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Location & Connections


Visiting Fellows 2011-2012



Sean Roberts, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

“Political modernisation, ‘virtual parties’ and the 2011 State Duma election in Russia”
Fellowship period: mid-October – mid-December 2011

Sean Roberts received his PhD from the Centre for Russian & East European Studies (CREES), University of Birmingham in 2010. His thesis explored a number of party political developments in Russia under the two presidential terms of Vladimir Putin, in particular the role of United Russia as the nominal ruling party. In the 2010/11 academic year he completed a Norwegian Research Council funded Yggdrasil Scholarship at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), working on a number of projects including the book Putin’s United Russia Party due to be published in November 2011 (Routledge). This book examines an entire decade of post-Yeltsin politics to understand United Russia’s distinct brand of party dominance as well as the larger development of dominant-power politics in Russia, 2000-10. His research interests include comparative party politics, regime studies, Russian politics, including the recent ‘modernization’ initiative, but also the growing importance of the political internet in Russian and the post-Soviet space in general. The theme of the political internet and its role in the Russian State Duma election of December 2011 forms the focus of his research stay at the Aleksanteri Institute.

Abstract of current research:

One of the key developments of the Medvedev presidency (2008-11) has been the possibility of substantial political change within the broad rubric of ‘modernisation’. Although there is a great deal of room for scepticism as to either the intention or ability of Russia’s ruling elite to liberalise the political system, there is enough circumstantial evidence to warrant scholarly interest. This research investigates one aspect of political change that fits perfectly with what First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff, Vladislav Surkov, described as the ‘futurist’ aspect of modernisation – party political competition on the Internet during the December 2011 State Duma election campaign. This research will examine two primary questions during the two-month visit at the Aleksanteri Institute. The first relates to the immediate December election and the way the Internet is used by the competing parties during the campaign period. The aim here is to develop existing empirical, theoretical but also methodological insights on party politics and the political Internet in Russia and in comparative perspective. The second, larger focus is on the aforementioned modernisation debate. This concerns the ‘promise’ of modernisation and what web-based party competition during the 2011 State Duma election campaign tells us of the potential and problems of political reform in Russia in general.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Jukka Pietiläinen and Markku Kangaspuro