of them have no existence other than in opposition (and reference) to its exterior.
The first opposition, defined in geographical terms, is framed by a rather traditional contradistinction between Heartland and Rimland/Borderland, in other words - between the country’s geographical center and its border areas. The second dichotomy is tinged with cultural conceptualizations and set in a framework of two contrary concepts of Core and Province. Finally, the third logical contrast is structured around politico-administrative connotations and consists of the two opposite concepts of Capital and Periphery. The six key notions singled out in the framework of this triple typology may be correlated with each other in various ways. Presumably, each of the concepts given above is in no way isolated from the others, and exists in constant interactions with their counter-parts.
The three patterns of spatial representations briefly introduced above have to be approached now in more detail. In each of the three pairs I basically focus on how the concept of center looks like, depending on the discursive context it is installed in.
1. Heartland vs. Rimland/Borderland. For a plurality of geographical interpretation of spatial strategies, the most important determinants are territory and distance. Rimland/Borderland marks outermost limits/flanks of a political community, while Heartland is seen as a pivot, a base territory, a geopolitical center, ideally equidistant from its edges and protected against direct clashes with foreign transgressors. Heartland usually connotes with well-being, stability, order, internal balance and “normalcy”. For this study, the purely geographic understanding of centrality is of scant relevance for Russia, mainly due to the fact that what is considered to be its political and cultural centers used to always be located in the country’s western part. A particular manifestation of the displacement of center-related meanings is the fact that while speaking about “Central Russia”, one always has in mind a group of territories located around Moscow. This inversion is not only a proof of Moscow-centric nature of the Russian space but also an evidence of Euro-centric character of its construction.
2. Core vs. Province. The most important marker here is identity problematized through notions of typicality and uniqueness. However, the main conceptual challenge in applying both of them to the study of Russian discursive field is that the comprehension of what is typical and what is not vary depending on where one stands. Seen from the outside, Core might look like something encompassing all major characteristics attributed to the whole nation. Internationally, Core is a symbol of what is thought of as being inherent and intrinsic in the entire country and, in a way, inevitably standardized. Core is not only an amalgam of almost everything that is constitutive for the nation, but also stands out as cosmopolitan center largely affected by globalization, urbanization, consumerism, and a technocratic way of thinking.
Yet from the inside, the assessments might be largely different. This is so basically in the Province which derives its grass-roots identity from originality and particularity. Core, from its part, may be prone to perceive Province (“the rest”, “residual areas”, or “those lagging behind”) with certain irony and arrogance bordering on “cultural jingoism”. Core’s patronizing policies may be conducive to the shrinking of the space for the discourse of provinciality understood in terms of cultural distinctiveness, the sense of self-communion and the possession of peculiar identity markers.
3. Capital vs. Periphery. In defining the spectrum mounted by these two extremes, one has to rely upon the notions of loyalty and influence. Capital incarnates the concentration of both power and opposition, while Periphery is an a-political and pithless addendum to it. Capital may be called an “elite-unit”, an arbiter and a decision-making center that has command of the needed assets and the will to invest them in achieving domestic unification532.
Capital as an irreplaceable and non-duplicated nucleus of any political landscape embodies the focus of activity and creativity, and, therefore, always attracts immigrants. Since Capital almost automatically imbibes multiple tendencies from all over the country, its dwellers live simultaneously in different spatial and temporal dimensions, which give them a privilege of waging intensive domestic debates. Kaganskii calls “centers-as-capitals” “genuinely poly-contextual elements of expanse” capable of producing a variety of divergent (even contrasting) spatial and temporal representations and interpretations that are used for fueling substantial intrinsic discussions.
To a certain extent it might be assumed that “center-as-capital” (being a part of larger entity) tends to incarnate and even substitute the whole. In the meantime, this sort of displacement sharpens the debates on Capital’s cultural legitimacy, i.e. whether Capital may be understood as the representative of the whole nation. Russia is definitely far from being alone in waging this sort of debate. It is typical, for example, to hear from the Americans that Washington, D.C. is not the “real America”, while it might be presumed that Astana is not the “real Kazakhstan”.
