In This Review

Political Ideologies in Contemporary Russia
Political Ideologies in Contemporary Russia
By Elena Chebankova
McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020, 376 pp.

Chebankova characterizes her work as a “theoretical study of Russia’s ideological foundations,” and the scope of the academic literature she cites is quite impressive. Unfortunately, the book’s description of the current scene in Russia has numerous inaccuracies, such as outdated affiliations of political and other figures and the mischaracterization of their current public standing. A more serious shortcoming is that Chebankova’s account of the Russian ideological and discursive environment is divorced from the social context: her analysis of the production of ideas does not differentiate dominant figures from marginal ones. Quotes from professional philosophers and political thinkers appear side by side with statements made by communications professionals, journalists, political commentators, filmmakers, and even pop culture figures. The author also disregards the political dynamics of the present day: for instance, although liberal ideas were fairly prominent in public discourse in the 1990s, in the 2010s, the Kremlin adopted a conservative discourse and radically marginalized its liberal opponents, smearing their reputations, jailing them, and forcing them out of Russia. The most striking example is the political activist Alexei Navalny, whom Chebankova identifies as belonging to a category she dubs “pluralist liberals.” The fact that Navalny (now imprisoned) was harassed for years goes unmentioned.