The central question of this course is Russia’s place in Europe, specifically Western Europe, Asia or in a place all of its own. Queries about the geographical, and thus ideological placement (or the lack thereof) of Russia among the two continents that border it, as long time been a hot button issue. What makes a country “European”? And can a single country be divided into its European and Asian halves. Given Russia’s history as not only a nation that engaged in relations with diverse peoples, but who’s occupiers had profound effects on cultural and philosophical thinking of modern-day Russia, its ambiguous character is a reasonable conclusion. The Varangian legend, paganism, the first bout of Christianizing Russia by Vladimir I, the 200-year Tatar Yoke occupation, the efforts of Peter the Great to Westernize Russia, the USSR, and so much more have all contributed to the alignment of Russia with and “against” Western Europe. Issues of Russia natural and rightful status as a European Power, as described by Catherine the Great, is also implicated. Westerners, Chaadaev for example, believes that Russia is not truly a European nation because all those who are members of that group are united by a general character, one of progress and advancements. Slavophiles instead believe the only thing Russia need to progress is Russia itself. And yet another group, those who subscribe to Eurasianism stipulate that Russia belongs neither to Europe nor Asian but the broader geographical territory of Eurasia.
The maker of the placemat knows not that he or she is making a political and/or ideological statement by not only including Russia in the European map, but also by labeling it “European Russia”. This may elude to the European and Asiatic concept of Russia or simply insinuates that Russia is a rightful member of European. If latter were the case, I don’t think the addition of European would have been necessary.