Arguably, the Capital – Periphery dichotomy polarizes the political space through accentuation of a pattern of relations based on “hegemony – subordination”533. The very existence of capital-led pattern of centrality is conducive to the quantitative growth of periphery. Capitals are destined to expand over neighboring areas, and in response have to be capable of reacting to the needs of other units. In its finality this trend may be perhaps most clearly comprehended within the framework of an “empire model” with power fading off at its peripheries534. In connection to this it makes sense to heed to Viacheslav Morozov’s point that the alleged restoration of St.Petersburg’s image as the capital of imperial Russia may contribute to maintaining of dividing lines in the Baltic Sea region535.
The hegemonic nature of Capital is determined by a series of functions it usually performs, to include the integration of the whole country into international environment and the consolidation of the country from inside. Planning and redistribution, and coercion and/or coordination are also among major Capital’s functions. Centrality as understood through the concept of Capital encompasses such features as an ability to synthesize and internationally represent the interests of wider territories, to implement patterns of development focused on targeted priorities, to effectively manage poly-cultural flows and inter-cultural communications on the basis of highly developed human capital, etc.
Two general conclusions may stem from this section. Firstly, the contradistinguished discourses of Capital and Periphery, as well as that ones of Core and Province, appear to be closely interconnected. The constitutive elements of the aforegoing patterns at certain junctures may interpenetrate each other. Thus, the degradation of Periphery negatively affects the state of affairs in Capital and may erode its power536. By the same token, the Core's elites may need to gain loyalty and obedience from the Province. The latter, in turn, might be keenly interested in demonstrating this loyalty in order to ensure its stability. Moreover, the unfolding of provincial discourses is closely linked with (if not determined by) their representation in the country’s Core and the ability to attract attention of its elites to secure certain legitimacy.
As for the first chain, it is hardly imaginable that all three of its components may be neatly found somewhere in Russia. If we break the chain in three pairs, two of them seem to be inappropriate to Russia: this goes for dubious combinations of Heartland – Capital (Russia lacks a city being in possession of even some of capital functions and simultaneously located in geographical center of the country) and Heartland – Core.
As for the Capital – Core nexus, it appears to be quite feasible since it is exactly Moscow that imbues each of the two of its elements. Therefore, Moscow acquires some features of bi-contextuality, because it associates with both Core and Capital. Put differently, it exemplifies two different discursive strategies of centrality. The first one is related to the city “of federal importance” and, understandably, the capital of Russia. The second one connotes with the alleged incarnation of Russia as such and serves as a metaphor of Russia projected – though in different ways - both outwards and inwards.
However, Moscow’s performance as both core and capital is not unchallenged. This city traditionally faces an opposition from St.Petersburg whose ambitions might be embedded in a discursive formula of “alternative centrality”.
In general, attempts to define the identity of St.Petersburg in exclusively political or ideological terms are doomed to failure since this city’s emanates what could be called “all-purpose” discourses synthesizing the multiple heritages of its founder. The gist of St.Petersburg’s self-description is to be found in spatial representations, since the longing for centrality is at the heart of St.Petersburg’s identity, be it in the times of the pre-revolutionary, Soviet or post-socialist Russia. It is traditional to treat St. Petersburg as «a living chronicle of the Russian empire, Soviet Union and today’s Russia»537. This drive may take different forms (elitist and popular, democratic and imperial), depending on historical dispositions.
There is an endless chorus of voices calling to turn St.Petersburg into an «innovative locomotive of Russia»538, country’s “cultural”, “intellectual” and “diplomatic” capital, a “technological center” and a “center for integration with the West”, and even the “heart of the Baltic Sea region”539. Like all aspirants for a status of the center, St.Petersburg is known for dense intellectual debates. In particular, the city’s renaming marked “a clear rhetorical division between the Soviet Union and Russia” in the sense that “the USSR and Leningrad are representing another realm than that of Russia and St.Petersburg”540. This is one of few Russian cities to be able to reposition itself in both temporal and spatial terms, and turn its past to its future541. A peculiar indication of St.Petersburg’s leadership credentials could be seen in the coverage of its major internal developments (for instance, the ascendant career of Anatoly Sobchak in the beginning of 1990s and his subsequent political defeat several years later) as having symbolic meanings for the entire country542.
The basic components of the “alternative centrality” discourse are inward-oriented. First, one of St. Petersburg's images was «the heroic city», the constitutive symbol of proletarian revolution with its legendary «Aurora» cruiser and the glorification of Vladimir Lenin. This discourse had strong connotations with Soviet concepts of equality, socialism and nationhood.
The second facet of St. Petersburg is its representation 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 granting to this city 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 city.
