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Ivan Kurilla: Russia-U.S. Relations in the Constructivist Historical Perspective

April 23 @ 9:30 am 11:30 am

Please join the Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program for a conversation about the history of Russia-U.S. relations and memory politics in Russia with Ivan Kurilla, Mary L. Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College. We will discuss the role of identity and nation-building in Russia-U.S. relations and how history is instrumentalized politically by the Russian government. The event will be chaired by Professor Chris Miller

The recent tragic developments in international relations have cast doubt on the dominant realist perspective regarding the driving factors behind foreign policy decisions. The constructivist approach redirects research attention from economic resources and strategic interests toward issues of identity and nation-building. Russian-U.S. relations provide one of the best examples illustrating the utility of this approach.

Putin’s regime has utilized history as a tool for legitimization since the inception of his presidency. Commemorations of World War II played a central role in the ideological consolidation of Russians, who share a common familial memory of the war. However, until recently, at least three variants of historical narratives coexisted in Russia, represented by the Communist Party, the Russian Orthodox Church, and liberal-leaning organizations such as Memorial. When Putin initiated the war against Ukraine, the state dismantled all liberal organizations, suppressed all criticism of state historical policies, altered history textbooks, and established the official version of history as the primary explanatory framework for all policies. 

We encourage you to read in advance the following articles by Kurilla and other experts on Europe’s strategic perception of RussiaAmerican debates about Russia in the early 19th centuryRussia’s identity pivot to the East, the weaponization of history in Russia’s war against Ukraine, and Russia’s post-Soviet ideological revanchism. The event is open to members of the Fletcher and Tufts communities and invited guests. Please register via myFletcher to attend the event in person.

Ivan Kurilla is currently Mary L. Cornille Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities at Wellesley College. He previously taught at the European University in St. Petersburg and Volgograd State University. He also conducted research at Dartmouth College (as a Fulbright Scholar) and George Washington University. His main fields of interest include the history of Russia-U.S. relations and the use of the past for political purposes in Russia and the United States. His most recent books are the following: (edited in English): Ivan Kurilla (ed.) Carl W. Ackerman, Trailing the Bolsheviki: Twelve Thousand Miles with the Allies in Siberia (Slavica, 2020); Kurilla, Ivan and Zhuravleva Victoria I. (eds.); Russian/Soviet Studies in the United States, Amerikanistika in Russia: Mutual Representations in Academic Projects. (Lexington, 2016); (in Russian): Kurilla, Ivan, Amerikantsy i vse ostalnye: Istoki i smysl vneshney politiki SShA (Americans and all the rest: Origin and meaning of the U.S. foreign policy) (Alpina, forthcoming March 2024); and Kurilla, Ivan. Bitva za proshloe: Kak politika menyaet istoriyu (Battle for the Past: How Politics Changes History), (Alpina, 2022). A book on the history of Russia-U.S. relations coauthored with David S. Foglesong (Rutgers) and Victoria I. Zhuravleva (RSUH) is under review by a major publisher.

Fletcher Russia and Eurasia Program

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