The Centre of Excellence ”Choices of Russian Modernisation” is administered by a board convening several times a year. The administrative core is formed by director Markku Kivinen, vice-director Tuomas Forsberg and research coordinator Sari Autio-Sarasmo.

The CoE’s scientific plan is monitored by the International Advisory Board and the Scientific Advisory Board.

Research is organized around five clusters that all approach the topic from their respective angles:


Researchers can participate in the work of the CoE at various levels of commitment.

CoE Board

The chairman of the board: Director of the CoE, professor Markku Kivinen (Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki)

  • Professor Tuomas Forsberg, vice-director of the CoE (University of Tampere)
  • Professor Pami Aalto (University of Tampere)
  • Professor Vladimir Gelman (European University at St. Petersburg, Russia)
  • Research Fellow Sanna Turoma (Aleksanteri Institute)
  • Research Fellow Anna-Liisa Heusala (Aleksanteri Institute)
  • Research Director, Professor Markku Kangaspuro (Aleksanteri Institute)
  • Secretary: Research Coordinator Sari Autio-Sarasmo

Decision-making Process

  • The scientific and administrative director is the Director of the CoE Markku Kivinen.
  • The board will approve the recruitments to the CoE on the basis of the director's suggestion.
  • The board will decide on the inclusion of new partners, researchers and projects in the CoE.
  • The board will approve of the operative plan and publication plan of the CoE.
  • The goal is a clear and transparent decision-making process.

Scientific Advisory Board

  • Expert members
    • Alena Ledeneva, University College London, UK
    • Richard Sakwa, University of Kent, UK
    • Göran Therborn, Cambridge University, UK
  • Observer members
    • Liisa Laakso, University of Helsinki, Finland
    • Riitta Launonen, Academy of Finland
    • Harri Melin, University of Tampere, Finland
    • Hanna Snellman, University of Helsinki, Finland

International Advisory Board

  • Linda Cook, Brown University, USA
  • Sabine Fischer, Institute for Security Studies, EU, Paris, France
  • Alena Ledeneva, University College London, UK
  • Olga Malinova, Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia
  • Sergei Medvedev, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia
  • Mikhail Remizov, Russian Institute of National Strategy, Russia
  • Richard Sakwa, University of Kent, UK
  • Jutta Scherrer, Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, France
  • Lilia Shevtsova, Carnegie Moscow Center, Russia
  • Pekka Sutela, Lappeenranta University of Technology, Finland
  • Alexei Yurchak, University of California at Berkeley, USA

Various Levels of Commitment in the CoE

The status of Member of the CoE is granted by the Board. Each member's position is tailored on an individual basis. Mobility between different levels is possible and desirable. Prospective members are requested to contact the research coordinator.

  • CoE Members
    • CoE Fellow
      strong commitment to the CoE, salaried position in the CoE.
    • CoE Scholar
      strong commitment, various possibilities for funding. When receiving CoE funding, the contribution is expected to the CoE.
  • CoE Partners and doctoral students
    collaboration and possible contribution to the CoE.


The CoE Clusters

In order to grasp the emphasis on choice and agency and to account for both intended and unintended consequences, the CoE suggests the concept of the five 'Russian challenges' mentioned as a heuristic way of defining the problem. Russia is not a coherent or omnipotent actor. While systemic constraints do matter, they do not directly define the direction that will be chosen in these issues. Each of the challenges involves a complex structuration process in which both agency and structure must be analysed. If, following Anthony Giddens, structure is understood as comprising both the resources and rules of the game, Russia's problems, on a general level, have less to do with resources and more to do with agency and the rules of the game. This approach is likely to lead to scientific breakthroughs, firstly at the level of the paradigm itself, based on a unique multi-disciplinary dialogue between five clusters, and secondly, in each specific field of research. New scientific openings are expected to be new conceptualizations as well as new paradigmatic examples for empirical research.