What unites these discourses is their strong attachment to centrality as seen through the lenses of political authority, power distribution and Realpolitik. They distract us away from St. Petersburg's cultural affinities and illuminate the political 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»543.
St.Petersburg’s bid for its own version of centrality may be interpreted as a replica and/or an echo of the centuries-long Russian imperial tradition presuming that it is exactly the proximity to what is considered as the locus of resource distribution that predetermines the well-being and prosperity of a territory544. The very fact that St.Petersburg traditionally develops its identity and redefines itself in contradistinction with Moscow, appears to confirm the desire for centrality so markedly rooted in St.Petersburg’s discourses. This is most visible in ongoing attempts to distinguish the St.Petersburg’s identity from “the Oriental influences rather evident in Moscow”545.
The zeal for reinventing St.Petersburg’s peculiarity goes hand in hand with the discursive “othering” of Moscow. In the St.Petersburg media, Moscow is often depicted as a city of “wild money” that originates from oil and gas sector and leads to “exorbitant prices” and “cupidity”. Moscow’s architectural landscape appears to be tasteless (“tiny siskin’s statue is closer to the hearts of St.Petersburgians” than gigantic Moscow-based monuments of Tsereteli”, one can read in a local newspaper546).
A student of St.Petersburg’s urban folk-lore ascertains that Moscow has gained a reputation of a city dominated by “merchant’s haughtiness”, and is associated with “big village” and “market garden”. Historically, these attitudes were a reaction to initial Moscow’s disdain to St.Petersburg that was perceived as an “upstart”. In a number of proverbial expressions St.Petersburg is associated with Russia’s “head” or “brain”, and is represented as a positive contrast with Moscow (“The Moscovites live as they use to, while the Petersburgians live as they should”, “Moscow enjoys itself, while Petersburg serves its country”, etc.). A peculiar illustration of the discursive emulation between the two of Russia’s major cities could be found in an advertisement of the St.Petersburg’s edition of a national newspaper: “It is thicker in St.Petersburg than in Moscow”547.
Politically, Moscow is represented as being overwhelmed by the ideas related to Eurasianism that conceptually divorce Russia from Europe. Stanislav Belkovskii, a political analyst, deems that Moscow’s “Asiatic complexity and bazaar-style gaudy eclectics are inimical to the very spirit of St.Petersburg”548. According to another view, St.Petersburg, unlike Moscow, is longing not so much for a well-being but for an ideal. In contrast with Moscow, St.Petersburg is believed not only to a greater extent lean toward the West, but also be in a possession of distinctive Northern Slavic identity (metaphorically baptized as “Severoslavia”)549. Yet how this “imagined identity” might look like – as a complement to Russia’s European aspirations or as a competitor to the EU – is still an open question.
Moscow, therefore, seems to be involved in a discursive contest over redefinition of centrality fueled by the St.Petersburg discourses. St.Petersburg’s race for an alternative interpretation of centrality unleashes fierce counter-reaction from the part of Moscow elites whose basic arguments consist of focusing on mythical (even mystical) nature of St.Petersburg’s ambitions and presenting Moscow as the only “super-city” in Eurasia, i.e. between London and Tokyo. Anti-St.Petersburg’s feelings to some extent are exacerbated by the proliferation of this city’s natives in high-ranking political positions within the federal bodies550.
A good addition to the tug-of-war between the two capitals is the federal media coverage of the celebrations of St.Petersburg’s tercentenary anniversary in 2003. A large variety of stories were marked by reported inconveniences caused for ordinary people and overt irony at city’s authorities who showed too much consideration to the federal policy makers at the expense of attention to local residents. The latters found themselves “tired” and felt a psychological release at the end of celebration551. Some of the local residents filed legal suites seeking compensations for dysfunctional performance of municipal services during the celebration552. Moscow-based journalists hold up to ridicule the ceremonial nature of the anniversary and grandiosity of ambitions of its hosts, and remained critical to the tightened security measures during the festivities553. The St.Petersburg authorities were presented as having at their disposal “endless amounts of federal means” but despite this unprepared for large-scale celebration.
