Playing with barriers: way of life in restricted access border zones in post-Soviet Russia

Authors: Natalia Ryzhova*, Palacky University in Olomouc
Topics: Cultural Geography, Russia
Keywords: Buffer zones, restricted access border zones, post-Soviet Russia
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Coolidge, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Historically, Russia had – and still has – a variety of different types of excluded, closed areas (the Soviet labour camp, “secret cities,” etc.). Restricted access border zones (RABZ) have represented and continue to represent a one of type of such space. Border zones are insignificant in many countries but expanded to an extraordinary extent in Russia. Russian RABZ disappeared in the 1990s, reappeared in 2000s and have been subject to constant flux. The right to establish a border zone without coordination with constituting or constituted powers was returned to Federal Security Services (FSS) in 2004. As a result, border zones became very wide, especially in the Russian Far East where they occasionally expand to a width of 50 to 100 km. The rules adopted by FSS are very unstable and their implementation remains very exceptional. Border patrols do not nessessarily check documents but they may do so. Local self-governances can exclude their territories from the zone list, but do not normally do so. Although anthropological understanding of RABZ has a great importance for inquiry of both post-Soviet state and borders/ borderlands, these type of buffer zones is less understood. In my paper I intend to address following questions. Are states the only actors able to draw spatial borders, ‘play politics’, wage wars, or rule their territories? Can institutions or individuals draw spatial borders only under the state’s control and according to the state’s rules? If not, if they can play their own games, what games are those?

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