Time of visit: September – October 2021
Milda Ališauskienė is Professor at the Department of Political Sciences at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas, Lithuania. Her research interests include religion in the post-socialist society, religion and state relations, religious diversity and new religions, LGBT religiosity. She has published more than 20 scientific articles on religion in contemporary Lithuania and the Baltic States and contributed to collective monographs and studies on social exclusion of minority religions and on the process of secularization in Lithuania. In 2011, together with Ingo W. Schroeder, she co-edited a volume “Religious Diversity in Post-Soviet Society” (Ashgate). In 2014, after completion of a project titled “Cognition of Religious Diversity in Lithuania: Forms of Alternative Religiosity”, funded by Lithuanian Council for Research, she co-authored a public scholarship book “Religious Diversity in Lithuania: Portraits, Festivals and Everyday Lives”. In 2017, she was the guest editor of Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions special issue on new religions in Eastern Europe. Currently she is co-editing a special issue of this journal on religious leadership, to be published in 2021.
Dr. Ališauskienė served as President for the International Society for the Study of New Religions (ISSNR) in 2015-2017. She is, since 2015, member of the Executive Board of the International Association for the History of Religions (IAHR). In 2016, she was Fulbright visiting scholar at the University of California in Santa Barbara. Since 2018, she serves on the board of the International Sociological Association Research Committee 22 on Sociology of Religion.
Current research project
Milda Ališauskienė is currently working on research into the intersection of religious and sexual identities, Catholic hegemony and the place of LGBT community in the public sphere of the post-communist society of Lithuania. During her stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, she will be working on her monograph under working title “Religious and Sexual Identities in the Post-Communist Society”. With the help of LGBT+ individuals’ narratives, she discusses the processes of rejecting or embracing one’s religious tradition, complex relations with religious institutions and search for spirituality of people who feel themselves on the boundaries of public life in the post-communist society. This book will contribute to research into religion and sexuality with theoretical and empirical insights from Eastern Europe, and will be of interest for scholars and students as well as wider public interested in the discussion about empathy, tolerance and non-discrimination in contemporary societies.
Time of visit: mid-May – June 2022
Helge Blakkisrud is Head of the Research Group on Russia, Asia and International Trade at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), in Oslo, Norway. His research interests revolve around centre–region relations in the Russian Federation, nation-building and nationalism in Eurasia. He has also worked extensively on de facto states and is currently PI of a multi-year project on patron–client relations and de facto state agency. His recent publications include Russia Before and After Crimea: Nationalism and Identity, 2010–2017 (Edinburgh University Press, 2018, co-edited with Pål Kolstø), and Russia’s Turn to the East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018, co-edited with Elana Wilson Rowe).
Current research project
During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr Blakkisrud will continue his studies of how the Putin regime seeks to mobilize ‘traditional values’ to legitimize its rule. The resultant article will be part of a larger project on values-based legitimation in authoritarian states, in particular the use of top–down versus bottom–up oriented strategies for legitimation.
Research on how authoritarian regimes seek to legitimize their rule has tended to focus on the selective use of repression and co-optation, regime performance, or the personal popularity of the leader. However, the new authoritarian turn now evident in many countries is frequently couched in terms of nationalist revival and a return to ‘traditional’ values such as religion, the nuclear family, and public morality. Since 2012, the Russian authorities have adopted an increasingly anti-liberal rhetoric, with attacks on Western secularism, multi-culturalism, and alleged moral decay. This rhetoric has been followed up with new laws against blasphemy, ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships’ among minors, decriminalization of wife battering, and more. However, many of the countries where the new authoritarian turn is gaining ground – Russia included – are industrialized, with modern economies and largely urbanized populations, making it an open question how many people will sympathize with such neo-traditionalist policy. The project thus sets out to explore to what degree and in what ways the turn towards ‘traditional’ values may have propped up or weakened legitimacy and trust in the regime in Putin's Russia.