Apart from identity-related debate, there are rather practical issues standing behind Moscow – St.Petersburg “battle for the story”554: a number of influential policy makers and opinion leaders (Gennadii Selezniov, Vladimir Yakovlev, Boris Berezovskii) favored the idea of removing the Russian parliament from Moscow to St.Petersburg. The executive secretary of Russia – Belarus Union Pavel Borodin has announced an intention of locating in St.Petersburg the joint legislative assembly of these two allied countries. In the meanwhile, the chairman of the Federation Council Sergey Mironov and the governor Valentina Matvienko have spoken out in favor of placing some of the federal-level legal and law-enforcement agencies in St.Petersburg. This move has to be regarded not only as a tool for diminishing the influence of the capital-city bureaucratic and administrative clans555 but also as an important element of fulfilling the city’s ambitions to obtain an international status comparable with that ones of the Hague and Strasbourg.
Both the mayor of Moscow Yurii Luzhkov and the chairman of Moscow city legislature Vladimir Platonov have lambasted St.Petersburg’s claims for hosting some of the federal institutions as groundless pretensions. St.Petersburg itself seems to be too weak politically to be capable of completing its mission of “alternative centrality”. A good indication of St.Petersburg’s political dependence upon Moscow’s will could be found in the logic of all most recent elections orchestrated by and designed in Kremlin556. In return, St.Petersburg profits from being, according to the Russian Constitution, one of two “cities of federal importance”. The paradox is that in its bid for “alternative centrality” St.Petersburg has to rely upon the forces within Moscow itself that are interested in gradual reproducing a new pattern of “multiple centralities”. Therefore the game St.Petersburg is partaking in is mainly about the re-configuration of the political design and the re-composition of the political forces within the federal center itself.
The dispute between Moscow and St.Petersburg may be conducive to conceptually distinguishing between the two models of Russia’s development: Moscow’s unchallenged centrality is feasible only within the framework of an autonomous and self-sufficient Russia-as-empire; while a Russia aspiring for an inclusion to wider European spatial order(s) necessitates a special role to be given to and played by St.Petersburg. Having accepted this logic, one has to concede that seemingly strengthened mass perceptions of Russia’s inability to get accepted as an equal power by the enlarged EU may seriously question the attractiveness of St.Petersburg in its capacity of a “point of Russia’s inclusion into Europe”.
By the same token, the discourse of alternative centrality has some meaningful sub-national implications since it is premised upon St. Petersburg’s supremacy in Russia’s North West. Its aspirations for the mission of an “alternative center” may be justified, in particular, by the attractiveness of the city’s image as a reference point for other regional identifications in Russia’s North West. For example, the identity of Petrozavodsk is frequently defined as a “St.Petersburg for domestic consumption” (meaning that Karelia’s main city, being the same age as St.Petersburg, is basically an inward-looking city with weaker international liaisons)557. Another supporting argument is that St.Petersburg (and formerly Leningrad) used to expand its influence by projecting its institutions (Universities, industrial enterprises, etc.) onto many of the surrounding territories (like, for instance, the Pskov oblast).
Yet not all of surrounding territories are eager to accept the leadership of St.Petersburg even within the North Western Federal District. Many of its constitutive parts do not need what St.Petersburg may wish to offer in its capacity of an ”alternative center”. In particular, the role of an intermediary, so inherently important for each aspirant for centerality, in relations with the outside actors is not in big demand for regions like the KO, Karelia or Pskov.
1.3 Spatial Representations as Seen from the Edges
Seen from Russia’s outskirts, the notions employed for understanding the spatial representations may look inverted. In particular, Moscow may be viewed as something remote, distant, far-away and irrelevant, this is to say – “peripheral” to the local needs558.
In the further analysis, the emphasis will be made on analytically framing those three categories of non-centrality that were introduced earlier. These geo-cultural “couples” seem to be mutually complimentary and gravitating to each other. Thus, one can relatively easily imagine the overlap between Rimland/Borderland and Province (the case of the Pskov oblast), Rimland/Borderland and Periphery (the Kaliningrad oblast) and Province and Periphery (Pskov again). At the same time, each of the aforecited elements is marked by its own profile.
The Rimland/Borderland problematique is of some interest for this study mainly due to a specific case of non-contiguity as exemplified in the Kaliningrad oblast. Kaliningrad, in a way, describes itself as a Russian city surrounded by united Europe and a European (Prussian) city in the Russian territory. Russian author Vadim Shtepa supposes that the future of the KO lays in developing a «more Russian – and in this sense genuinely European - conscience than that one of Moscow with all its centralization»559.
