Matthew Blackburn

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My research focuses on the role of nationalism in contemporary Russia, where a 'State-Civilization' identity promoted from above, attempts to manage the mainstream nationalism of Russian society. I study imaginaries of the Russian nation 'from below' and 'from above', using in-depth interviews in urban Russia to explore which discourses emerge across generational, geographic and socio-economic divisions.


  • collective memory
  • geopolitics
  • indigeneity ethnicity and nationalism
  • nationalism
  • political attitudes
  • political communication
  • political sociology


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I completed my doctoral thesis on nationalist discourses and the imagined nation in Post-Soviet Russia at the University of Glasgow in June 2018, taking up a two-year postdoctoral position at IRES the following October. My current research uses a bottom-up approach to examine how dominant representations of the Russian national identity emerge in state discourse and how this compares to the micro-level of lived experience in the current period.

I am currently working on a monograph entitled The Imagined Nation in Contemporary Russia: Soviet legacies, Nationalist Discourses and the Civilizational Turn. Based on a longitudinal analysis of state discourse (2012-2020) and over 150 semi-structured interviews with ordinary Russians in four cities, the monograph examines how different groups of varying social backgrounds adopt different frames of ‘normality’ when thinking of the Russian nation: what is Russia’s ‘normal’ past, what is a ‘normal’ state, how do ‘normal’ interethnic relations work, what is a ‘normal’ great power? In my book, I reveal how certain dominant discourses on the nation are ‘socialised’ on level of ordinary people in urban Russia, a process of central importance in determining stances of loyalty, indifference or opposition to the current status quo in the country.


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Research interests include Nationalism, national identity, theories of nationalism, Post-Soviet transitions, (political) legitimacy, popular geopolitics, popular historical memory


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Matthew Blackburn