Russian Theory of International Relations: A Debate on Identity, Security and Development

Document Type : Research Paper


Associate Professor, Faculty of World Studies, University of Tehran, Iran



Russia has been a prominent European great power since the 18th century, and later a world power. In the context of great power competition, Russian foreign and security policies have been attractive topics for the international relations (IR) theorists who have developed concepts such as the "Great Game", "Heartland", "Class Transnationalism" and "Strategic Parity" mainly in relation to Russia's foreign policy. Over the last decades, significant efforts have been undertaken in Russia in order to understand European and international politics, and these efforts have reached a point that one can now speak of the evolution of the Russian international relations theory. Indeed, the main question of this article is as follows: How have the fundamental issues of the state been reflected in the Russian IR theory? In the research hypothesis, it is claimed that domestic politics play a determining role in the development of IR theories. The Russian approach to IR theory building is different from the western approaches to IR theory. While the current trend in the main debates of IR theories in the western academic and research institutions have been about the nature, method and philosophical foundations of these theories, in Russia there have been major debates around the issues of identity, security and development, which have led to conflicting views of internationalism, statism, civilizational and geopolitical approaches. The author discusses positivist approach to IR which is best described as one which advocates a unified view of science, and calls for the use of methodologies of the natural sciences—most often quantitative data analysis—to study IR. The author also explores the arguments of the critics of the positivist approach from the perspective of critical studies and sociology of science and discusses the likelihood of acceptability of indigenous theory of IR.
The main finding of this article is that we cannot identify a fully indigenous Russian theory of IR at present, but the attitudes in the four schools (i.e., internationalist, statist, civilizationist, geostrategist attitudes) are such that they provide important opportunities to build a truly indigenous Russian theory of IR. In fact, the main concern of Russian theorists during the 1991-2022 period had been the issues of identity, security and development, regardless of the schools of thoughts to which they belonged. In fact, there have been general debates about the identity of the Russian state, the expansion of Western institutions and their influence, and the need to overcome economic development problems. Internationalists define Russian identity within the Western world and advocate cooperation with Western institutions, and do not consider any security policies other than in connection with European and global institutions. Russian statists believe the identity of the Russian state is influenced by a combination of local and regional factors, which do not clash necessarily with the Western world except for issues related to survival. They argue that Russian security depends on the maintenance of a regional balance, increased comprehensive interactions with other countries (including the Western countries), and implementation of pragmatic development and modernization policies. Russian civilizationists emphasize the exclusive aspects of identity, security, preservation of local traditions and culture. In contrast, Russian scholars in the geopolitical school with its widespread security concerns and the feeling of being surrounded and threatened by the West, emphasize an anti-Western approach to the policy formulation for countering Western military-security threats. It is not surprising that they supported Moscow’s policies in the war against Ukraine. The main problem in all four schools of thought is related to the debate about the best way to deal with foreign academic circles to enrich their concepts and theories. The intellectual space created during the 1985-1999 reform period facilitated Russian academic interactions and collaboration within the transnational space, but the escalation of tensions between Russia and NATO member states over the war in Ukraine gradually created a more restricted and state-oriented environment which have been widening the gap between Russian academic institutions and international teaching and research centers. However, given the globalization of communication and information technologies and capabilities, the intellectual space of IR studies in Russia will continue to grow and the intellectual fences of the Soviet era are unlikely to reappear to prevent Russian academic interactions with the outside world.


