TITLE OF DOCENT
Titles of docent affiliated with the Aleksanteri Institute are either docentships in Russian and Eurasian Studies, or docentships in Eastern European Studies. No further specifications are used. Apllications for the title of docent are invited annually in November. This page provides instructions specific to the Aleksanteri Institute. Please see also the instructions published by the Faculty of Arts.

On this page are also listed the current holders of the title of Docent at the Aleksanteri Institute.
Instructions for applicants
Russian and Eurasian Studies

The Aleksanteri Institute has conducted research and provided education in the field of Russian and Eurasian Studies since 1996, and in association with the Institute’s affiliation with the Faculty of Arts, the field also became one of the faculty’s disciplines. At the University of Helsinki, Russian and Eurasian Studies comprises a multi- and cross-disciplinary field that examines the development and history of contemporary societies within its geographical scope. The research and teaching profile of Russian and Eurasian Studies also looks at societies within its focal region in the context of wider global phenomena. This approach entails analysing how the studied region has been impacted by, for example, environmental changes, democracy, wellbeing, cultural revolutions, transnational security and the changing economy, as well as the role of the region itself in studying these phenomena.

Eastern European Studies

The field of Eastern European Studies became a specialised discipline for the first time in 1996 when the Aleksanteri Institute was founded, and related teaching activities were launched in 1998. In 2017, the field was established as a discipline of the Faculty of Arts. To this day, Eastern European Studies forms a unique research and teaching entity at the national level. Geographically, the field is defined as comprising the eastern member states of the European Union, Western Balkan states and the eastern neighbour states of the EU (Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia).

Eastern European Studies is a cross-disciplinary field that takes the wide temporal scope of social development into account, as well as the meaning and interrelations between different regions and societal dimensions. The field also strives for comparability with research in the fields of Russian and Eurasian Studies, and European Studies. Eastern European Studies focuses on analysing global phenomena, which it approaches through core themes like political systems and legal regimes, civil society, welfare state, transnational security, conditions for innovative economic development, environmental questions and cultural ruptures.

Docentship has to be applied for through the Faculty of Arts. Aleksanteri Institute can advocate for applications addressed to its fields of dis­cip­line. 

The Aleksanteri Institute follows the following docentship procedure: before the candidate submits their application for the title of docent to the Faculty of Arts, they send a one-page motivation letter to the relevant discipline coordinator, in which they explain

  1. in which field they are applying for the title of docent
  2. why they are applying for the title of docent
  3. how their research profile matches the focus areas of the Aleksanteri Institute, and/or how their profile contributes to the Institute in addition to the focus areas
  4. how they will seek to participate in and benefit from the activities of the Aleksanteri Institute if they are granted the title of docent. 

In addition, the candidate is requested to submit a one-page curriculum, which describes how the candidate seeks to further teaching in the field at the University of Helsinki. The required documents also include an up-to-date CV and list of publications in accordance with the formatting guidelines of the Faculty of Arts.

The department will assess the need for a docentship as well as the suitability of the candidate’s profile from the perspective of the department’s research and teaching activities. If the department supports the docentship, the candidate must submit the actual application for the title of docent to the Faculty of Arts in accordance with its instructions during the application period. 

Docents at the Aleksanteri Institute

Meri Kulmala, Docent in Russian and Eurasian Studies

I am a sociologist and currently work as a researcher and research coordinator of the Helsinki Inequality Initiative (INEQ). I have worked on issues related to pots-socialism (namely), welfare state and civil society development and social welfare. I am leading an international interdisciplinary research project on child welfare reform in Russia and involved in another project exploring youth well-being in the Arctic region in which I am responsible for the investigation of agency and well-being of young care leavers, among other methods through participatory research methods.

Abel Polese, Docent in Eastern European Studies

I am a Senior Research Fellow with DCU. Earlier I have been a Marie Curie Fellow at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany (2006-2008) and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (2008-2011). In 2012-2013 i worked as a policy analyst for the European Commission (DG Research).

