Alexey Maslov's Seminar in Cambridge. Russia for Central Asia and China: Struggling for National Identity and Milestones of Mutual Misperception

Tuesday 2 February 2016

4.30–6.00 Mond Building Seminar Room

There is an obvious historical dilemma in the Russian mind regarding Central and East Asia. Central Asia is regarded as an historical subordinate with a high level of interdependence and China is regarded as an economic rival, political challenger and at the same time the best strategic partner and potential investor. While Russia tries to find its new place in the ‘division of labour’ in Asia and to get rid of ‘hydrocarbons damnation’, the perception of these regions has become more emotional than rational and has challenged Russia’s national identity. All of these give birth to the new wave of discussions about the nature of Russian culture, its civilizational allies and position in Asia. The new economic and political situation shaped the old historical trends for particularization of Russian, Chinese and Central Asian identities which brought about the psychological and emotional divorce between Russia on one side and Central Asia, Mongolia and China on the other side. Both sides are particularly challenged in their ability to understand someone else’s point of view because they are part of a culture that encourages strong protection of national identity. And both sides do not really understand the signals that they send to each other and this problem has created negative emotional experiences and resentments between countries. More people suggest that China is in a potential risk for Russia’s future and represents the ‘other’ in a cultural sense. At the same time the rival ‘West’ is regarded as culturally ‘the same’ but without deeper understanding of Russian peculiarities.

We will look to this problem from a cultural point of view taking into consideration several aspects, such as personal insight and perception, public opinion, economic possibilities and new trends according to the latest surveys of 2015 in different regions of Russia. We will discuss the potential limits of dialogue and the possibility for Russia of a real ‘turning to the East’link