“Our so-Called Obliging Neighbours”. Russian-Finnish Cross-Border Co-Operation in the Crosshairs of Anti-Western Alarmist Rhetoric

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Gilbert Scott Building - Room 134 (University of Glasgow)
Ilya Solomeshch , Department of World History, Political Science and International Relations, Petrozavodsk State University
For more than a quarter of a century, both in research and in political discourse, Russian-Finnish relations, especially the rapidly growing co-operation between their adjacent regions, was interpreted as a remarkable case of best practices and as an icon of debordering Europe. This was also vastly supported by references to history, emphasising ingrained preconditions for good neighbourhood and positive patterns of co-operation and thereby generating a coherent, positively hued discourse of growing, sustainable and multifaceted cross-border interaction, culminating in the establishing of the EUregio Karelia. Any criticism regarding the issue remained beyond the scope of the mainstream master discourse.

Currently, discrepant signals reflecting restrained or negative approaches are becoming increasingly visible. However, the most self-explanatory interpretation referring to dramatic changes in Russian relations with the West does not give a comprehensive clarification of this shift. Therefore, focusing on the North-Western Russia, especially on Karelia, the paper seeks to (a) recognise long lines in the interpretative paradigms of the history of the border and co-operation between Russia and Finland; (b) discuss the variety of symbolic meanings of the Border in the fluctuating political landscape; (c) ascertain, whether the phenomenon of an alarmist “outpost syndrome” is the matter of an empty/floating signifier and spontaneously used figures of speech, or it echoes the rooted way of looking at the Neighbour. Finally, the paper addresses to parallel developments in Barents Euro-Arctic region, where history is also used both to support and to question the very sustainability of the cross-border cooperation.