TURNING AWAY FROM YOUR SLAVIC BROTHER:
THE EFFECTS OF IDENTITY ON RELATIONS BETWEEN RUSSIA AND BELARUS




by



MATTHEW MATEJKA
B.A. University of Central Florida, 2006




A thesis submitted in fulfillment of the requirements
for the degree of Masters in Arts
in the Department of Political Science
in the College of Sciences
at the University of Central Florida
Orlando, Florida




Spring Term

2012












© 2012 Matthew Matejka



ABSTRACT

On September 24, 2011, it was announced that Putin would run for president once again in 2012. The reaction in the West was that “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” The Western conception of the post-Cold War Russia is often one of remarkable consistency since the turn of the century. This Western narrative focuses on an autocratic Putin reigning over his resurgent and confrontational Russia. Does this narrative tell the story of Russia today, or does it instead obscure it? To answer this I have elected to analyze Russian identity and how it relates to Russia’s foreign policy with Belarus, traditionally a close ally of Russia. Analyzing news articles from state-owned Russia Today, I look at changes in reporting and Russian identity over time. I argue that a shift in Russian identity towards a more liberal outlook between 2006 and 2010 motivated a degradation of relations with Belarus. I argue that once the simplified narrative of a resurgent Russia is peeled back, a closer look reveals competing identities and competing interest groups in Russia’s domestic arena. Finally I conclude that not only does identity play a pivotal role in Russia’s relations, but also that researching identity is important in that it gives us a window into a fairly closed regime that lies at the center of the global stage. Discovering how Russian identity reacts to and influences foreign policy can offer insight into the domestic framework of contemporary Russia, as well as offer us an understanding of how central ideas are to crafting the world around us.

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