Cluster 1. Diversification of the Economy

This cluster examines the diversification of Russia’s economy from a broadly defined political economy perspective. We assume that Russia’s modernisation prospects will be based on its economy, and that its rich energy resources - both fossil fuels and renewable energy resources - will be key to this end. Next in line are Russia’s other natural resources, its rural resources, and human/technological know-how, including business competence. While it is easy to see that in Russia resources are not the problem, we suggest that the rules informing and guiding the use of resources are much more problematic. These rules include, for example, markets and competition, in Russia and in the wider context of other great powers and blocs; sovereignty and state capitalism; the needs of environmental stewardship; as well as economic/energy diplomacy. The cluster examines whether this dynamics of resources and rules is driving the Russian economy into one or several directions; how that links up with prospects and needs of diversification; and what are the implications for the changing political economy of Russia’s neighbours in Europe and beyond.

Cluster Leader:

Pami Aalto, University of Tampere

EU - Russia - Asia energy policy, Russian - European political economy

CoE Fellow:

Anna Lowry University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute  

CoE Scholars:

Katalin Miklossy University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Entrepreneurs as innovabotors in institutional change in socialism and post-socialism
Sari Autio-Sarasmo University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Cold War era modernisation of the Soviet Union; East-West scientific and technological cooperation
Leo Granberg University of Helsinki Rural resources and socio-economic modernisation of rural Russia; ‘second Russia’
Jouko Nikula University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute SMEs in rural Russia, modernisation of rural production and class structure
Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Russian energy-environment nexus, climate policy, renewables, electricity
Daria Gritsenko

University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute

Maritime and Russian energy transport especially in the Baltic Sea region

CoE Partners:

Margarita Balmaceda Alfried-Krupp Wissenschaftskolleg/ Seton Hall University Post-Soviet political economy, energy relations between Russia and post-Soviet states
David Dusseault Gasum  
Valentina Fava IPODI Marie Curie Fellow at the Technical University of Berlin (Tu/B) (2015-2017) and Purkyne Fellow at the Institute of Contemporary History of the Czech Academy of Science (2015-2021), currently in leave of absence  
Olga Gurova University of Helsinki Russia, socialist and post-socialist consumption, consumer nationalism, creative entrepreneurship
Anni Kangas University of Tampere Russia’s integration into the world economy; corruption
Suvi Kansikas University of Helsinki, Network for European Studies The Eurasian Economic Union: A Russian model of integration and its effects on the European Union
Riitta Kosonen Aalto University FDI in the modernisation of Russian economy and business environment
Päivi Karhunen Aalto University  
Katri Pynnöniemi Finnish Institute of International Affairs Political constrains to Russia’s economic modernization; Eurasian economic space

Ann-Mari Sätre

Uppsala University Russia, the Soviet economic system, poverty, institutions, transformation of Russian labour market with respect to gender, local development, entrepreneurship
Nina Tynkkynen University of Turku Environmental policy in Russia, environmental dimensions of Russia’s economic, energy and foreign policies

Doctoral Students:

Mila Oiva University of Turku Modernization of economic practices in the context of intra-bloc trade
Pallavi Pal University of Tampere Nuclear power as foreign policy tool of Russia: India, China and Iran
Julia Simpanen University of Tampere  


Cluster 2. Authoritarian Market Society as a Challenge

The major research focus of the cluster is concentrated on the impact of changing state-society relationships on Russian modernization, with an emphasis on the post-Soviet period. We will analyze the role of major actors, their political ideas and interests in modernization of Russia’s economy, politics and governance, as well as key challenges and constrains they faced. A special attention will be paid to the issues, related to institution building and institutional performance, reform of public administration, regional and social policy, the use of identity and memory of the past, and to the agents such as regime and the opposition, media (both traditional and new), social movements and civil society. Besides individual research projects, the cluster will be aimed to produce a coherent interdisciplinary collective analysis of trajectories of post-Communist modernization in Russia, which looks as “the long and winding road” through multiple political, economic, and social turning points, U-turns, and dead ends.

