Director of the Visiting Fellows Programme
Anna Korhonen
Head of International Affairs
tel. +358-(0)50-563 63 07

Eeva Korteniemi
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aleksanteri-fellows [at]

Aleksanteri Institute
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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2017–2018

Maria Smirnova, University of Manchester, UK
“Politics of Memory Laws in Contemporary Russia”
(10 January – 10 February 2018)

Dr. Maria Smirnova (PhD, Moscow; LLM, Exeter) is a Research Associate at the University of Manchester where she investigates the impact of international human rights law on the transformation of the Russian judicial system. Furthermore, as a member of the European Association of Education Law and Policy (Antwerp) and the Federal Centre for Educational Legislation (Moscow) she also focuses on international standards of the right to education and their implementation in domestic legal systems. Her publications in this area cover such topics as linguistic diversity in education, fighting poverty through education, corruption in education, religious rights and the right to education and in more general terms the justiciability of the right to education.

Short description of ongoing research:
As an Aleksanteri Visiting Fellow, Dr. Smirnova will work on a cutting-edge issue – the politics of memory laws in contemporary Russia. This research reflects the multidisciplinary agenda of the Institute, particularly, in the field of Democracy and the construction of Europeanness and the political use of history.
The main objective of this research is to study the increasing politicization of memory laws in contemporary Russia. Today’s Russia is a perfect example of a state enforcing ‘memory laws’ with a political agenda in mind. As a researcher and a legal practitioner in Russia, Dr. Smirnova has witnessed first-hand those methods that the Russian legal system employs to promote or inhibit particular understandings of the past. In the recent few years not only the cult of Joseph Stalin has re-emerged as a justification of certain authoritarian policies of the state, but also the public opinion about the Soviet Union’s achievements in the Second World War has been shaped by the landmark court rulings and demonstrative legal sanctions against private media.
For the purposes of preparing a research-based paper for publication as an Aleksanteri Visiting Fellow Dr. Smirnova will, first, establish the body of Russian law that can be identified as ‘memory laws’. She will then outline the current political context and consider the strategic use of memory laws in Russia in the three following contexts:
- How do memory laws fit in the asymmetrical accountability structures in Russia?
- How democratic are memory laws and how do they relate to the idea of citizenship and participatory rights?
- How do they affect de facto implementation of human rights in Russia?
Being a very influential global leader, Russia is often assessed in binary terms of the usual democracy-authoritarianism spectre. However, a more nuanced approach is needed, because some of the recent developments clearly have a bigger impact than this spectre can possibly offer.

Email: smirnova_mv[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala, Markku Kangaspuro