KonKoop In:Security Report Series/1

Old Fears and New Threats: Insecurity and Societal Cohesion in Russia’s Neighbourhood

The full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 has had severe implications for security perceptions, discourses and internal societal dynamics, in particular in countries in the Russian Federation’s immediate vicinity. Viewed in terms of the ‘ontology of security’, the invasion was a paradigmatic rupture for the entire region, which as well as reinforcing longstanding fears, has given rise to new threats and insecurities.

When evaluating the security of countries in Russia’s neighbourhood, policymakers and scholars primarily look at top-down state actions. A new report focuses on security ‘from below’ and finds that societal cohesion is crucial for security in the region. The KonKoop In:Security Report deals with seven countries in three overarching chapters. In their analysis of how each country reacted to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 in terms of their security policies, the authors find considerable variation across the country cases and show how the different discourses and perceptions of security are rooted in the respective histories of these states. While some societies, like Moldova and Armenia, have become more polarised since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, others, like Finland and Poland, have become more united in face of the new threat situation.

The KonKoop In:Security Report is based on the 2023 workshop ‘In:Security in Border Regions’, organised by the research network ‘Cooperation and Conflict in Eastern Europe’ (KonKoop), which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The KonKoop’s In:Security topic line takes a bottom-up approach to security and insecurity, paying particular attention to societal perceptions of insecurity. The results are published periodically in the KonKoop In:Security Reports.

These are the main findings and recommendations:

  • Countries in Russia’s neighbourhood have reacted differently to the new security context: In some states, societal cohesion and national unity have increased as a result of the war; in others, existing divisions have been aggravated and societies are polarised on the issue of the war itself or Russia more broadly.
  • This calls into question the perception of Eastern Europe as one homogeneous geopolitical region, which is why the report suggests taking a more disaggregated approach
  • Societal dynamics hence need to be appraised on the sub-regional and national levels to enable an appropriate reaction to emerging security needs and expectations
  • In particular, the effects of insecurity in the borderlands should be taken into account as well as the risk of increasing internal and/or transnational bordering
  • The dramatic images of Ukrainian society under attack have, moreover, raised very practical questions on what citizens should do in case of an actual attack on their country.
  • Over the long term a lack of societal cohesion can itself become a factor in insecurity that heightens the risk of conflict
  • The consequences of this for the respective societies and economies include out-migration, further brain drain or even international isolation (as in the case of Belarus)

KonKoop In:Security Report Series /1


  • Nadja Douglas, Researcher at ZOiS Berlin

  • Weronika Grzebalska, Assistant Professor in Sociology at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences

  • Kornely Kakachia, Jean Monnet Chair and Professor of Political Science at Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University, Georgia

  • Andrei Kazakevich, Director of the Institute for Political Studies ‘Political Sphere’, Belarus, and a research fellow at the Lithuanian Institute of History

  • Asbed Kotchikian, Associated Professor and Program Chair of International Relations and Diplomacy program at the American University of Armenia (AUA)

  • Yuliia Kurnyshova, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen

  • Inna Șupac, Expert in good governance and public policy at the Institute for Strategic Initiatives (IPIS), Republic of Moldova

  • Joni Virkkunen, Research Manager at the Karelian Institute and Director of the VERA Centre for Russian and Border Studies at the University of Eastern Finland (UEF)