The Russio-Ukrainian War can be interpreted in many ways: as a geopolitical grab of territory; as an institutional fight for the new world order; or as a making of Russian identity and a manifestation of post-imperial ressentiment. The presentation took on an alternate view, suggesting that it is an extension of the biopolitical discourse that has shaped Russia’s authoritarian drift of the past decade.
It started with the first biopolitical interventions of Putin’s state in the early 2010s: the demographic and family policies, the anti-gay legislation, laws banning foreign adoption, etc. Since then, the state has radically intervened in matters pertaining to the human body––sex and reproduction, food habits and family routines––treating the population as a biological resource.
In recent years, this biological turn in Russian politics has taken on a foreign policy dimension (claiming the “sexual sovereignty” of Russia as the last domain of the patriarchal white Christian civilization), and a geopolitical dimension (putting forward the “blood and soil” concept of the “Russian world” (Russki mir). Ultimately, this politics of the body has resulted in an archaic, bloody war in Ukraine ruining human bodies, taking on extremely physiological aspect (genocide, rape, executions, concentration camps, etc.), accompanied by a quasi-Nazi discourse looking for a “final solution” of the Ukrainian question. These biological and organic politics have brought Russia to the textbook forms of fascism.
Sergei Medvedev is Professor at the Charles University in Prague and at the Free University in Riga. He holds a PhD in History of International Relations and Foreign Policy and specializes in political history, international affairs and Russian studies. He has published several books – among them A War Made in Russia (2023), The Return of the Russian Leviathan (2020) and Identity Politics in Wider Europe (2012). Medvedev is currently Visiting Fellow at the IWM in Vienna, where he is researching the domestic sources, structural foundations and historical patterns of the ongoing war in Ukraine, while also looking into the politics of memory, post-imperial ressentiment, and the cult of war that has emerged in Russia.
Misha Glenny, Rector of the IWM, provided a commentary and moderated the colloquium's discussion.