Visiting Fellows Research Seminars

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Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar Series features the work of the outstanding scholars who have been invited to conduct their research within the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Programme. The scholars’ topics cover a wide range both geographically, and with regard to methodology, discipline, and focus. The seminars are a platform for advancing and sharing knowledge of the present, past, and future of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Eurasia, and each session has ample time for questions and discussion. All students, scholars, and other interested audiences are warmly welcome to attend!

Seminar Pro­gramme for Spring 2019

The seminars take place on Thursdays from 14:15 to 15:45 at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki. Please check the programme updates for possible changes. NB: Some of the spring term 2019 sessions will take place on Tuesday. 

Born in Finland, the Finnish-Russian-German-Lithuanian philosopher Vasily Sesemann (1884-1963) studied at a gymnasium in Saint Petersburg before studying philosophy and classical philology at the Saint Petersburg Imperial University, where he was a student — amongst others — of the eminent Russian philosopher Nikolai Lossky, who was privat-dozent at the philosophy department from 1900 to 1916. Sesemann later went to obtain a PhD at the University of Marburg, where he studied with the Neo-Kantians Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp. His work has thus been associated with Neo-Kantianism. But he remained in contact with Lossky and explicitly admitted to have been influenced by the latter. He later on translated Lossky’s voluminous Логика (Logic) into German (Handbuch der Logik, 1927), contributed to Lossky’s Festschrift (1934), and gave lectures on Lossky’s intuitivism while imprisoned in a Siberian labor camp from 1950 to 1958. Sesemann’s works in many places show signs of a Losskyan influence. There is, for instance, the importance that Sesemann accords in aesthetics to intuition or acts of direct empathy through which aesthetic values are apprehended. Lossky’s conception of the world as an organic whole also seems to lie behind Sesemann’s theory of the wholeness of the work of art. This influence has often been reported in the secondary literature. Juozas Girnius, for instance, writes that, “[of] the philosophical doctrines to which he was exposed while studying, the one to exert the greatest influence was that of intuitionism as expounded by his teacher Nicholas O. Lossky.” Leonidas Donskis also claims that Sesemann was “[i]nfluenced by Nikolai Lossky’s intuitivist philosophy.” Yet no piece of scholarship has been devoted to this question in particular. In this paper, I focus on the possible debt that Sesemann owes to Lossky and, through him, to Russian philosophy in general.
References:
Juozas Girnius, “Sezemanas,” Encyclopedia Lituanica, Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius, 1976, vol. V, p. 126.
Leonidas Donskis, “On the Boundary of Two Worlds: Lithuanian Philosophy in the Twentieth Century,” Studies in East European Thought, vol. 54, n. 3, 2002, pp. 179-206, p. 193.

Dr. Frédéric Tremblay will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 21 February, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Vesa Oittinen.

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As the Wehrmacht bore down on Moscow in November 1941, Stalin famously summoned a host of Russian and proto-Russian military commanders before columns of Red Army troops readying to march to the front. From an open-air platform atop Lenin’s mausoleum, the country’s leader urged the soldiers to “[l]et the heroic image of our great ancestors inspire you in this war—Aleksandr Nevskii, Dmitrii Donskoi, Kuz’ma Minin, Dmitrii Pozharskii, Aleksandr Suvorov, Mikhail Kutuzov.” The German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 compelled the Soviet leadership to deploy patriotic symbols and imagery associated with prerevolutionary Russia as part of mass mobilization. While this helped stiffen the resolve of a population still reeling from Germany’s rapid advance, it also sparked something of a Russian national awakening, which complicated subsequent official efforts to mythologize the war. Although the dominant interpretation of postwar ideology contends that there was a deliberate fusion of “Russian” and “Soviet” patriotic themes after 1945, this paper argues that postwar Soviet patriotism is better understood as an assemblage of disparate and contradictory, yet highly compartmentalized, discourses. This compartmentalization equipped the regime with a wide-ranging patriotic vocabulary with which to appeal to the diverse, multinational population even after Stalin’s death. At the same time, however, the contradictory nature of these appeals created competing rather than mutually reinforcing ideas about Soviet identity and hence became a long-term source of instability.

Professor Jonathan Brunstedt will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 28 March, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Markku Kangaspuro.

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Post-Soviet social policy reforms have been often constructed as a replacement of ‘old’, Soviet-style, and discredited welfare institutions with ‘new’, global, and essentially, Western policies. Research shows that post-socialist and post-Soviet transformation of welfare institutions has been a complex, dynamic, and multidirectional process (e.g., Aidukaite, 2004; Beblavy, 2008; Deacon, 2000; Stubbs, 2002). With a multitude of minor and major welfare reforms, the question remains of how to examine change and what changes indicate meaningful transformation.  In my talk, I seek to address the following questions: What types of changes characterize the post-Soviet child welfare evolution in Kazakhstan? To what extent have multiple changes introduced over the past three decades transformed the dominant institutional logic underlying child welfare provisions in Kazakhstan? I will apply Streeck and Thelen’s (2005) typology of incremental institutional transformation and Thornton and Ocasio’s theory of institutional logics (2012) to examine the continuity and incremental change in post-Soviet child welfare institutions and the shifting institutional logic underlying the evolution of welfare institutions.