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sirke Mäkinen, Markku Kangaspuro
Time of visit: November 2021Tatiana Bukina is an Associate Professor of musicology at Vaganova Ballet Academy, St. Petersburg. She obtained her PhD (2005) and Doctor habilitatus (2012) in arts and cultural studies from Herzen State Pedagogical University, St. Petersburg, having previously studied at Petrozavodsk Conservatory. Her research focuses on history and methodology of Soviet and post-Soviet musicology, sociology of music, and reception studies in music. She is an author of over 80 publications including three personal monographs and participation in two collective monographs. During her research work, she has received grants and awards from Russian and international academic organizations, such as Academia Europaea, German Historical Institute Moscow, Open Society Institute, Russian Foundation for Humanities, and others. Her participation in the Visiting Fellows Programme is connected with work on a monograph manuscript that is being accomplished at the request of the publishing house “Academic Studies Press”, New York.
Current research project
Dr. Bukina studies the period of formation in the 1920th of Soviet musicology as an autonomous academic discipline and a research field. A profession of musicologist was institutionalized as a direct response to specific practical needs of the young Soviet state, and endeavors of its founders were deliberately aimed at making their discipline an important factor of the state cultural policy. Therefore, they realized sociological approaches as an essential component of their occupation that gave a key to understanding cultural realities of the past and present. A generation of scholars that came into the new discipline from various humanitarian fields (history, philology, economic, jurisprudence) sought to adapt for musicological research the most advanced achievements of their purviews as well as the leading experience of foreign musicology in order to treat every musical fact as a complex social and cultural phenomenon. Thus, being formed at the intersection of theory and practice, and at the intersection of several disciplinary fields, post-revolutionary sociological musicology was a bright example of a so-called “trading zone” in which, according to P. Galison, due to collision of different methodologies an especially intensive conceptual development of a discipline happens. Owing to these reasons, sociological musicology of the early Soviet epoch is a matter of equal interest from a methodological point of view (as a valuable research experience that remains relevant up till now) and from historical and anthropological perspectives (as a specific product of Soviet academic mentality).
This project has the following objectives: to reconstruct a development history of a sociological approach in musicology of the early Soviet era within cultural and political context of the epoch; to establish trajectories of its impact on perspectives and methodology of the discipline; and to assess its role in the formation of Soviet musicology.
Time of visit: February 2022
Alicja Curanović is an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Warsaw. She holds a PhD in Political science (PhD thesis: "The Religious Factor in the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation"). Her main research interests are Russian foreign policy, religious factor in international relations, international relations in the post-Soviet area, and perception, identity, status as well as the phenomenon of messianism in politics. She has conducted research at the Harvard University, Columbia University, Stanford University, the Russian State University for Humanistic Studies, and MGIMO. Her articles have appeared in Problems of Post-Communism, Politics and Religion, Nationalities Papers, and Religion, State and Society, among others. Her monograph titled “The Religious Factor in Russia's Foreign Policy” was published by Routledge in 2012.
Current research project
The goal of Alicja Curanović’s research on Russian contemporary messianism has been to characterize, describe and explain as comprehensively as possible the mechanisms of the use of the idea of mission in the foreign policy of the Russian Federation. She intends to use her stay in Helsinki for a further elaboration of the project. Her purpose is to focus on those aspects of the Russian contemporary messianic narrative, which are related to the immediate neighbourhood – the so called ‘Near Abroad’. She wants to tackle the following questions: (1) Is Russian contemporary messianic narrative counter-hegemonic (oriented on resisting the challenge represented by the West) or rather hegemonic (to legitimate Russia’s hegemonic ambitions in the neighbourhood)? In other words, what is the function of this particular narrative? (2) Does the contemporary messianic narrative support expansionistic or isolationistic tendencies within Russia’s foreign policy? (3) What is the role of the concept of russkiy mir within the messianic narrative? (4) What effect do events such as the annexation of Crimea and the conflict in Ukraine have for the messianic narrative? (5) What is the relevance of the messianic narrative for institutions like the Commonwealth of Independent State and the Eurasian Union?