Exclave location, at the same time, sharpens a set of socio-economic discontinuities within the country and makes the KO a special case of a territory separated from the “motherland Russia”. For example, the issue of severed visa regime was marginal in Pskov’s regional discourse, which stands out in contrast to Kaliningrad.
Two other key concepts of non-centrality, Province and Periphery, may be called, borrowing Zamiatin’s apt wording, “relaxed/resting expanses”, ones which are not aimed to get self-centered. Both Periphery and Province produce non-hierarchical and, to some extent, a-centric discourses560, existing only as attributes of stronger and more powerful entities. In this sense, they appear to be close to the concept of Hinterland that “comprises those areas in which the populations share the major values of the core area, pay homage to its symbols, and respect its authoritative institutions”561.
However, a semantic line of demarcation between Province and Periphery as two alternative concepts is quite feasible. Province is presented, by and large, as a self-sufficient area, where the historically indigenous population dominates the cultural landscape and saturates the cultural milieu with meaningful texts, signifiers and images. Province is seen as a “nucleus” of country’s self-identification, and usually presents itself as “typical” for the whole nation. Without Province a spatial system would turn into an amorphous entity compressed between its core and borderlands562. This is so because Province (in Kaganskii’s interpretation) possesses of rich cultural connotations (a good testimony of which might be detected, for example, in the transformation of the film festival in a small border city of Vyborg into one of most noticeable cinematographic forums in Russia563). In political terms, Province has to remain loyal to the federal center and play by its rules, albeit culturally it may challenge the Core’s hegemony, offering a variety of alternatives formulated mostly in identity-related terms. Put differently, Province in principle may contest the Core’s self-ascribed right to define the dominating discursive frameworks. In particular, the ideas of patriotism and nationalism may well develop outside of the core areas, as manifested by the example of Pskov. This oblast’s political discourse contains a number of other important suppositions exemplary for Province, from the contestation of Core’s role in introducing meaningful societal innovations (like the civic law in medieval Russia) to the accusation of the Core in disinterest and disregard of the oblast564. In response, the articulation of provinciality unleashes the policy of the federal center resembling “dissidence reduction” 565.
Periphery, in Kaganskii’s conceptualization, is a much more dependent area, serving mainly as a resource base of the center/capital. It is usually an economic backyard and an underdeveloped territory with “satellite mentality” and “crippled, inferior, deficient and defensive identity of incomplete” (second-rate) membership in national political community. Semantically, a bunch of meanings may be ascribed to Periphery, to include “deviation”, “imitation”, “jealousy”, etc. Peripheries, historically speaking, were either expropriated or colonized by the center/capital which is destined to establish/format its “zone of preponderance”. Peripherality is seen by the center as an excuse for the exploitation of resources. Periphery is a space of a single culturally and politically dominated vector imposed and directed/manipulated from above, and in this sense it is void of comprehensive self-description. In cultural terms, Periphery is rather a place than a space, and in its most radical versions is comparable with social emptiness566. Connections of Periphery’s fragments with each other and/or with other regions skipping the center are either impossible or highly complicated. Decision making procedures in Periphery are “a-geographic” in the sense that they may be mechanically reproduced elsewhere regardless of local specifics.
The relations of dependency turn Periphery into a “patient”, or a “client” with a very limited capacity to affect processes beyond its geographic boundaries567. Peripheral strategies may be described as “subordinating adaptation” in the sense that Periphery is utilized in the interests of Capital and is constrained in implementing a policy of self-reliance568. Peripheries are merely objects of expansion of Capital and are destined to live according to imposed predispositions. This may foster conflicts between Periphery, which sees itself disadvantaged in receipts of public goods, and the Capital’s elites “seen as bestowing negative externalities by their influence over public goods allocation policies”569.
This is definitely not to say that Periphery is deprived of any chances to produce its own strategies. At least three of them may be hypothesized. The first one may be viewed as a strategy of practically making use of Periphery’s advantages, namely rather cheap labour force, rich mineral and energy resources, and relatively decent state of environment (something comparable with green field-areas). The second strategy is that of living on external (federal center’s) resources, as shown by the Pskov oblast authorities570. The third strategy, mainly imaginable for Periphery’s international roles, is to keep aloof of major conflicts and gain not only a peace-loving reputation but also protect their lands against penetration of extremist groups through a policy of non-participation and non-involvement in international conflicts.