Cluster Leader:

Vladimir Gel'man, European University at Saint Petersburg & University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute

Continuity and changes of political regimes and patterns of governance in Russia

CoE Fellow:

Anna-Liisa Heusala University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute The Rule of Law and Administrative Reform: Cross-border cooperation of Russian and Finnish police

CoE Scholars:

Markku Kangaspuro University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Political use of WWII in present-day Russia
Jarmo Koistinen NBI Cross-border cooperation of Russian and Finnish police
Meri Kulmala University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute  
Jussi Lassila University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Pro-government political movements
Markku Lonkila University of Jyväskylä Role of new media and political communications
Soili Nysten-Haarala University of Eastern Finland The impact of globalization on Russian forestry sector
Katri Pynnöniemi Finnish Institute for International Affairs  
Andrei Starodubtsev Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki & European University at Saint Petersburg The impact of political and economic factors on regional policies in Russia
Dmitry Travin European University at Saint Petersburg The role of ideas and generational changes in Russia’s economic and political reforms
Andrei Zaostrovtsev European University at Saint Petersburg The impact of authoritarianism on institutional decay in Russia

CoE Partners:

Jukka Pietiläinen   Role of newspapers as agents political changes in Russia's regions


Cluster 3. Welfare Regime

It is difficult to overstate the social crisis that emerged as a result of the Russian transition from the socialist system into the market economy. Increases in poverty, inequality, infectious diseases, alcohol and drug abuse and unemployment are dramatic indicators. Russia now faces a severe demographic crisis: a combination of the low birth rate and rise in rates of premature mortality (especially of  Russian men) has led to a sharp decline in population that has not been equalled in any other industrialized country in peacetime  At the same time the old welfare regime seems to be rusting and emergent need for new solutions is evident.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialist welfare structures have experienced rapid, large-scale changes and constant reformulation. Modernisation and institutional reforms have not necessarily proceeded as expected and Russian welfare institutions remain rather weak and of low quality. This theme examines welfare on the one hand as structures and processes and on the other hand, as cultural meanings and agency. Empirically, the most critical task is to map out the choices and alternatives to current post-socialist welfare regime, which is usually conceptualised as a hybrid of liberalism and “new statism”

The creation of a new model of its welfare state is one of the most comprehensive – and still to a large extent unresolved – strategic tasks of contemporary Russia. This cluster analyzes this task both theoretically and methodologically. Our main research question is: How does the emerging welfare regime in contemporary Russia work? And how can we explain the emergence of this regime? We approach the question from two different angles. First, our interest is in state policies and priorities: how welfare priorities are determined and resourced, and how they are implemented at the lower governmental levels. Second, we will analyse whether and how well - fundamental human needs are met in different areas of welfare and geographic regions, and for different parts of the population. We also ask what impact the feedback from below has on the federal policies?

Our proposed analysis here combines the different levels of what of both structure and agency. We analyze the structural preconditions of Russia’s welfare choice, starting from class structure. However, our argument is not based on some ahistorical class interests grounded on mere theoretical constructions. Structural analysis does not mean class reductionism. In Russian conditions this would be highly misleading because the importance of social classes in struggles over social welfare has been very limited. Yet, social policy affects life chances of various classes in different ways. In addition to class, we take an intersectional approach and seek to understand how other categories, such as gender, ethnicity, ability, sexuality, age and generation, intersect with welfare related questions and contribute to possibly systematic inequalities in ill-/well-being.

Cluster Leader:

Markku Kivinen, University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute

National and regional welfare policies and legislation, structuration of social class

CoE Fellows:

Marina Khmelnitskaya

University of Helsinki,
Aleksanteri Institute

Anna-Liisa Heusala University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute  

CoE Scholars:

Kaarina Aitamurto University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Muslim (and other religious) organizations, migrants
Meri Kulmala University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute State-society relations, social well-being, local self-governance, civil society, women's activism
Jouko Nikula University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Partnership between local/regional administration(s), trade unions and other local actors in welfare provision and labor regulation

CoE Partners:

Linda Cook Brown University National welfare policies and legislation, health care services, migrants
Mikhail Chernysh Russian Academy of Sciences  
Nadir Kinossian    
Laura Lyytikäinen University of Helsinki  
Simo Mannila The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)  
Anna Rotkirch The National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL)  
Aino Saarinen-Manninen University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute  
Andrey Starodubtsev European University at St. Petersburg & University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute


