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The Energy of Russia

Hydrocarbon Culture and Climate Change

Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen

This timely book analyses the status of hydrocarbon energy in Russia as both a saleable commodity and as a source of societal and political power. Through empirical studies in domestic and foreign policy contexts, Veli-Pekka Tykkynen explores the development of a hydrocarbon culture in Russia and the impact this has on its politics, identity and approach to climate change and renewable energy.
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Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen

In this book I examine the link between Russia’s energy and political power in domestic and foreign policy contexts. The energy of Russia, the power made possible, mediated and programmed by energy, is scrutinized in a way that takes into account a global normative imperative: the urgent need to transform fossil energy-dependent societies into low-carbon ones. I postulate that we can both understand and provide tools for Russia to build a more resilient and sustainable future for itself and the global community by focusing on energy via the prisms of power, spatiality and climate change. I will show how different energy sources – in a broader social and cultural sense – condition and limit Russia’s choices, and what the consequences of this are as the surrounding world, global environment, and global energy and climate politics change.

The foundation for this book is the empirical research that I have conducted since around 2010. However, the ‘grand narrative’ of the book is based on my research interests since the beginning of my academic career in the late 1990s. The main question that has guided me throughout these years is how natural resources, energy and space are governed in Russia, and what those different practices within the system of rule can tell us about the nature of political power. Although my work has involved very interdisciplinary settings and topics, my ‘home base’ is geography and that, along with the questions we geographers ask, is visible in all my research, including this book. Thus, the ultimate question is the following: how is political power practised with the help of resources and space, and how do geographical factors condition the scope of political power?

In the introductory chapter, I outline the objectives of my book and contextualize the approach I employ through a historical perspective. Furthermore, I use the introduction to contextualize Russia’s energy by defining the major actors behind energy policies in Russia and the resources they deploy, in addition to introducing the vision that also concludes this book. The contextualizing segment is partly based on my chapter ‘Energy Governance in Russia: From a Fossil to a Green Giant?’, in M. Knodt and J. Kemmerzell (eds.), Handbook on the Energy Governance in Europe (New York: Springer, 2019).

The second chapter defines the theoretical and methodological approach that I use: I look at Russia’s energy via a spatial prism where the flows of energy and materialities with which the flows transect and intertwine are part of political power practices. This chapter is partially based on my previous publications: ‘Russian Bioenergy and the EU’s Renewable Energy Goals: Perspectives of Security’, in S. Oxenstierna and V.-P. Tynkkynen (eds.), Russian Energy and Security up to 2030 (London: Routledge, 2014) and ‘The Environment of an Energy Giant: Climate Discourse Framed by “Hydrocarbon Culture”’, in M. Poberezhskaya and T. Ashe (eds.), Climate Change Discourse in Russia: Past and Present (London: Routledge, 2018).

The third chapter looks at energy power in the domestic context, and is based on my two previously published articles on Gazprom’s national gas programme Gazifikatsiya Rossii: ‘Energy as Power: Gazprom, Gas Infrastructure, and Geo-Governmentality in Putin’s Russia’, in Slavic Review, 75(2) (2016), and ‘Sports Fields and Corporate Governmentality: Gazprom’s All-Russian Gas Program as Energopower’, in N. Koch (ed.), Critical Geographies of Sport: Space, Power and Sport in Global Perspective (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016).

The fourth chapter examines Russian energy power on the international scene by focusing on the little-studied case of Russia–Finland energy trade and diplomacy. This chapter is partly based on my previously published texts and reports I have contributed to: the above-mentioned book chapter in Russian Energy and Security up to 2030 (2014), a Policy Brief ‘Global Energy Transitions and Russia’s Energy Influence in Finland’ commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office of Finland (2017), and the article ‘Russia’s Nuclear Power and Finland’s Foreign Policy’ published in Russian Analytical Digest, 193 (2016).

In the fifth chapter, I focus on the environmental issues and energy futures of one of the most central regions for a hydrocarbon-dependent Russia – the Arctic. This chapter is partly based on my ‘Introduction: Contested Russian Arctic’, in V.-P. Tynkkynen, S. Tabata, D. Gritsenko and M. Goto (eds.), Russia’s Far North: The Contested Energy Frontier (Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2018), and ‘Russia’s Arctic Natural Gas and the Definition of Sustainability’, Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website, 29 July 2016.

The sixth chapter is based on empirical research and focuses on climate change discourse, especially the denial of anthropogenic climate change in Russia. The chapter was written in collaboration with Nina Tynkkynen and previously published as ‘Climate Denial Revisited: (Re)contextualising Russian Public Discourse on Climate Change during Putin 2.0’, in Europe-Asia Studies, 70(7) (2018).

In the seventh and final chapter of the book, I analyse the ways in which today’s Russia could escape its problematic fossil energy dependence. Here I look at the first decarbonization efforts inside the hydrocarbon-dependent regime of Putin, and this chapter is partly based on my ‘Energy Governance in Russia: From a Fossil to a Green Giant?’ cited above. I conclude the book with a vision for a decarbonized and green, and thus resilient and sustainable Russia. This vision is based on the theoretical approach I outline in the second chapter and the empirical findings that I elaborate on in the following four chapters.