The project is in its final stage. After seven years of collecting materials and conducting the research, Dr. Curanovic has completed a monograph on the subject. However, much of the selected material and many findings connected to it require a still closer investigation. In a sense, the realization of the project has entered a critical phase, in which the existing findings have to be reviewed and new questions that have emerged need to be examined. Last but not least, she will use the fellowship to supplement the gathered empiric base with the most recent materials. She will also explore the possibility for a comparative study of the phenomenon of messianic narratives in contemporary foreign policy, specifically by comparing the Russian case to Turkey and to the post-Brexit UK.
Time of visit: March – April 2022
Lili Di Puppo is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the NRU Higher School of Economics in Moscow. She holds a PhD from the European Viadrina University, Frankfurt Oder, Germany. Her research focuses on religion and ethnicity, pilgrimage and sacred sites, the interconnection between memory, place and identity, nature and the sacred in Eurasia, informality and corruption. She has done fieldwork in Russia’s Volga-Ural region and in Georgia. She has co-edited a special issue on “Normative orders and the remaking of Muslim spaces and selves in contemporary Russia” in the journal Ethnicities. Her work has been published in Contemporary Islam, East European Politics, the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures and Global Crime. She is editorial board member of the journal Public Anthropologist.
Current research project
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Lili Di Puppo will work on her book manuscript Re-enchanting the Land: Muslim Pilgrimage, Memory and Identity in Russia’s Volga and Urals (co-written with Jesko Schmoller, Perm State University). The book focuses on the reawakening of a sacred geography in the Urals and Volga, exploring how pilgrimage and commemoration practices at sacred sites are linked to different ways of connecting to the past and to space. These practices also support various identity claims. Analysing the Islamic revival through the notion of re-enchantment allows examining the link between Islam and ethnicity in the Urals and Volga and the way in which this revival also relates to nature and the environment.
During her stay at the institute, Lili Di Puppo will write a chapter of her book devoted to different approaches to memory and the past. She will analyse both the official commemoration of Muslim figures at sacred sites and rituals of remembering (within Sufi brotherhoods) that aim to re-establish a lived connection with ancestors. She will use ethnographic material collected over several periods of fieldwork in the Urals and Tatarstan from 2016 to 2018.
Time of visit: October – November 2021
Julia Lajus is Head of Laboratory for Environmental and Technological History and Associate Professor at the Department of History, National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), St. Petersburg, Russia. In 2014 – 2019 she was also an Academic Head of International MA Programme in Applied and Interdisciplinary History “Usable Pasts” at HSE. In 2011-2015, she served as vice-president of the European Society of Environmental History. In 2009, Dr. Lajus was a Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham (UK). Her research focuses on history of field sciences such as fisheries science, oceanography and climatology; environmental history of biological resources, especially in marine and polar areas. She has considerable experience in participation in international projects and recently led the project “Natural Resources in the History of Russia” funded by Russian Science Foundation. Her recent publications include chapters in the books: Competing Arctic Futures: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives, and Eurasian Environments: Nature and Ecology in Imperial Russian and Soviet History.Current research project
In her current book project Professor Lajus explores the genre of biography, although not of a single character, but of several individuals. They are scientists who studied the northern environment, in particular its climate, oceans and fish, and who had been proponents of transnational cooperation from within, or with Russia/ Soviet Union. The main objectives of the project are to analyze what individual strategies scientists have employed to build relationships within scientific institutions, with the state, and with national and international scientific communities; what were their predispositions to become brokers on international scene or to take part in science diplomacy; what price did they pay for maintaining such positions. Professor Lajus intends to show how nonhuman actors like fish, oceanic currents, marine ice, and atmospheric phenomena were formative for linking people across the boundaries of countries and disciplines.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Professor Lajus will be focusing on writing two chapters of her current book project: the first one “Nikolai Knipovich and his Scandinavian world” and the last one “Evgenii Fedorov and global climate in the 1970s”. For the first chapter she plans to improve her understanding of the intellectual and everyday atmosphere of late 19th century Helsinki where fisheries oceanographer Nikolai Knipovich grew up, as she argues that the international background and language skills were crucial for the habitus of the scientist who during all his life was a sincere proponent of international cooperation. For the last chapter on Soviet climatologist and polar hero Evgenii Fedorov, she plans to study the broad environmental literature from 1970s, a time when Fedorov, who was a Head of Hydrometeorological Committee of the USSR and a vice-president of World Meteorological organization, became a member of the Club of Rome and led Soviet delegation at the First International Conference on Climate in 1979.