Maija Jäppinen University of Helsinki  

Doctoral Students:

Markus Kainu University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Poverty and inequalities in post-socialist space


Cluster 4. Foreign Policy

The quest for modernisation also affects Russian foreign policy. Modernisation can be seen both as a means to boost Russia's status as a great power in world poltics but functioning partnerships and good relations to other countries can also be seen as a means to foster modernisation at home. Russian foreign policy has been based on the aspiration to establish and strengthen its position as a great power, but it needs to find ways to adjust its status to the 21st century global system. Does the West still offer the model for Russia, or has it been replaced by other benchmarks? To what extent is Russia able to act as a traditional great power with an emphasis on geopolitics and military power and to what extent is it following the pattern of international trends in putting more emphasis on trade, soft power and membership in international organisations? If status concerns are driving Russia's foreign policy instead of mere security needs, are we able to find diplomatic solutions to the various conflicts with the West and neighbouring countries in the post-Soviet space? How does Russia develop its partnership with the West, to other rising powers and to its neighbours? Can Russia's foreign policy decision-making be understood on the basis of the instrumental rational choice model or what is role of identities, norms, emotions and habit in the conduct of external relations? What is the impact of the domestic reforms or lack of them on Russia's foreign policy? These are some of the key questions studied in the framework of the foreign policy cluster.

Cluster Leader:

Tuomas Forsberg, University of Tampere

Russia's relations with the West, emotions and status in Russian foreign policy, memory conflicts and their resolution in Russia’s relations with its neighbours

CoE Fellow:

CoE Scholars:

Sirke Mäkinen University of Tampere Russian higher education and education export; Russia's foreign policy and public diplomacy; modernisation and great power discourses; geopolitics
Hanna Smith University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Russia’s foreign policy, great powerness and resentiment

CoE Partners:

Susanna Hast University of Helsinki  
Anni Kangas University of Tampere Modernisation of Russian foreign policy, Skolkovo
Suvi Kansikas University of Helsinki, Network for European Studies The Eurasian Economic Union: A Russian model of integration and its effects on the European Union


Cluster 5. Cultural and Philosophical Interpretations of Russian Modernisation

The basic idea of the fifth cluster is to create a deeper understanding of the origin and contemporary state of Russian modernisation. What is the philosophical background of modernisation as a whole and its Russian version in particular? To what extent does religion and the Russian Orthodox Church influence the way that policy-makers create the platform of modernization and the way that the people perceive it? In Russia, as in any modern society, the “old” mass media and the “new” social media create together a forum for active discussion. People and states change the world by words. This is why the use of words is of great significance. On the one hand, the way in which ordinary Russians speak of modernisation reflects their interpretations and their attitudes towards it. On the other hand, it is equally interesting to study the manipulative tools used by the advocates of modernisation in proving its necessity. Cultural artefacts and phenomena at large do the same: they both reflect what is happening in a society and contribute to rethinking the way it works.

Cluster Leader:

Sanna Turoma, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

Russian modernisation from the point of view of “Spatial turn” and the “New spatial history”


Tomi Huttunen University of Helsinki, Department of Modern Languages Autogenetic Russian Avant-garde
Elina Kahla University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Modernisation of the Russian Orthodox Church; modern hagiography; female agency and the Orthodox Church
Katja Lehtisaari University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute Media revolution in Russia
Arto Mustajoki University of Helsinki, Department of Modern Languages  
Vesa Oittinen University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute

Enlightenment and Russia, Chaadayev – the first modern Russian intellectual

CoE Partners:

Mikhail Maslovskiy Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia  
Ahti Nikunlassi University of Helsinki, dept. of modern languages  
Riikka Palonkorpi University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences  
Gennadi Obatnin University of Helsinki, dept. of modern languages  
Saara Ratilainen University of Helsinki  
Ekaterina Protassova University of Helsinki, dept. of modern languages  
Pia Koivunen University of Tampere  
Elina Viljanen University of Helsinki  

Doctoral Students:

Susan Ikonen University of Helsinki  
Ira Österberg University of Helsinki, dept. of modern languages / Aleksanteri Institute Russian Cinema in the 1990s