Why should we speak abut Europe on the Northern Caucasus?

Mgr. Evgeny Romanovskiy |

The issue of the perception of the European Union (EU) in the North Caucasus deserves special attention. This region, which includes the republics of Dagestan, Chechnya, and Ingushetia, has unique ethnic, cultural, and political characteristics. Unlike other regions of Russia, where ethnic Russians dominate, the North Caucasus is a microcosm where official and unofficial discourses about Europe take various forms. This creates unique conditions for studying the perception of Europe, which may differ significantly from other parts of Russia.

Secondly, most research focuses on the perception of the EU in the independent states of Central Asia and the South Caucasus, leaving out regions within other countries, such as the North Caucasus.

 

Personal Interest and Motivation

My interest in this topic arose during my travels through the republics of the North Caucasus. I noticed how different the official and unofficial discourses about Europe are in these regions. Many of my respondents had friends and relatives who had already migrated or were planning to migrate to Europe, influencing their perception of Europe. This prompted me to investigate what Europe means to the people of the North Caucasus, which countries they include in this concept, and how they perceive European values and culture.

The idea to write this study emerged when I came across a series of videos on YouTube where respondents from Chechnya and Dagestan answered questions about which countries they love and hate. These videos seemed to be casual digital content, but upon closer examination, they revealed a unique anthropological perspective. The respondents’ reactions to questions about preferred and disliked countries offered a fascinating insight into their worldview and helped me rethink the role of Europe in the lives of ordinary people from the North Caucasus.

 

The Concept and Boundaries of ‘Europe’

One of the main tasks of the research was to understand how the people of the North Caucasus perceive Europe. There is no single concept of Europe: this notion is constantly constructed and deconstructed depending on the context. In official discourses, Europe is often depicted as a politically and economically unstable region. However, in cultural narratives, Europe is associated with rich historical heritage, languages, art, music, and cinema.

Despite political complexities, Europe is perceived as a source of cultural wealth and innovation. Europe’s “soft power,” expressed through its commitments to democracy, the rule of law, and good governance, attracts attention and respect. It is important to note that the cultural contribution of Europe to the development of humanity is most frequently highlighted by the people of the North Caucasus. Analyses conducted in Central Asia, Georgia, and the North Caucasus confirm this finding.

 

Issues of Perception and Integration

One of the main problems hindering the free discussion of Europe in the North Caucasus is the selective approach of the EU to its presence in the region. The EU makes separate statements without focusing on the region or offering comprehensive solutions to its problems. This can lead to a distorted image of Europe. On the other hand, there is a demonstrative rejection of some key European values by people from the North Caucasus, indicating issues with integration. Both sides need to move towards each other, communicate, and listen to one another.

 

Conclusion

The study of the EU’s perception in the North Caucasus is an important and relevant field. It allows for a better understanding of how cultural and political narratives of Europe influence the perception of European values in this unique region. It is necessary to continue research in this area to promote better mutual understanding and bottom-top integration process between Europe and the North Caucasus. It is crucial for Europe to be not only a political and economic partner but also a cultural beacon for the people outside the boundaries of Europe.