Time of visit: May – June 2022
Dr. Inna Melnykovska is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Central European University, Budapest-Vienna. She received a doctoral degree in Political Science from the Free University of Berlin in 2016. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University, held visiting positions at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and was awarded the Strategy and Policy Fellowship of the Smith Richardson Foundation.
She specializes in International and Comparative Political Economy with an emphasis on the interaction of global, regional and domestic forces in the shaping of modern political regimes and economic systems in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. She is an expert on the dynamics of state-business relations in the region (foci: Russia and Ukraine). Her research has been published in Journal of Common Market Studies, Europe-Asia Studies, and Post-Soviet Affairs, among others.
She is currently completing a book Global Money, Local Politics: Big Business, Capital Mobility and the Transformation of Crony Capitalism in Russia and Ukraine.
Current research projects
Professor Melnykovska will use her stay at the Aleksanteri Institute to work on her book project, entitled “Global Money, Local Politics: Big Business, Capital Mobility and the Transformation of Crony Capitalism in Russia and Ukraine”. The book deals with the integration of Russian and Ukrainian business holdings into global financial markets and illicit financial flows as well as the offshorization of their corporate activities. Specifically, it traces the effects of this financial integration on business behavior in domestic politics in Russia and Ukraine.
The book identifies three effects of financial globalization on the business behavior in Russia and Ukraine: (1) rent-seeking diffusion; (2) corporate modernization, and (3) institutional arbitrage. As a result, financial globalization breaks the monopoly of the state as the only enabler of rent-seeking and protector of property rights. Thus, it enhances embedded business autonomy, which eventually opens opportunities for business to diversify their networks in politics, support the oppositional forces, and contribute to more political competition at home. Business autonomy is conditioned by the particular patterns of financial integration as well as by the domestic context, however. The book is particularly relevant for the coercive policy of Western sanctions against Russia and offers new insights into ways to contain and engage the Kremlin through financial levers. Also, it highlights the potential of financial linkages to contribute to the political competition and democratization in Ukraine.
During her stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Professor Melnykovska will also develop her new project, provisionally entitled: The Startup Economy and the Industrial State. It will be the first study of its kind that investigates how ‘startup economies’ interact with economic and political structures in industrialized societies. The global economy is experiencing the rise of well-networked transnational entrepreneurs, which form a new socio-economic system in their local nation-states. This system is challenging traditional institutions of industrialized ‘legacy economy’ and faces different degrees of opposition and/or accommodation from national governments. Professor Melnykovska will compare these business-government interactions by examining the cases of the United States, Germany, Russia and Ukraine within the last decade.
Time of visit: mid-September—mid-October, 2021
Geoffrey Roberts is Emeritus Professor of History at University College Cork, National University of Ireland. A specialist in Russian and Soviet foreign and military policy, his books include Stalin’s Wars: From World War to Cold War 1939-1953 (2006), Molotov: Stalin’s Cold Warrior (2012), and (with Martin Folly and Oleg Rzheshevsky) Churchill and Stalin: Comrades-in-Arms during the Second World War (2019). In 2013 his Stalin’s General: The Life of Georgy Zhukov was winner of the Society for Military History Distinguished Book Award. Professor Roberts was EURIAS Senior Fellow at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in 2018-2019 and has also held fellowships at Harvard, Princeton, NYU, the Kennan Institute, the Nobel Peace Institute and the Institute for Advanced Studies at the Central European University in Budapest. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and in 2016 was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy.