Main Subjects

  1. الف) فارسی

    1. آکاریا، آمیتاو؛ بری بوزان. (1389) نظریه‌های غیر غربی روابط بین‌الملل، ترجمه علیرضا طیب. تهران: ابرار معاصر.
    2. پریماکف، یوگنی. (1391) دنیا بدون روسیه؟ تهران: ایراس.
    3. دانکوس، هلن کارر. (1371) شوربختی روس؛ جستاری در قتل سیاسی، ترجمه عبدالحسین نیک‌گهر. تهران: البرز.
    4. دوگین، الکساندر. (1391 نظریه چهارم سیاست؛ روسیه و ایده‌های قرن بیست‌ویکم، ترجمه مهناز نوروزی. تهران: انتشارات سلمان آزاده و مرکز بین‌المللی مطالعات صلح.
    5. سرگونین، الکساندر. (1390) «روسیه: روابط بین‌الملل بر سر دو راهی»، در: آرلن تیکنر و الی ویور، دانش روابط بین‌الملل در چهار گوشه جهان، ترجمه علی‌رضا طیب. تهران: ابرار معاصر، 454-417.
    6. شکیبی، ژند. (1397) روسیه و غرب‌انگاری. تهران: ایراس.
    7. کولایی، الهه؛ عفیفه عابدی. (1397الف، بهار) «مؤلفه‌های ژئوپلیتیک سیاست خارجی روسیه،» فصلنامه بینالمللی ژئوپلیتیک، 14، 49: 25-1، .
    8. کولایی، الهه؛ عفیفه عابدی. (1397ب) جمهوری اسلامی ایران در ادراک‌های رهبران روسیه. تهران: جهاد دانشگاهی.
    9. لیند، فابیان. (1397) «چرخش تمدنی در گفتمان سیاست خارجی روسیه؛ از پان اروپاگرایی تا تمایز تمدنی،» سیاست خارجی روسیه؛ هویت ملی، تمایز تمدنی و محافظه‌کاری، گردآوری و ترجمه سعید خاوری‌نژاد. تهران: وزارت امور خارجه، 299-265.
    10. لینک لیتر، آندرو. (1385) ماهیت و هدف نظریه روابط بین‌الملل، ترجمه لی‌لا سازگار. تهران: وزارت امور خارجه.
    11. مشیرزاده، حمیرا. (1395) تحول در نظریه‌های روابط بین‌الملل. تهران: سمت.

     ب) انگلیسی

    1. Kolosov, Vladimir A., et al. (2022, June) "Geopolitics and Political Geography in Russia: Global Context and National Characteristics,” Regional Research of Russia 12, 1: 80–95, <DOI:10.1134/S2079970522020046>.
    2. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. (2023, March 31) The Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, Approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation, No. 229. ( Available at: (Accessed 4 May 2023).
    3. Shakleyina, Tatyana; and Aleksei Bogaturov. (2004, March) "The Russian Realist School of International Relations,” Communist and Post-Communist Studies 37, 1: 37-52, .
    4. Solovyev, Eduard. (2004, March) "Geopolitics in Russia, Science or Vocation?" Communist and Post-Communist Studies 37, 1: 85-96, .
    5. Tsygankov, Andrei. (2022) Russian Realism: Defending 'Derzhava' in International Relations. London and New York: Routledge.
    6. Tsygankov, Andrei; and Povel Tsygankov. (2022, March) "The Global and the Nationally Distinctive in IR Theory,” Vestnik International Relations, RUDN 22, 1: 7-16, 10.22363/2313-0660-2022-22-1-7-16>.
    7. Tsygankov, Andrei; and Pavel Tsygankov. (2021, July) “Constructing National Values: The Nationally Distinctive Turn in Russian International Relations Theory and Foreign Policy,” Foreign Policy Analysis 17, 4: 1-20, <DOI: 10.1093/fpa/orab022>.
    8. Tsygankov, Andrei; and Pavel Tsygankov. (2010) "Russian Theory of International Relations,” in Robert A. Denemark, ed. International Studies Encyclopedia. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell Publishers, 6375-6387, Vol. X.

     ج) روسی

    1. Болдырев, Виталий Евгеньевич. (2020, December) "ПОЛИПАРТИСИПАНТНЫЙ И МНОГОМЕРНЫЙ МИР: НА ПУТИ К НОВОЙ ТЕОРИИ МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫХ ОТНОШЕНИЙ,” ЖУРНАЛ Вестник Санкт-Петербургского университета, Политология. Международные отношения 13, 4: 507-526, .
    2. Дугин, Александр. (1997) Основы геополитики: геополитическое будущее России, Москва: Арктогея-центр.
    3. Лебедева Марина и Харкевич Максим. (2016) "ТЕОРИЯ МЕЖДУНАРОДНЫХ ОТНОШЕНИЙ В ЗЕРКАЛЕ СОВРЕМЕННЫХ РОССИЙСКИХ ИССЛЕДОВАНИЙ,” Вестник МГИМО-Университета 5, 50: 7-19, <DOI: 10.24833/2071-8160-2016-5-50-7-19>.
    4. Цыганков, Андрей Павлович. (2014) "Российская теория международных отношений: какой ей быть". Сравнительная политика 2, 15: 65-84, .