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Westphalian Myth: History and Criticism
Analysis and Forecasting. IMEMO Journal

Westphalian Myth: History and Criticism

DOI: 10.20542/afij-2019-3-37-50
© 2019       Aleksei V. KUPRIYANOV 
Received 15.10.2019
Aleksei V. KUPRIYANOV (a.kupriyanov, Cand. Sci. (Hist.), Senior Researcher, Sector of International Organizations and Global Political Governance, Department of International Political Problems. Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences (IMEMO), 23, Profsoyuznaya Str., Moscow 117997, Russian Federation.

The article is devoted to the deconstruction of the so-called Westphalian Myth, a set of ideas about the Peace of Westphalia as the starting point and basis of the modern world order. The article is largely historiographic in nature and is intended to summarize for the Russian reader the position of critics of the Westphalian Myth. According to the author, the genesis of the Westphalian Myth dates back to the works of Leo Gross and Hans Morgenthau, who created a concept that formed the basis of the generally accepted history of international relations within the framework of the discipline of IR. Until recently this concept did not raise questions among researchers. However, the 1990s saw a so-called ‘Historical Turn’ in IRs, when historians and specialists in international law and IR challenged the generally accepted concept, after analyzing the text of the treaties of the Peace of Westphalia. The author identifies two waves of ‘Historical Turn’. The first criticized the Westphalian Myth for its inconsistency with historical facts, the second focuses on the criticism of the Westphalian Myth as a Eurocentric construct that does not take into account the events taking place in the rest of the world at that time. Further, the author examines one of the key provisions of the Westphalian myth: the idea of the Thirty Years War as an existential conflict, during which the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs tried to destroy the nation states in Europe and establish a universal monarchy. Analyzing the course of hostilities, the author comes to the conclusion that during most of the Thirty Years War, the Austrian Habsburgs defended themselves and were engaged in suppressing rebellions on their territory and repelling the invasions of foreign troops. The coordination of the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs was rather weak, each branch of the dynasty pursued primarily its own interests. Further, the author considers two more claims of the Westphalian Myth: that the Westphalia established a balance of power in Europe, and that the religious factor in the post-Westphalian period was reduced. The author demonstrates that the Peace of Westphalia and Peace of Pyrenees did not mark a transition to a balance of power in Europe, but the growth of French hegemony, which was stopped only after series of wars resulted in signing of the Peace of Utrecht. In addition, the author argues that the religious factor played an important role in European politics until the 19th century. 

For citation:

Kupriyanov A. Westphalian Myth: History and Criticism. Analysis & Forecasting. Journal of IMEMO, 2019, no 3, pp. 37-50.

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