Russian president Vladimir Putin approved a new foreign policy doctrine based on the neo-imperial concept of the “Russian World,” the latest in Moscow’s mounting geopolitical standoff with the West.
The thirty-one-page document outlined a “system of views on the goals, objectives, principles, and foundations of the directions of the Russian Federation’s humanitarian policy abroad.”
“Russian culture in all its historical eras has been a symbol of Russia and the Russian nation,” read the document. “Its uniqueness was demonstrated to the world not only by the works of distinguished representatives of literature, music, and the sciences, including L.N. Tolstoy, F.M. Dostoyevsky, P.I. Tchaikovsky, D.D. Shostakovich, D.I. Mendeleev, and I.V. Kurchatov, but also by the rich cultural and spiritual heritage of the multinational Russian people.”
The document said Russia’s policies in the “humanitarian sphere” should center on four core goals: “1) Protection of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values; 2) familiarization of the global community with the historical and cultural heritage of the multinational people of the Russian Federation and their achievements; 3) Mutual enrichment between the cultures of the peoples of the Russian Federation and foreign states, as well as increasing the availability of Russian and global cultural heritage; and 4) The development of international humanitarian cooperation on a fair mutual, and non-discriminatory basis.”
The decree outlined the need for Moscow to deepen its ties with Russian “compatriots living abroad,” particularly in the former Soviet sphere. “By establishing strong ties with compatriots around the world, providing them with support and assistance in preserving their native language and culture, Russia strengthens its global image as a democratic state striving for the formation of a multipolar world and the preservation of its cultural-civilizational diversity,” the decree read. Beyond the former USSR, the document urges Moscow to strengthen its “humanitarian cooperation” with Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.
The doctrine called on the Kremlin to take a more assertive stance in the global “struggle for cultural influence.” It drew alarm over what it described as an “increase in the number of attempts to undermine the significance of Russian culture and Russian humanitarian projects, spread and impose distorted narratives over Russia’s true goals in familiarizing the global community with its cultural heritage and achievements in the humanitarian sphere and to discredit the Russian world, its traditions and ideals, replacing it with pseudo-ideals.”
The concept of a “Russian World,” first introduced earlier in Russian history to stress Russia’s uniqueness as a civilization unto itself, was revived by conservative Russian thinkers in the 1990s and later adapted as a guiding notion by the Putin administration. The concept closely complements the Kremlin’s belief that it possesses—and should continue to maintain, through cultural, economic, political, and military ties—legitimate spheres of influence across the former Soviet Union.
Mark Episkopos is a national security reporter for the National Interest.