10.6.2015 Book launch and seminar:
What went wrong after the Soviet Union? Authoritarian Russia Today








Time: Wednesday 10th of June 2015 at 09:00-11:45
Venue: Language Centre banquet hall (address: Fabianinkatu 26, 3rd floor)

Two decades after the fall of the Soviet Union, today’s Russia is not what people both in the West and in Russia expected the country to be. What went wrong? Or in fact has everything gone according to the plan? Currently Russia is a challenge to its neighbours, to the West and to post-Cold War order. What we see is a challenge effecting foreign and security policy but roots are domestic. The seminar will try to highlight issues and aspects that are relevant to today’s politics in Russia. What’s new and what’s old and where is Russia heading once again?


09:00 Coffee

09:30-09:35 Opening Words by Dr. Hanna Smith

09:35-10:15 Book launch: Authoritarian Russia. Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes by FiDiPro Professor Vladimir Gel’man

10:15-11:45 Panel: Confrontation and Cooperation: the Authoritarian Challenge of Russia

  • Senior Lecturer Dr. Bettina Renz, University of Nottingham:
    Has Something Changed in Russian Military Thinking: Russian Hybridwarfare
  • Senior Lecturer Dr. Sarah Whitmore, Oxford Brookes University:
    Authoritarian Consolidation in Russia and Putin's Ukraine Problem
  • Reader Dr. Edwin Bacon, Birkbeck, University of London:
    'Our Narrative, Their Narrative’: Political Thinking in Putin’s Third Term

Chair: Dr. Hanna Smith, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

Click here for a printable version of the seminar programme (pdf)


Authoritarian Russia. Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes.
University of Pittsburgh Press.
ISBN 978-0-8229-6368-4
224 p.
25.95 $

Russia today represents one of the major examples of the phenomenon of "electoral authoritarianism" — characterized by adopting the trappings of democratic institutions (such as elections, political parties, and a legislature) and enlisting the service of the country's essentially authoritarian rulers. Why and how has the electoral authoritarian regime been consolidated in Russia? What are the mechanisms of its maintenance, and what is its likely future course? To answer these questions, Vladimir Gel'man examines regime change in Russia from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to the present day, presenting theoretical and comparative perspectives on the factors that affected these political maneuvers and the authoritarian drift of the country.

Vladimir Gel'man is professor of political science at the European University at St. Petersburg, Russia, and Finland Distinguished Professor at the Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki. He is the author or editor of more than twenty books in Russian and English.

Order form (pdf)
More information about the publication may be found at the publisher's website.

Please register your participation by 3rd of June by electronic form.

For more information please contact Dr. Hanna Smith (hanna.smith [at] helsinki.fi or +358 50 538 5549).

The seminar is organised by the Aleksanteri Institute at the University of Helsinki and its FiDiPro project Regimes, Institutions and Change: Politics and Governance in Russia in a Comparative Perspective.

Short biographies of the speakers:

Dr. Edwin Bacon is Reader in Comparative Politics at Birkbeck, the University of London. He has published widely on Russian affairs, including books on the domestic politics of Putin (Securitising Russia, 2006), the Brezhnev years (Brezhnev Reconsidered, 2002), and forced labour in the Stalin era (The Gulag at War, 1994). He is also the author of Contemporary Russia (Palgrave, 2014), now in its third edition. Dr Bacon has served as a Special Adviser to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee, and as a Senior Research Officer in the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He has addressed the Finnish parliament's Committee for the Future, and in autumn 2014 was a Visiting Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute.

Dr. Bettina Renz's major research expertise is Russian security and defence policy in the post-Cold war era. She has published widely on military transformation, civil-military relations, military operations other than war and the perception and response to 'new' security threats in contemporary Russia, including a monograph with Edwin Bacon on the 'securitisation' of Russian domestic politics with Manchester University Press. Dr Renz also has an active interest in contemporary war and strategy more generally and in the role of airpower in modern conflict in particular. Dr Renz has extensive experience in collaborating with networks of scholars both in the UK and internationally, as well as in knowledge-exchange with non-academic audiences. She has previously worked with, guest lectured, or disseminated research findings, for example, at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment, the Finnish National Defence Academy, the NATO Defence College, and Chatham House. Dr Renz obtained her MA and MSc in Russian Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She completed her PhD at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies, University of Birmingham in 2005. She has previously lectured for King's College London at the Royal Air Force College and was an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Birmingham's European Research Institute before being appointed to a lectureship in International Security at the University of Nottingham in 2007. In addition to pursuing her research and lecturing strategic studies and Russian foreign policy, Dr Renz also acts as the co-director of the Centre for Conflict, Security and Terrorism at the University of Nottingham.

Dr. Sarah Whitmore is Senior Lecturer in Politics at Oxford Brookes
University. She is also an Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Russian and
East European Studies, University of Birmingham. Her research focuses upon
post-Soviet politics and she is interested in the evolution of formal
institutions, their significance in structuring and reproducing power in
post-Soviet states, their relationship with informal practices and the
implications this has for the political system. Her empirical focus is
predominantly on Ukraine and Russia. She is the author of 'State Building
in Ukraine: The Verkhovna Rada 1990-2003' (Routledge 2004) and a number of
articles in peer-reviewed journals, the most recent of which examine the
changing meanings of formal and informal practices in the State Duma and
the role of United Russia in regime reproduction. She has given briefings
to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the US Department of State
on Ukrainian politics, as well as giving regular media interviews.

Dr. Hanna Smith is a researcher at the University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute and the Finnish Centre of Excellence on Russian Studies. She is an expert on Russian and former Soviet Union area foreign, security and domestic politics. Her research interests include also regional cooperation, Nordic cooperation and international institutions. She has degrees from Sweden and Great Britain in Russian language, history and politics as well as international relations. In 2001-02 she was a visiting researcher at the University of Birmingham, and in 2006 at the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, unit for research and policy planning. Hanna Smith has worked in numerous Finnish and international academic and policy-oriented projects, and headed the Finnish Foreign Ministry funded project on 'Russian Foreign Policy' in 2004-05. Her Phd was about "Russian Greatpowerness: Foreign policy, the Two Chechen Wars and International Organisations" (2014). She is known commentator in Finnish media.