Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Unioninkatu 33 (second floor meeting room)
Friday, 30 November 2012, 10:00-16:00

Printable programme (PDF)
Read seminar report at the Aleksanteri News 4/2012 (page 7).

Human rights offer a vision of international justice that many hold dear. Yet the very concept on which the human rights movement is based only became familiar a few decades ago when it profoundly reshaped our hopes for an improved humanity. This workshop explores the troubled present of this idealistic vision in what many scholars regard as its birthplace—a post-Cold War space that exists between Russia and Western Europe. We explore how and why fundamental norms of human rights are contested within this space. These norms are advocated by a regional human rights ‘movement’ that includes the European Union, the United Nations, civil society groups, local communities and the Russian government.

The actors that make up this ‘movement’ are all engaged in the politics of human rights. The trouble is, even though they all are concerned with achieving a post-Cold War vision of human rights, within the same region, they often have conflicting ideas of how to implement this vision. The political relationships of this movement transcend the legal boundaries of nation-states, redefining the substantive terms of authority within this Eastern European space from the grassroots level up, and the institutional level down. The questions we address examine these contestations from two agency-centred perspectives—the top-down perspective to the politics of governance and the bottom up perspective to the politics of civil society.

Organizers: Iain Ferguson (University of St. Andrews, UK), Eleanor Bindman (University of Glasgow, UK), Freek van der Vet (University of Helsinki, Finland), and Eeva Korteniemi (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki).
This workshop was funded by: CRCEES (Centre for Russian, Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow), the NordForsk funded Nordic CERES network, Finnish Doctoral Programme for Russian and East European Studies, University of Tampere, and the Fulbright Center in Helsinki.

Places in the audience are limited, please register before 23 November 2012.

If you have any further inquiries, please do not hesitate to contact Freek van der Vet (freek.vandervet [at]


30 November 2012
9:45 – 10:00 Welcome Coffee

10:00 – 10:15 Opening Words

10:15 – 11:00 Contesting Human Rights: Looking from West to East
Are the Helsinki Principles Still Relevant? Matthew Evangelista, President White Professor of History and Political Science, Department of Government, Cornell University

11:00 – 12:30 Governance and Human Rights: Contestations over Policy, Ideology and Authority
Hostile Neighbours, 2003-8: The Interventions of EU-Russia Governance. Iain Ferguson, Researcher, Department of International Relations, University of St. Andrews, UK
Protecting the Other: Policing, Human Rights and Contested Identities in Serbia. Christian A. Nielsen, Associate Professor, Aarhus University, Denmark
Emancipating Human Rights. Viatcheslav Morozov, Professor of EU-Russia Studies, University of Tartu, Estonia
Human Rights as Status Conflicts in Russia's Relations with the West. Tuomas Forsberg, Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Tampere

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch break

14:00 – 15:30 Civil Society and Human Rights: Contestations between Institutions and Communities
Awakening Civil Society? An Overview of Participatory Practices in Russia (the period 2010-2012). Mariya Riekkinen, Åbo Akademi, Institute for Human Rights, Turku, Finland
The State, Rights, and Civil Society in Russia. Eleanor Bindman, Researcher, Department of Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow
Universalism of Human Rights and Particularism in Human Rights Courses in Russian Universities. Dmitry Dubrovsky, Director Human Rights Programme, Department of Liberal Arts and Science, St. Petersburg State University, Russia
Chechnya before the European Court of Human Rights: Can Russian NGOs Find Justice Abroad? Freek van der Vet, Researcher, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki, Finland

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee

15:45 – 16:10 Contesting Human Rights: Looking from East to West
Human Rights Ideas and Institutes: A View from Russia. Alexander Sungurov, Director of the Political Science Faculty, Higher School of Economics, St.Petersburg, Russia

16:10 – 16:30 Closing Panel: Matthew Evangelista and Alexander Sungurov