Russian President Vladimir Putin recently approved a new doctrine based on the Russki Mir concept. But where does the idea of ​​the “Russian world” come from and what does it mean for Putin’s plans?

The “Russian world” is now anchored in Russia’s foreign policy concept. A 31-page foreign policy document approved by Putin and based on the idea of ​​Russki Mir (Russian World) was released on Monday.

The letter states that Russia should “protect, preserve and promote the traditions and ideals of the Russian world”. However, “Russki Mir” is not a completely new concept.

It has its roots in the Russian Orthodox Church. Their leadership had launched the idea to create a spiritual and cultural unity of all ethnic Russians and Russian believers.

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This concept was particularly popular after the collapse of the Soviet Union, because many Russian-speaking people stayed in other countries or emigrated.

Originally, “Russki Mir” was about – similar to the British Commonwealth – that all Russians form a community, regardless of where they are in the world.

In addition, because Russki Mir was intended to promote Russian language and culture, the concept became an important tool for enhancing Russia’s so-called “soft power”.

This term comes from political science. It means that the exercise of power is not shaped by military resources but by other factors such as cultural attractiveness.

However, what began as a cultural concept took on a territorial dimension under Putin. Political scientist and Eastern Europe expert Alexander Libman from Freie Universität Berlin sees two levels here.

“For one thing, the concept became part of the political language. On the other hand, it was accompanied by an idea that Putin eventually adopted. That Russia has a duty of care and protection for Russian-speaking people all over the world,” he says in an interview with FOCUS online.

The consequences of this notion were evident in 2014, first with the forcible annexation of Crimea and then this year with the war of aggression against Ukraine: “‘Russki Mir’ is a very effective pretext for interfering in the affairs of other states,” says Libman.

Interfering in the fate of other countries would probably be easier to legitimize now. The fact that “Russki Mir” is now officially becoming the guiding principle of Russian foreign policy could be understood as a declaration of war on the West.

However, Libman warns against jumping to conclusions. “It is clear and unequivocal that Putin also legitimizes his war against Ukraine, which violates international law, with ‘Russki Mir’. But that doesn’t automatically mean that tomorrow, for example, Putin will also attack Latvia to annex Russian territories,” he says.

In his estimation, the concept is first and foremost “a convenient empty phrase and legitimizing phrase that can be used in a way that suits the regime’s line.”

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Gerhard Mangott, political scientist at the University of Innsbruck, also does not expect that further territorial disputes could arise with “Russki Mir” as the guiding principle of Russian foreign policy. He bases this assessment primarily on the war in Ukraine.

“The Russian armed forces are badly bled – literally. You have recorded many fallen or wounded soldiers in Ukraine, have used modern war equipment and lost it,” he says in an interview with FOCUS online.

For Mangott, therefore, “the military clout is missing to expand this concept of the Russian world to other states in the foreseeable future – for example to Kazakhstan, where there is also a strong ethnic Russian minority”.

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