Current research project
Russia’s continuing challenge to the post-cold war liberal international order represents a pressing problem for western decision-makers. To meet that challenge policy-makers need an informed sense of history and an accurate understanding of the Russian point of view, not least in relation to the remarkable continuities - personal, ideological, institutional – between Soviet and Russian foreign policy.
This project will consolidate and deepen post-cold war scholarship by providing a detailed and compelling narrative of the history of Soviet foreign policy that will be a point of departure for scholars seeking to understand and assess the radical impact of this revolutionary state on the political, economic and cultural life of the 20th century world and beyond.
Though focused on the Soviet period, the project will also examine the persistent cultural, geopolitical and economic factors that have shaped Russian foreign policy and analyse the post-communist policies of the Yeltsin, Medvedev and Putin regimes. This history of Soviet foreign will be a comprehensive diachronic narrative leavened by analysis of:
i. People – the role of personalities and critical use of Soviet diplomatic memoirs, autobiographies, diaries, and biographies.
ii. Policies – the nature of Soviet foreign policy decision-making, with particular reference to crisis situations and periods of transition, and the interaction between foreign and domestic politics.
iii. Power – the hard and soft-power instruments of Soviet foreign policy – diplomacy, the military, intelligence organisations, economic relations, propaganda, scientific and cultural exchange, the international communist movement and the communist-led peace, professional, trade union, women’s and youth movements.
iv. Perceptions – how Soviet foreign policy was perceived externally and how these perceptions shaped the USSR’s relations with other states.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, the research will focus on the continuities between the foreign policies of Tsarist Russia, Soviet Russia and Post-Soviet Russia.
Time of visit: April 2022
Elena Rodina is a Subject Matter Expert and Guest Lecturer in the Master of Science in Communication Program at Northwestern University. She holds a PhD (2019) in Communication Studies from Northwestern, and an MA in Russian and East European Studies from the University of Oregon.
Her current academic interests lie in the area of global political communication and sociology of media, and her geographic areas of expertise is Russia (with a focus on Chechnya and Dagestan) and the South Caucasus. Her current research projects explore two key phenomena in the Russian media: journalistic resistance practices as a reaction to state pressure, and the transformation of oppositional journalists into social and political activists. On a broader scale, she examines how digital transformation of the informational field globally, and in Russia specifically, affects mediated political and social dynamics.
Current research project
Dr. Rodina is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled “Between Dictatorship and Anarchy: State Censorship and Media Resistance in Chechnya and Dagestan”. This book project explores the tactics that journalists in the North Caucasus utilize to fight localized state control. More specifically, it explicates how these journalists employ micro-resistance practices on a daily, routine basis, and establish three distinct forms of resistance: textual, behavioral, and conceptual.
This research project takes a novel approach to studying journalistic agency in Russia by incorporating resistance theory into media analysis, with a particular focus on everyday resistance expressed through creative practices (De Certeau, 1984) and infrapolitics (James Scott, 1985; 1990; Johansson & Vinthagen, 2013). This focus allows it to delineate subversive practices on a micro-level, and to reveal patterns of resistance not otherwise visible.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Rodina will work on expanding and completing the chapter of her book dedicated to behavioral resistance tactics utilized by Chechen and Dagestani journalists. The chapter explains how journalists create and utilize online “safe spaces” in order to exchange professional information, provide mutual assistance, and express their political views, among other things. It also explores how knowledge about such online spaces can contest our current understanding of the phenomenon of echo chambers (Jamieson & Cappella, 2008) as detrimental to freedom and diversity. Additionally, it explicates how the creation of interconnected safe spaces online by journalists who work within an authoritarian environment is relevant to our understanding of the concepts of social media ecosystems (Hanna et al., 2011) and the highly debated role of on-line technologies in resistance and protest movements.
