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Untimely Russia: Hysteresis in Russian-Western Relations over the Past Millennium

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This article draws on Pierre Bourdieu's sociology to explain how a lack of fit between a repertoire of bodily practices accumulated through history, on the one hand, (here, Russian habitus) and the field in which it is employed, on the other, (here, diplomacy) can take shape in world politics. Such “hysteresis” provides a longue durée reading that challenges both the realist idea that similar outcomes are due to invariant structures and the constructivist idea that structures “socialize” states. Social stability stems from agency, more specifically, from habitus. Our empirical examples are breaking points in Russian relations with neighbors: the Rus’ and the Eurasian steppe empires (ca. 800–1500), Muscovy's diplomatic interactions with Europe, and Russia's bid to join European international society and situation during the twentieth century. In each case, Moscow's relentless quest for equal status prompted quixotic practices that were often dismissed by Western countries and hampered the security of both parties.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, 2: Department of Political Science, McGill University, Montréal, Canada

Publication date: March 21, 2011

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