Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations

First Advisor

Rajan Menon

Second Advisor

Jean Krasno


Soft Annexation, Hybrid Warfare, Crimea, Nationalism, Ukraine, Georgia, Putin, Russia, South Ossetia, Abkhazia


Over the last decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, The Russian Federation has struggled to reclaim its grasp over Eastern Europe and re-establish itself as a major player on the international scene. Increased NATO expansion towards its borders, and the “Westernization” of Eastern Europe has led to the country feeling it has been boxed into a corner. The feeling that the Russian nation has been encroached upon by the Western world has led to the rise of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia, and the marked rise in nationalism within the country. In this Master’s Thesis, I intend to discuss the history of Russian nationalism prior to and during Vladimir Putin’s reign as President of the Russian Federation, and how this nationalism has been harnessed to achieve both his domestic and international political goals; These goals namely being the unification of the Russian people in support of the Kremlin, their alienation from the rest of the world through the fostering of pre-existing xenophobic rhetoric and the implementation of nationalist driven soft annexation and hybrid warfare tactics meant to destabilize Eastern Europe and limit Western encroachment. All of this, I argue, is done to re-create a geopolitical buffer zone against Western incursion both in a physical and ideological sense- physically by destabilizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as annexing Crimea from Ukraine and fostering separatist warfare in the Donbas region, and ideologically by painting the West as an oppressor determined to re-create the East in its own visage. I will also discuss the effect Russia’s actions on the international stage have had on surrounding Eastern European countries and the threats they face from Russia today.



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