Time of visit: August – September 2021
Svetlana Stephenson is Professor of Sociology at London Metropolitan University, where she has worked for twenty years. Her work focuses on informal social organisation and social control in the late Soviet Union and contemporary Russia, combining historical, sociological and criminological perspectives. She has studied Russian homelessness, street children and gangs. Her publications include “Crossing the Line: Vagrancy, Homelessness and Social Displacement in Russia” (Ashgate, 2006) and “Gangs of Russia. From the Streets to the Corridors of Power” (Cornell University Press, 2015), as well as articles published in leading journals, such as Sociological Review, Global Crime, Current Sociology, Journal of Applied Social Theory, Europe-Asia Studies and others. She was a Visiting Fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute in 2013 and in University of Indiana, Bloomington in 2018.
Current research project
Professor Stephenson currently studies everyday rituals of public shaming in the post-Stalin Soviet Union and modern-day Russia. This research combines anthropological, sociological and criminological theory to address the use of public shaming as a tool of social control. She studies moral campaigns which involve denunciation and shaming by members of society but may also be manipulated or organised by state and corporate actors. This research raises a number of issues about the functioning of informal versus formal justice, the role of moral emotions in the enforcement of collective norms, and ultimately about the reproduction of social order. It examines the changing role of the state in orchestrating and setting the framework for public shaming campaigns, and the role of societal actors in punishing deviants. While in Helsinki she plans to work on a book chapter of her book project, focusing on online shaming. She will investigate how members of different social milieus, including people with conservative and nationalist views and members of the liberal intelligentsia, engage in attempts to redraw moral boundaries through collective moral indignation.
Time of visit: June 2022 (tbc)
Ronald Grigor Suny is the William H. Sewell, Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History at the University of Michigan and Emeritus Professor of Political Science and History at the University of Chicago. He was the first holder of the Alex Manoogian Chair in Modern Armenian History at the University of Michigan, where he founded and directed the Armenian Studies Program. He is the author of The Baku Commune (Princeton University Press, 1972), The Making of the Georgian Nation (Indiana University Press, 1988,1994), Looking Toward Ararat (Indiana University Press, 1993), The Revenge of the Past (Stanford University Press, 1993), The Soviet Experiment (Oxford University Press, 1998, 2011), “They Can Live in the Desert But Nowhere Else”: A History of the Armenian Genocide (Princeton University Press, 2015), Red Flag Unfurled: History, Historians, and the Russian Revolution (Verso, 2017), and co-author with Valerie Kivelson of Russia’s Empires (Oxford University Press, 2016). He has finished a biography of the young Stalin – Stalin: Passage to Revolution – for Princeton University Press and a series of historiographical essays on Stalinism and Soviet history – Red Flag Wounded: Historians, Stalinism, and the Soviet Experience – for Verso Books.
Current research project
The recent resurgence of nationalism, national isolationism and populism, and the problems facing transnational projects like the European Union have produced new questions that require new research and thinking about the latest turns in the history of the nation-form. Despite the constructivist turn thirty years ago, nations continue to be imagined as primordial and perennial, in which transient emotions and cognitive associations have been reified into national identifications for which people are ready to fight, kill, and die. Differences and boundaries between ethnic and national communities have been hardened to the point of being mutually exclusive, even hostile to those right next door.
At the Aleksanteri Institute, Professor Suny plans to conduct research and begin the writing of a book, Forging the Nation: The Making and Faking of Nationalisms, which involves several important case studies that illustrate different national trajectories, among them: the destruction of Ottoman Armenians and the making of the ethnonational republic of Turkey; the breakup of the USSR and the forging of new nations within emergent states, most particularly Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan; and the making of the Finnish nation within the tsarist empire, a nation created by patriotic intellectuals often of ethnic Swedish origin. In each case, the historical stories will be brought up to date in order to discuss the insights that might be employed to reflect on the American, European, and Asian populist nationalisms that currently appear to be on the rise. Professor Suny will explore how globalizing capitalism, and the uncertainties and instabilities it produces, affects societies that are (or imagine themselves to be) culturally homogeneous. Among the responses in many developed nations have been populist nationalisms (both on the Left and the Right), the rise of anti-liberal movements, the building of walls, and exclusionary politics.
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kangaspuro, Judith Pallot