Russia’s Vaccine Diplomacy in Central Europe: Between a Political Campaign and a Business Project

Keywords: biopolitics, COVID-19, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Sputnik, vaccines


Drawing on the concept of vaccine diplomacy, the article analyses Russia’s efforts to promote its Sputnik V vaccine and the repercussions this had in two Central European EU member states which authorized the use of the Russian vaccine. The authors argue that for Russia, Sputnik V promotion was significant both as a business project and as a political enterprise, as it was supposed to enhance Russia’s international status and help it in overcoming its post-Crimea isolation from the West. The results were mixed, however, as Russia’s international credibility had been undermined by its previous policies. Thus, in Hungary the vaccine managed to gain some traction thanks to a government that preferred importing non-EU certified vaccines as part of its larger policy of fostering closer ties with the authoritarian great powers in Eurasia. In Slovakia, the vaccine deal with Russia caused a political crisis but eventually resulted in a very poor performance of Sputnik V as compared to EU-certified vaccines.

Author Biographies

Aliaksei Kazharski, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic; Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia,

Aliaksei Kazharski received his PhD from Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia) in 2015. He spent time as a guest researcher at the University of Oslo (Norway), the University of Tartu (Estonia) and the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna (Austria). He has also been a visiting researcher at the University of Vienna and has worked as a researcher and lecturer at Charles University in Prague (Czech Republic) and Comenius University in Bratislava (Slovakia). His doctoral dissertation was published by Central European University Press as a monograph in 2019 (Eurasian Integration and the Russian World: Regionalism as an Identitary Enterprise). He has published his articles in Geopolitics, Problems of Post-Communism, East European Politics and Societies, and other academic journals with an international impact.

Andrey Makarychev, University of Tartu, Estonia,

Andrey Makarychev is Professor of Regional Political Studies at the University of Tartu’s Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies. In recent years he co-authored three monographs: Celebrating Borderlands in a Wider Europe: Nations and Identities in Ukraine, Georgia and Estonia (Nomos, 2016), Lotman's Cultural Semiotics and the Political (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), and Critical Biopolitics of the Post-Soviet: From Populations to Nations (Lexington Books, 2020). He co-edited a number of academic volumes: Mega Events in Post-Soviet Eurasia: Shifting Borderlines of Inclusion and Exclusion (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), Vocabularies of International Relations after the Crisis in Ukraine (Routledge, 2017), and Borders in the Baltic Sea Region: Suturing the Ruptures (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). His articles have been published in such academic journals as Geopolitics, Problems of Post-Communism, East European Politics and Societies, and European Urban and Regional Studies, among others.

Forum Contributions