Theoretical Notes on the Structure and Dynamics of Empires

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2022-66-11-115-125
National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (HSE University), 20, Myasnitskaya Str., Moscow, 101000, Russian Federation; 
“Politeia” (Journal of Political Theory, Political Philosophy and Sociology of Politics), office 14, 3, build. 1, Solyanka Str., Moscow, 109028, Russian Federation. 

Received 01.07.2022. Revised 11.07.2022. Accepted 22.08.2022.

Abstract. The march of events which have been unfolding in the last three decades in Northern Eurasia requires clarification and extension of the terminology used in the empire studies, and first of all, the supplement of the wide-spread “center-periphery” model with a third, intermediate element – the notion of “core”. The “core”, in contrast to the “center”, points to the territorial aspect of the imperial structure. The “core” is primarily formed by those loci which are predominantly occupied by institutions and actors of the imperial center, as well as those with which central values are strongly associated. However, the “core” is also formed by the “first order”-peripheries, linked with the center and its loci by particularly strong, qualitatively closer ties than those that connect the center with the ordinary, “second order”– peripheries. Through the course of the systemic crisis of an empire, the most dramatic processes take place in the core – the movement of its constituent political units turns out to be multidirectional, there are numerous internal divisions and schisms. As a result, the process that on the “far” periphery of the empire can really be taken for its unidirectional “collapse”, in the core is rather an arrhythmic pulsation, during which the composition and boundaries of the core are redefined and revised, including forcibly. It is impossible to predict a priori, how long this pulsation will take, and whether it will end with the real collapse of the empire.

Keywords: empire, collapse of empire, center, periphery, core, political form, nation-state


1. Barkey K., Hagen M. von, eds. After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building. New York, London, Westview Press, 1997. 200 p.

2. Motyl A. Thinking About Empire. After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building. Barkey K., von Hagen M., eds. New York, London, Westview Press, 1997, pp. 19-29.

3. Galtung J. A Structural Theory of Imperialism. Journal of Peace Research, 1971, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 81-117. Available at: (accessed 18.06.2022).

4. Wallerstein I. World-Systems Analysis and Modern World Situation. Saint-Petersburg, Universitetskaya kniga, 2001. 416 p. (In Russ.)

5. Wallerstein I. World-Systems Analysis: An Introduction. Moscow, Izdatel’skii dom “Territoriya budushchego”, 2006. 248 p. (In Russ.)

6. Wallerstein I. The Modern World-System. Vol. I. Moscow, Russkii fond sodeistviya obrazovaniyu i nauke, 2015. 552 p. (In Russ.)

7. Wallerstein I. The Modern World-System. Vol. II. Moscow, Russkii fond sodeistviya obrazovaniyu i nauke, 2016. 370 p. (In Russ.)

8. Tilly C. How Empires End. After Empire: Multiethnic Societies and Nation-Building. Barkey K., von Hagen M., eds. New York, London, Westview Press, 1997, pp. 1-11.

9. Chase-Dunn C.K., Hall T.D. Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems. Boulder, Westview Press, 1997. 322 p.

10. Wilkinson D. Cores, Peripheries, and Civilizations. Core/Periphery Relations in Precapitalist Worlds. Chase-Dunn C.K., Hall T.D., eds. London, New York, Routledge, 2018, pp. 113-166.

11. Birgerson S.M. After the Breakup of a Multi-Ethnic Empire: Russia, Successor States, and Eurasian Security. Westport, London, Praeger, 2002. 211 p.

12. Gottmann J., ed. Centre and Periphery: Spatial Variation in Politics. Beverly Hills, London, Sage, 1980. 226 p.

13. Shils E. Center and Periphery: Essays in Macrosociology. Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1975. 516 p.

14. Shils E. Center and Periphery: An Idea and its Career, 1935–1987. Center: Ideas and Institutions. Greenfeld L., Martin M., eds. Chicago, London, University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp. 250-282.

15. Kaspe S.I. Centers and Hierarchies: Spatial Metaphors of Power and the Western Political Form. Moscow, MShPI, 2007. 320 p. (In Russ.)

16. Kaspe S.I. Political Theology and Nation-Building: General Provisions, the Russian Case. Moscow, ROSSPEN, 2012. 191 p. (In Russ.)

17. Kaspe S.I. Political Form and Political Evil. Moscow, Shkola grazhdanskogo prosveshcheniya, 2016. 216 p. (In Russ.)

18. Kaspe S.I. This is not a Centre: Post-Soviet States in the Quest for Political Values. Centres and Peripheries in the Post-Soviet Space: Relevance and Meanings of a Classical Distinction. Filippov A., Hayoz N., Herlth J., eds. Bern, Peter Lang, 2020, pp. 43-61.

19. Deth J.W. van, Scarbrough E. The Concept of Values. The Impact of Values. Deth J. W. van, Scarbrough E., eds. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 21-47.

20. Jagodzinski W., Dobbelaere K. Secularization and Church Religiosity. The Impact of Values. Deth J. W. van, Scarbrough E., eds. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1998, pp. 77-115.

21. Greenfeld L., Martin M. The Idea of the “Center”: An Introduction. Center: Ideas and Institutions. Greenfeld L., Martin M., eds. Chicago, London, University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp. VIII-XXII.

