Visiting Fellows 2016-2017

In the academic year 2016–2017, sixteen scholars were invited onto the Aleksanteri Visiting Fellows Programme.
Stacy Closson

Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars

 “Russian Behavior in the Arctic: Regional, Middle or Hegemonic Power?”

(April - May 2017)


Dr. Stacy Closson is a Global Fellow with the Kennan Institute in Washington, D.C., where she has also previously worked as a Kennan Fellow. Prior to her current appointment, Dr. Closson was an Assistant Professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. She received her PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science in International Relations.  Dr. Closson was also a Transatlantic Post-Doctoral Fellow in think tanks in Switzerland and Germany. From 1996-2002 she worked in the US Department of Defense as a political-military analyst.  Dr. Closson has been named an “Emerging Leader in Environmental and Energy Policy” by the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C.  Last year, she was a Fulbright Fellow at National Chengchi University, Department of Diplomacy in Taipei, Taiwan.  Her most recent book with MIT Press is 'Energy, Economics, and Geopolitical Futures.'

Short description of ongoing research:

Russian foreign and security policy is unclear in the Arctic. Some argue that Russia is seeking to define its own Chinese like nine-dash line to ensure access to future resources and seafaring lanes, while discouraging others from doing the same. Others note that Russia is cooperating with other Arctic states in delineating underwater borders.  What appears lacking is a more rigorous assessment of Russia's foreign policy making on the Arctic and what this says about Russia's foreign policy position. What does Russia's Arctic policy say about the type of state it wishes to be in geopolitical terms? Does it behave more or less like a certain type of power? Is the Arctic an extension of Russian regional Arctic identity or an attempt to serve as a constructive middle power in leading developments based on international law?  At the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Closson will continue her review of Russian foreign and security documents and official statements on Russia’s Arctic strategy, and match objectives to actions.  Interviews with, and feedback from, Russian experts in Helsinki and research institutes in Moscow will support her study.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, Daria Gritsenko

Linda J. Cook

Brown University, USA

“Social Policy in the Russian Federation: Directions, Policy Processes, Outcomes, Prospects”

(June 2017)

Biography: Linda J. Cook received her Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1985. She is Professor of Political Science Department and Associate of the Davis Center at Harvard University.  Cook authored The Soviet Social Contract and Why it Failed: Welfare Policy and Workers’ Politics from Brezhnev to Yeltsin (Harvard University Press, 1993), Postcommunist Welfare States: Reform Politics in Russia and Eastern Europe (Cornell, 2007; 2013) and numerous other publications.  She is currently working on a research project, “Social Policy in the Russian Federation:  Directions, Policy Processes, Outcomes, Prospects,” funded by the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development, (UNRISD).  The project focuses on social policy-making, implementation and outcomes, as well as recent efforts to involve social sector NGOs in delivery of state-funded social services. 

Short description of ongoing research:

The project that Professor Cook will be working on during her fellowship at the Aleksanteri Institute, is funded by the UNRISD (United Nations Research Institute on Social Development) and has two main components. The first focuses on the directions of Russia’s social policy from 2005 through 2015, particularly the politics and processes of social policy-making,  implementation and outcomes. The main argument is that policy-making processes and economic policy choices have limited the effectiveness of Russia’s social policy expenditures and reform efforts, specifically that a narrowly-dominated, bureaucratic social policy process, largely excluding society, and often giving limited voice to experts, produces failed reforms and poor returns on welfare effort (i.e., poor outcomes relative to levels of expenditure in international comparisons).

The project involves a systematic study of overall social policy directions, achievements in improving welfare, and reform failures.  Three sub-sector case studies will cover policies on support for mothers and children including health care and pro-natalist policies; support for pensioners; and services for people with disabilities. These three welfare sub-sectors are selected because they include the major areas of welfare expenditure (i.e., health care and pensions); they affect vulnerable groups, especially women engaged in care work; they have mixes of state, private and civil society providers, and all three feature active societal organizations.  In addition to a Federation-wide overview, researchers based in Russia are conducting field work at three sites: Moscow, Russia’s major urban center, Samara, an industrial region, and the Karelian Republic, a declining rural region, in order to capture the variation in social service provision across Russia’s political economy.

The second focus of the project is implementation of a major new Federal Law, “On the basis of social services for citizens in the Russian Federation,” which came into force in 2015. The law provides for NGOs and other civil society organizations to take part in delivering social services guaranteed by the state, with financing from the state budget.  One purpose of the research project is to assess the effects of this initiative as it is implemented, asking whether it can link state and society in ways that improve the outcomes of welfare effort. This initiative, which builds on several earlier, more limited measures to provide state financing for social sector NGO, enhances the role of one sub-sector of civil society, those working in the social sector, even as political and civil rights-oriented civil society organizations are subject to tighter restrictions.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Meri Kulmala, Markku Kivinen

Oleksandr Fisun

V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine

“Ukraine’s Neopatrimonial Democracy after the Euromaidan Revolution”

(mid-April - mid-June 2017)


Oleksandr Fisun is Professor of Political Science and Department Head at the V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University in Ukraine. His primary research interests are comparative politics and democratic theory. He has held visiting fellowships at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute (Washington DC), the National Endowment for Democracy, (Washington DC), The Centre for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at the University of Toronto, and the Ellison Center for Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies at the University of Washington (Seattle). He has published Democracy, Neopatrimonialism, and Global Transformations (Kharkiv, 2006), as well as numerous book chapters and articles on comparative democratization, neopatrimonialism, regime change in post-Soviet Eurasia, and Ukrainian politics. Areas of expertise: Democratization, Informal Politics, Hybrid Regimes, Ukraine.

