Russian Elite Image of Iran: From the Late Soviet Era to the Present

  • September 01, 2009
  • Dr Dmitry Shlapentokh

Since the late Soviet era, the presence of Iran has loomed large in the minds of the Russian elite. Soon after the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)—and even before—increasing numbers of Russian intellectuals became disenchanted with the West, especially the United States, and looked for alternative geopolitical alliances. The Muslim world became one of the possible alternatives. Iran became especially important in the geopolitical construction of Eurasianists or neo-Eurasianists who believed that Russia’s alliance with Iran is essential for Russia’s rise to power. Yet, by the middle of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tenure, increasing tension with the Muslim community and the rise of Russian nationalism had led to more complicated views of the Russian elite on Iran. At present, the Russian elite does not mind using Iran as a bargaining chip in its dealings with the West, especially the United States, and as a market for Russian weapons and other goods and services. However, the dream of a Russian-Iran axis is apparently abandoned for good.