22. Motyl A. Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires. New York, Columbia University Press, 2001. 128 p.

23. Yi-Fu T. Space and Place. The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1977. 248 p.

24. Sack R. Human Territoriality: lts Theory and History. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1986. 256 p.

25. Gottmann J. The Significance of Territory. Charlottesville, University of Virginia Press, 1973. 169 p.

26. Rokkan S., Urwin D. Economy, Territory, Identity. Politics of West European Peripheries. London, Sage, 1983. 218 p.

27. Storey D. Territories: The Claiming of Space. London, Routledge, 2011. 265 p.

28. Vollaard H. The Logic of Political Territoriality. Geopolitics, 2009, vol. 14, no. 4, pp. 687-706. DOI: 10.1080/14650040903141356

29. Leslie C.A. Territoriality, Map-mindedness, and the Politics of Place. Theory and Society, 2016, vol. 45, pp. 169-201. DOI: 10.1007/S11186-016-9268-9

30. Detterbeck K., Hepburn E., eds. Handbook of Territorial Politics. Cheltenham, Northampton, Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018. 432 p.

31. Opello W.C., Rosow J.S. The Nation-State and Global Order: A Historical Introduction to Contemporary Politics. Boulder, Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999. 319 p.

32. Balibar E. Europe as Borderland. The Alexander von Humboldt Lecture in Human Geography. University of Nijmegen, 10.11.2004. Available at: as Borderland.pdf (accessed 03.07.2022).

33. Badie B. La fin des territoires: essai sur le désordre international et sur l’utilité du respect. Paris, Fayard, 1995. 278 p.

34. Martin D. The Religious Politics of Two Rival Peripheries: Preliminary Excursus on Center and Periphery. Center: Ideas and Institutions. Greenfeld L., Martin M., eds. Chicago, London, University of Chicago Press, 1988, pp. 29-42.

35. Manent P. Cours familier de philosophie politique. Moscow, MShPI, 2004. 336 p. (In Russ.)

36. Dinnen S. The Twin Processes of Nation Building and State Building. State Society and Governance in Melanesia, 2007, no. 1. Available at: (accessed 03.07.2022).

37. Brubaker R. Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Nationalism. Myths and Misconceptions in the Study of Empire and Nationalism. Gerasimov I., Mogil’ner M., Semenov A., eds. Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo, 2010, pp. 62-109. (In Russ.)

38. Stepan A. Comparative Theory and Political Practice: Do We Need a “State-Nation” Model as Well as a “Nation-State” Model? Government and Opposition, 2008, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 1-25. DOI: 10.1111/j.1477-7053.2007.00241.x

39. Osterhammel J. The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century. Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2014. 1167 p.

40. Miller A., Berger S., eds. Nationalizing Empires. New York, Budapest, CEU Press, 2014. 700 p.

41. Wandruszka A. Großdeutsche und kleindeutsche Ideologie 1840–1871. Deutschland und Österreich. Ein bilaterales Geschichtsbuch. Kann R., Prinz F., eds. Wien, Jugend und Volk, 1980, pp. 110-142.

42. Hye H.P. Elites and Imperial Elites in the Habsburg Empire, 1845–1914. Russian Empire in a Comparative Perspective. Miller A. I., ed. Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo, 2004, pp. 150-176. (In Russ.)

43. Lévy-Aksu N., Georgeon F. The Young Turk Revolution and the Ottoman Empire: The Aftermath of 1908. London, New York, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017. 407 p.

44. Miller A.I. The Ukrainian Question in the Russian Empire. Kiev, Laurus, 2013. 416 p. (In Russ.)

45. Solzhenitsyn A.I. Rebuilding Russia. Special Issue. The brochure to the “Komsomol’skaya pravda” newspaper, 18.09.1990, pp. 3-13. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 03.07.2022).

46. Martin T. The Affirmative Action Empire. Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939. Moscow, ROSSPEN, Yeltsin Centre, 2001. 855 p. (In Russ.)

47. Mitrokhin N. The Russian Party: The Movement of Russian Nationalists in the USSR. 1953–1985. Moscow, Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 2003. 624 p. (In Russ.)

48. Filippov A.F. Observer of an Empire (Empire as a Sociological Category and Political Problem). Voprosy sotsiologii, 1992, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 89-120. (In Russ.) Available at: (accessed 03.07.2022).

49. Filippov A.F. The Meaning of Empire: On the Sociology of Political Space. Inoe. Rossiya kak ideya. Vol. 3. Chernyshev S.B., ed. Moscow, Argus, 1995, pp. 421-476. (In Russ.)

50. Uspensky F.I. History of the Byzantine Empire. Vol. 1. Moscow, Mysl’, 1996. 827 p. (In Russ.)

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Kaspe S. Theoretical Notes on the Structure and Dynamics of Empires. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2022, vol. 66, no. 11, pp. 115-125.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2023, vol. 67, No. 9
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • Contradictions and Conflicts in the Multilateral Trading System 
  • Global Climate Agenda: Big Gamble 
  • South Asia in Regional and World Politics 
  • Social Policy and Public Administration Ecosystems
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.