I have also been a visiting professor to several universities in America (Harvard, Toronto, Manizales), Europe (Paris, Budapest, Dubrovnik, Moscow, Cagliari, Vilnius, Rijeka, Kyiv), Asia (Tezpur, JNU in Delhi, Konkpook in Daegu, Renmin in Beijing, Ritsumeikan and Tsukuba in Japan). Some may know me as the author of “The SCOPUS Diaries and the (il)logics of Academic Survival A Short Guide to Design Your Own Strategy and Survive Bibliometrics, Conferences, and Unreal Expectations in Academia” (2018).

Saara Ratilainen, Docent in Russian and Eurasian Studies

I hold a PhD in Russian Language and Culture and I work as a Senior Lecturer in Russian Language and Culture at Tampere University (Finland). Currently I lead the Academy of Finland funded research project Mediated Feminism(s) in Contemporary Russia (2021–2025) that explores the meanings, reception, and societal potential of feminist media discourses of Russophone media. 

My field of expertise covers Russian media and cultural studies, especially contemporary popular culture, digital networks, fan studies, and gender and feminist studies. My recent publications include ‘Culture in Putin’s Russia: Institutions, Industries, Policies’ (Cultural Studies, 2018 w/ Turoma and Trubina) and “Norway Reimagined: Popular Geopolitics and the Russophone Fans of Skam” (Nordicom Review 2020). I am a co-editor of an upcoming volume Geopolitics and Culture: Narrating Eastern European and Eurasian Worlds (Bloomsbury Academics, forthcoming w/Kaasik-Krogerus and Turoma).

Sanna Turoma, Docent in Russian and Eurasian Studies

I am currently a Professor of Russian Language and Cultural at Tampere University. Educated at the University of Helsinki and Columbia University (USA), I specialize in culture, literature and humanities in Russian area studies. My research and teaching interests span the interactions between culture and society, intellectual histories, and imperial and spatial knowledge production in the Eurasian context. In 2008–2020 I’ve worked as a researcher at Aleksanteri Institute.  

I am the author Brodsky Abroad: Empire, Tourism, Nostalgia (University of Wisconsin Press, 2010), in Russian Бродский за границей: империя, туризм, ностальгия (NLO, 2020, transl. Denis Akhapkin), and co-author of Venäläisen kirjallisuuden historia, [History of Russian literature], w/Kirsti Ekonen (Gaudeamus, 2012 & 2015); Empire Decentered: New Spatial Histories of Russia and the Soviet Union, w/ Maxim Waldstein (Ashgate, 2013); Cultural Forms of Protest in Russia, w/B.Beumers, A.Etkind, O.Gurova (Routledge, 2017); Religion, Expression, and Patriotism in Russia w/Kaarina Aitamurto and Slobodanka Vladiv-Glover (Ibidem Press, 2019); Russia as Civilization: Politics, Media, and Academia, with K. J. Mjør (Routledge, 2020). I am also co-editor of a forthcoming volume Geopolitics and Culture: Narrating Eastern European and Eurasian Worlds (Bloomsbury Academics, w/Kaasik-Krogerus and Ratilainen).

Rustamjon Urin­bo­yev, Docent in Russian and Eurasian Studies

Educated as a sociologist of law, I work at the intersection of sociology of law and ethnography, studying migration, corruption, governance, and penal institutions in the context of Russia and Central Asia. At the Aleksanteri Institute, I work as a Senior Researcher within the ERC-funded “Gulag Echoes” project led by Professor Judith Pallot. In addition, I am a principal investigator of the University of Helsinki-funded three year project “Non-Western Migration Regimes”.

My research focuses on 

  • transnational Muslim prisoners in Russian penal institutions
  • migration, shadow economy, and informal legal orders in non-Western migration contexts
  • law, society, and corruption in Central Asia.

I am the author of Migration and Hybrid Political Regimes: Navigating the Legal Landscape in Russia (2020), published by the University of California Press.