Professor Sofiya An will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 16 May, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Meri Kulmala.

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In his seminar Dr. Leving tracks the latest tendencies of the ‘state vs. artist’ paradigm during Vladimir Putin’s last term as a Russian President (following the 2018 election) and aims to map out the evolution of cultural dissent since 2011, dwelling upon some of its key manifestations (including but not limited to the punk group Pussy Riot trial; the director Kirill Serebrennikov’s controversial arrest; the artist Petr Pavlensky’s trials and subsequent expulsion from Russia; the phenomenon of Sergei Shnurov and his band "Leningrad", etc.). This research combines various methodological approaches and broadens our understanding of interaction between various artistic branches – visual arts, performative Actionism, civic activism, and new drama – and contemporary politics in Putin’s Russia.

Professor Yuri Leving will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 23 May, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Saara Ratilainen.

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In summer 1926, Mariia N., a Muscovite girl vacationing in the countryside, was raped by a group of local youths.  This incident occurred at a moment of transformation, at the cusp of the implementation of a new Family Code and a new Criminal Code.  This talk examines this case, exploring the ways that legal professionals discussed Mariia N., her body, and her role in the mass rape, and considering her treatment at the trial itself, to explore broader ideas about the attitudes toward women, the peasantry, and notions of proper behavior in early Soviet society.

Professor Sharon Kowalsky will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 6 June, 2019 at 13:15 (please note this new starting time of the seminar) in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Marianna Muravyeva.

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Following the argument of urban geographers that “superstar” cities are the engines of economic growth in a globalized era, Kremlin advisor Kudrin among others has argued that Russia should invest in handful of major cities including Moscow and St. Petersburg. However, in stark contrast to the developed world, Russia’s population is not concentrated in a few urban centers, but in several hundred medium-sized cities and towns, many distributed across Russia’s vast territory often far from other metropolitan agglomerations. These include over 300 officially designated “monotowns,” whose fate is dependent on a single industry, which the government ranks according to the severity of their “socio-economic conditions.” This paper will explore the dilemmas faced by monotowns in particular, and the challenge to authorities of balancing the need for new economic growth from urban metropolises against preventing social unrest in declining industrial cities and towns.

Professor Stephen Crowley will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Tuesday 11 June, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Dr. Marina Khmelnitskaya.

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Since the collapse of the Soviet Union,  all newly independent states have had to address a legacy of serious environmental degradation and undertake significant reforms, including designing and building new environmental institutions, or re-building existing ones. This research examines the concept of a state’s environmental capacity in the context of the former Soviet Union and the ability of states in the region to design, implement, and enforce effective environmental policy. Drawing on a series of interviews with NGOs, policymakers, experts, and industry representatives from across the region, and analysis of a range of original policy materials, my research focuses on four case studies: Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. It investigates the obstacles that undermine a state’s ability to protect its environment and evaluates the opportunities for reform. More broadly, this research seeks to identify the variation and synergies that exist in environmental capacity across the post-Soviet space.

Dr. Ellie Martus will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 13 June, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen.

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The paper examines the evolution of Moscow’s policy towards the other former Soviet republics from 1992 to the present. Over the course of the last two and a half decades, Moscow has pursued confrontational policies towards some neighboring states, while it has adopted a more cooperative approach towards others. There are also significant changes over time. To account for these variations, I present a realist theory that sheds light on the neighborhood policies of major powers. In brief, my argument is that major powers face strong system-level incentives to pursue regional primacy – that is, to establish some control over the foreign-policy orientation of neighboring small states. Towards that end, they employ different tools and tactics, depending on the level of external pressure. Yet, the ability of major powers to act upon system-level incentives and external pressures also depends on a sufficient level of state capacity. My analysis demonstrates that the interplay of these three factors – system-level incentives, external pressures, and state capacity – goes a long way to explain the overall pattern and development of Russia’s neighborhood policy over the last 25 years.

Dr. Elias Götz will present his work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Tuesday 18 June, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Katri Pynnöniemi.

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Two post-communist countries, Russia and China have kept some similar social and political features although they have chosen different transitional paths. Both countries have experienced high-speed economic growth in the first decade of this century, which has brought a common social phenomenon: a rising middle class. This rising middle class has played a positive role in the economic growth and political stability in the two countries. However, the economic slowdown in recent years has made middle class face increasing economic risks and uncertainties, and also has been changing their social and political attitudes. My research is trying to explore changes in social and political attitudes of middle classes in Russia and China, and examine the function of the middle class in social-political transition in these countries.

Professor Chunling Li will present her work at the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar on Thursday 27 June, 2019 at 14:15 in the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room, Unioninkatu 33, Helsinki). The event is chaired by Professor Markku Kivinen.

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