Living in the Borderland: How Residents of Russian Border Towns Interpret Security Problems

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Olga Vendina


The article proposes looking at the problem of state border security through the eyes of Russian border-town residents. Based on field research, the article examines what residents perceive to be threats and how they understand protections against those threats. The conceptual framework of the analysis is securitization theory, proposed in the late 1990s by members of the Copenhagen school of international studies and critically reconsidered in the last two decades. The article aims to identify the similarities and differences between everyday understandings of security in different border zones of Russia and between residents’ perception of their roles in maintaining security. The study suggests possible explanations for the observed variability, proceeding from the specifics of local sociocultural, political, and spatial contexts. The comparative analysis involves the towns of Armiansk, Dzhankoi, Troitsk, and Zabaikal’sk, all of which are situated in immediate proximity to the state border. The selection of these four towns was determined by fundamentally different conditions at the corresponding parts of the Russian border: (a) the nonrecognized conflict border between Russia and Ukraine in Crimea; (b) the open border with Kazakhstan in Chelyabinsk Oblast; and (c) the state border with China in Zabaikal’skii Krai. The first section of the article analyzes residents’ attitudes to the problem of open/closed borders in the context of security for local communities. The second section considers the factors influencing people’s opinions, such as ethnic and cultural stereotypes, life context (urban area), and perceptions of the home state and of the neighboring country. The conclusion discusses discrepancies between state priorities and the interests of local residents caused by differing interpretations of security in the border zone.

Article in Russian

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2019-11-2-30-69


Borderlands, State, National Security, Securitization, Border Towns, Identity, Cultural Distinctiveness

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