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The Aleksanteri Institute

Unioninkatu 33 (P.O. Box 42)
00014 University of Helsinki

Past Aleksanteri Conferences

Katarzyna Kaczmarska (Aberystwyth University, UK)

Whose Knowledge? The Knowledge-Power Nexus in Contemporary International Relations Scholarship in Russia

Despite growing interest in ‘non-Western’ International Relations (IR) theorising, there has been scarce engagement to date with the problem of how IR knowledge is produced in a non-democratic setting. This paper focuses on Russia and explores how knowledge on international politics is co-produced by academia and the state. Studies dedicated to Russian IR have suggested that the development of this discipline in Russia has been defined by a tension between Western and indigenous approaches. But there continues to be a clear gap in the understanding of the academia-policy interface in Russia. Literature studying the political uses of expert knowledge in the West described its employment for legitimization purposes. The case of Russian IR demonstrates that there is no such linear relationship between knowledge produced in academia and the uses of this knowledge by the state. The state is already present in the production process. The mechanisms of this presence, however, go beyond official public policies, legislation and funding schemes. Non-democratic character of the political system does not result in an outright censorship, but through indirect measures shapes what questions can be asked and how certain issues can be handled in the discipline of IR. The post-2011/12 conservative turn as well as events in Ukraine galvanized specific state narratives and hardened the “official” narrative on certain international events. As a result, scholarly approaches to issues deemed politically sensitive may be driven by the demands of the state, rather than result from critical engagement with a research problem. Nonetheless, red lines are blurred and there is no clear indication what and how could be punished or silenced. For the scholarly community, this makes for a particularly difficult environment to navigate in research and career terms. The state, in turn, by subverting the knowledge society limits its own policy perspective.