World Heritage and Cultural Statecraft in Putin’s Russia: Patriotic Agendas, Flexible Power Relations, and Geopolitical Ambitions | Gertjan Plets & Linda Van Der Pol
Over the past two decades, heritage has become a political instrument in the nation-building portfolio of the Kremlin. To restore Russia as a great geopolitical power and promote Russian national identity, culture has become a vehicle to instill national pride. World Heritage (WH) Sites have played a small but important role in cultural politics in Russia. UNESCO-labeled cultural landscapes, architecture, and classical sites are mobilized to instill patriotism at home and convince international audiences that Russia is a grand civilization.
The discourses presented at WH Sites might help in normalizing the patriotic ideas and geopolitical ambitions of the Kremlin, but it is regional governments and nongovernmental actors that implement Russia’s world heritage agenda. These players have agency and use existing conventions and standards to further their own agenda and craft a political environment favorable to their needs. However, compared to the late Soviet period, especially the Yeltsin years, the power relations have dramatically evolved.
This paper describes and analyzes the mobilization of world heritage and UNESCO more broadly since Putin’s first term in 2000. World heritage is used as a lens through which broader developments in the field of cultural and heritage politics are discussed. We focus on (1) how World Heritage Sites are key in narrating patriotic histories, (2) the instrumentalization of UNESCO in Russia’s ambition to establish a multipolar world order, and (3) the power relations between the Kremlin and stakeholders in the cultural heritage field.
To read the FULL ARTICLE, purchase a physical copy at https://cot.pennpress.org/home/, or visit Project Muse for digital access https://muse.jhu.edu/pub/56/article/869112. Thank you for your support!