• Russia;
  • critical geopolitics;
  • public opinion;
  • geopolitical;
  • orientations;
  • Vladimir Putin;
  • elections

In this paper, we build on the work of Graham Smith, who was developing a critical geopolitics of Russia in his posthumous paper of 1999, published in this journal. Like Smith, we link the evolving geopolitical orientations of Russia to the search for a post-Soviet identity amongst its citizens and its political leadership. While Smith saw a core concept in Russian geopolitics having Protean masks, it is the leadership of the Russian state, specifically President Putin, who has successfully adopted a Protean strategy to appeal to the disparate elements of the Russian geopolitical spectrum. Based on a nationwide survey in spring 2002, we identify six clusters in Russian public opinion by socio-demographic characteristics and we connect each cluster to the main geopolitical orientations competing in contemporary Russia, including democratic statism and the increasingly marginalized Eurasianism that formed the core subject of Smith's paper.