Regionalist Promises in State Social Identity Construction: The Rhetoric of Single Economic Space

6th Pan-European International Relations Conference, September 2007

15 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2016

Date Written: September 12, 2007


Almost immediately after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its newly independent states started reaching out to their neighbors in an attempt to join in the already established alliances and regional groupings of states. Moreover, they sought to recreate some sort of an interstate economic union amongst themselves. While integration with the EU succeeded for some and remains an option for others, regional integration with other post-Soviet states remains mostly a rhetorical exercise. Nonetheless, regionalist imagery still drives these states’ foreign policies.

Identity construction in the region has emphasized the irreconcilably dualistic nature of such categories as "European" versus "Eurasian." Eurasian regionalism grew out of fear be left alone in the increasingly globalized world. This was accompanied by the politics of envy toward the European Union. Other key movers were China’s economic penetration of the region and Russia’s attempts to reassert itself both geopolitically and economically. Regionalization was called forth to address political and economic insecurity by means of external branding of the state.

Seeking eventual affiliation with the European Union, Ukraine, had spearheaded an openly anti-Russian GUAM (Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova) alliance. However, GUAM’s construction of identity in explicit opposition to that of Russia’s was not positively rewarded with promises of the prospective EU membership. Meanwhile, the "Eurasian" Russia together with Kazakhstan and Belarus has launched the Single Economic Space (SES) project. The idea of creation of a new trading bloc in Eurasia serves as much an anchor of identity as a basis for pragmatic foreign policy.

The paper examines regional dimensions of social identity construction in post-Soviet space, focusing on the competing images of "Europe" versus "Eurasia." By looking at the example of the SES, it seeks to clarify the role that regional identities and cultures play in politics of interstate cooperation in Europe and beyond. I argue that development of regional dimension to a national identity is a necessary first step towards the state’s wider international integration.

Keywords: Regional integration, state social identity, Russia, Eurasia, Single Economic Space, GUAM

JEL Classification: F02, F15, H19, H49, N40, O19

Suggested Citation

Molchanov, Mikhail, Regionalist Promises in State Social Identity Construction: The Rhetoric of Single Economic Space (September 12, 2007). 6th Pan-European International Relations Conference, September 2007, Available at SSRN: or
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