Petroleum Conspiracies: How Russian Policymakers Seek Meaning in Oil Price Volatility

  • Alexander Etkind
  • Kacper SzuleckiEmail author
  • Ilya Yablokov


If we agree that the oil price is a social institution, embedded in socio-economic and political practices, this means that it is not only the outcome of these practices but also a causal factor. Using the case of Russia, this chapter looks at how oil price changes are perceived and made sense of by the actors involved, providing an interpretivist take on the far-reaching imprint that oil price fluctuations, representations, and expectations regarding the future price levels can have on a society and a political system. Russia is one of the world’s top oil and gas producers, and its economy depends heavily on hydrocarbon export revenues. While the government, more or less directly influencing energy sector companies, is in control of export volumes, it has very limited capacity to control the prices. With control beyond reach, Russian authorities have to rely upon prediction—and that often proves very difficult in the volatile energy sector. The chapter identifies three tropes that can be observed in the blame game Russian officials play in their talk about the problem of booms and busts. The first one is a general blind-blaming of “globalization economic powers”, without pointing to any clear agency. The second trope is securitization, pointing to some kind of an international plot, with Western or American influence. Finally, the third trope is scapegoating, providing a conspiracy theory about a hidden narrow elite—a group or some individuals who steer the world economy and politics like puppeteers.


Oil price Russia Conspiracy theories Securitization Interpretivism Rhetoric 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexander Etkind
    • 1
  • Kacper Szulecki
    • 2
    Email author
  • Ilya Yablokov
    • 3
  1. 1.European University InstituteFiesoleItaly
  2. 2.University of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.University of LeedsLeedsUK

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