Citizenship Education Policies & the State

Russia & Finland in a Comparative Perspective
Acta Universitatis Tamperensis, No. 1561


By Nelli Piattoeva
November 2010
Tampere University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789514482588
208 pages
$79.50 Paper Original

This doctoral dissertation studies citizenship education policies in Finland and Russia in relation to the supranational citizenship education rhetoric shaped by two large intergovernmental organizations, the Council of Europe (COE) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). The research pursues two broad research aims. First, to understand the supranational agenda of citizenship education, and second, to analyse citizenship education policies in Russia and Finland since the mid 1980s up to 2007, and to compare them to the supranational agenda of citizenship education. The dissertation is concerned with the macro level and thus the research data comprises policy documents issued by the Russian and Finnish state authorities, and the two intergovernmental organisations. The analysis of policy content draws on the rhetorical and policy-as-discourse approaches in order to elucidate the objectives of citizenship education, as well as the arguments employed to justify the proposed objectives throughout the studied period. Individualising comparison enhances the interpretative task of the dissertation, as it increases the visibility of one national context by contrasting it with another, and therefore helps to find adequate explanations to particular policy outcomes. In selecting Russia and Finland as the two national case studies, the dissertation concentrates on countries embedded in different state models and citizenship traditions. The main motivation behind the selection of the COE and UNESCO is to acknowledge and analyse the rising supranational educational governance, which increasingly provides models for and restrictions on actions and policies at national level.

The study is particularly interested in the relationship between the state and citizenship education in public schooling at the time of state (re)formation and nation (re)building. Citizenship education is perceived as a means to legitimise and maintain state power unsettled in periods of political changes. Equally, citizenship education offers a prism through which to examine larger processes in a given society, in particular, changes in the relationship between the state, citizenship and nationality, and possible modifications in the meanings of these essential socio-political categories. For the national cases examined in the dissertation the period since the second half of the 1980s has been rich in political changes related to, and leaving their mark on, the state and the nation. Whereas since the collapse of the Soviet regime Russia has striven to find ways to regenerate national cohesion, rebuild statehood and reconsolidate its status in the international arena, Finland has attempted to adjust its national identity and citizenship to European integration and increasing immigration.

The analysis of the COE and UNESCO reveals that there is no one modality of citizenship education embraced by the examined supranational actors. On one hand, in clear contrast to the traditional model of citizenship education, they advocate proactive political participation, critical scrutiny of state institutions and action against the state on the basis of universal human rights. They also promote diversity and perceive citizenship as a multilayered concept extending to the local, national, regional and global levels. Instead of linking rights and duties to membership in a territorially demarcated polity of the nation-state, the COE and UNESCO often advocate the notion of human rights and link rights and duties to the global humanity. In this manner, supranational organisations decouple citizenship from nationality and, by doing so, advance the postnationalisation of citizenship. On the other hand, the intergovernmental character of the organisations and their origin embedded in the consolidation of the nation-state system lead to inconsistencies in the agenda and somewhat surprising repetition of the traditional citizenship rhetoric, for instance, in linking society narrowly to the territorially demarcated nation-state. The supranational agenda also continues to emphasise the key role of national governments in implementing citizenship education and therefore still posits the nation-state as a central player in education policy and practice.

The Russian case exemplified convergence with the post-national supranational citizenship education rhetoric only during the first half of the 1990s when the new country leaders did not pay serious attention to regenerating national cohesion and building an all-embracing national identity. In this period, preference was given to the de-legitimation of the Soviet type of political education, and slightly later to the development of citizenship education policies stressing citizens´ rights, knowledge of the legislation and lawful conduct for the purpose of building a constitutional state. In terms of national identity, the authorities advocated a vague category of universal human values and encouraged the re-consolidation of sub-state national identities. Toward the end of the 1990s, the contents of citizenship education policies shifted radically. The state has re-emphasised its leading role in defining citizenship education policies with the main objective to craft citizens´ loyalty to the Russian state. The programmes of patriotic education, which appeared in the beginning of the 2000s, prioritise subordination over active participation, consensus over pluralism, duties over rights and collective identity over an individual one.

Compared to the mid 1980s, when citizenship education in Finland was premised on the idea that the vitality of the Finnish nation is invariably linked to the sovereignty of the Finnish state, the latest curricula documents stress national culture as the prime source of national integrity. In its return to a predominantly cultural understanding of the nation, Finland exemplifies the debundling of the state and the nation, and nationality and citizenship. The transformation into a Kulturnation is a necessary step to secure Finland´s national being in a globalising world, which transforms and weakens state sovereignty, without putting the legitimacy of the Finnish nation into question. The decoupling of nationality and citizenship opens up the possibility for a multilayered conceptualisation of both citizenship and nationhood. However, the national still constitutes the core, with the sub- and supranational layers as additional ingredients of the emerging citizenship recipe.

Despite major differences in their historical and current socio-political contexts, Russia and Finland continue to attach strong value to national identity and national citizenship. However, whereas Russia, since the late 1990s, has moved in the direction of state nationalism and a closer bond between the nation and the state, which preclude any possibility for a multilayered conception of citizenship, Finland has forsaken a previously strong link between the state and the nation and seems to be strengthening its cultural identity in peaceful alliance with Europeanness.

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