Short description of ongoing research

The research project, which I will carry out at the Aleksanteri Institute, forms a part of a wider book-length manuscript on the post-Soviet neopatrimonial regimes and analyzes the specific case of Ukraine’s political development after the Euromaidan Revolution of 2014. My initial findings on Ukraine politics before and after the Euromaidan have already been published in a series of policy memos for PONARS Eurasia network and the current project investigates Ukraine’s post-Euromaidan regime of “neopatrimonial” democracy further in more systematic and comprehensive way.

The project is devoted to the analysis of the Ukrainian political system after the Euromaidan revolution and the breakdown of Viktor Yanukovych’s super-presidential regime in February 2014. I intend to explore the key party system and constitutional change, the reconfiguration of patron-client networks around the new formal (president, premier) and informal (oligarchs/regional barons/warlords) centers of power, intensification of party competition with particular attention to the fraction contention within the ruling elite.

Although immediately after the Euromaidan new democratic elites came to power, informal institutions continue to dominate the formal ones, and the patron-client ties, personal loyalty, and clan “membership” still persist as organizing principles of the system. These patrimonial principles determine the formation of political parties, the majority of appointments to public office, and the structuring of relations among political players at the national and regional level. As a result, the political regime that emerged following the Euromaidan may be defined as a “neopatrimonial” democracy, in which multiple patron-client oligarchic networks compete through formal electoral mechanisms, but their primary goals still focus on capturing positions to control sources of rents. Paradoxically, however, this new neopatrimonial democracy has fostered the creation of formal and informal obstacles to the development of a super-presidential regime and transition to personal rule (mainly through the divided premier-presidential system and the continued role of patronage networks).

During the fellowship at the Aleksanteri Institute, I expect to complete a part of my book devoted to neopatrimonial democracy in Ukraine after the Euromaidan and prepare a series of policy papers and op-eds on Ukrainian politics for a wider audience.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Vladimir Gel’man, Mark Teramae

Åse B. Grødeland

Fafo, Oslo, Norway

Russian legal culture

(mid-November 2016 - mid-January 2017)


Åse B. Grødeland is Senior Researcher at Fafo (Oslo). She holds a PhD and an M.Phil from University of Glasgow and a Cand.Mag-degree from University of Oslo. Grødeland has previously held positions at University of Glasgow, the Norwegian Institute of Urban and Regional Research (Oslo), and the Chr. Michelsen Institute (Bergen). From 2001-02 she was based at the International Crisis Group’s Central Asia office in Osh, Kyrgyzstan, where she worked as Senior Analyst.

Grødeland’s research primarily focuses on corruption, covering petty- and grand corruption, as well as informal practice and corruption in a wide range of countries in the Former Soviet Union, East Central Europe, South East Europe and the West Balkans. In recent years she has primarily conducted research on legal culture in various countries across Europe. Her most recent book, European legal cultures in Transition (co-authored with W. L. Miller), was published by Cambridge University Press last year. 

Short description of ongoing research:

During my stay at the Aleksanteri Institute I will be working on a monograph on Russian legal culture. The monograph, which will be co-authored by Professor Leslie T. Holmes and myself, will be based on partial data collected as part of an international research project entitled ‘Legal Culture, Corruption and Law Enforcement: the Russian Case’. The project is funded by the Research Council of Norway’s NORRUSS-program and carried out in collaboration with University of Melbourne (Professor Leslie T. Holmes), University of Maryland (Professor Eric Uslaner), The Kryshtanovskaya Laboratory (Dr Olga Kryshtanovskaya) and Levada.  

Project team members are currently working on several project publications, including two monographs. Whilst in Helsinki I will be working on three chapters for one of these monographs: Chapters on the Concept/Meaning of Law; on the Role/Status of Law and on External Influences on Russian Legal Culture. More specifically, I will conduct a literature survey (English & Russian language sources) on Russian legal culture more generally, and on notions of law, the role of law and legal transfers. I will also draft my part of the three chapters of the monograph – combining findings from the literature survey with partial qualitative and quantitative data collected in the Russian Federation as part of our project.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala, Vladimir Gel'man

Stefan Guth

University of Bern, Switzerland

"Oasis of the Future. The Atomic City of Shevchenko/Aktau, 1959-2019"

(August - October 2016)


Stefan Guth is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of History at Bern University. He has held teaching positions at Bern and St. Gallen, and visiting scholarships at Leipzig and Stanford. His archival research to date has taken him to Germany, Poland, Russia and Kazakhstan. His academic interests focus on the co-production (Jasanoff) of orders of knowledge and socio-political orders in twentieth-century Central and Eastern Europe. With his Ph.D. thesis on German-Polish relationships in the twentieth century, Guth has offered a case study in the political history of historiography that was awarded the Klaus Mehnert prize by German Society of Eastern European Studies (DGO), and has recently appeared in print (Geschichte als Politik, 2015).

Short description of on-going research:

In his postdoctoral project, entitled Oasis of the future – The Atomic City of Shevchenko/Aktau, 1959–2019, Guth investigates the role of nuclear technopolitics (Hecht) in the Soviet Union and beyond in a long term perspective. Shevchenko started life as a secret uranium mining camp for the Soviet A-bomb project in the Western Kazakh desert, but was later transformed into a showcase of atomic-powered Communism (Josephson) that relied on cutting-edge nuclear technology to support a modernist model city of eventually 200,000 inhabitants. Focusing on an urban microcosm, the project will tightly integrate the technological, environmental, political, social and cultural dimensions of the Soviet nuclear project – aspects that have hitherto mostly been studied in isolation from each other. At the same time, the project is conceptualized as a multi-level analysis of Soviet technopolitics in its local, all-Union and international dimensions.

At the Aleksanteri Institute Dr. Guth will study the global entanglement of the atomic city on the basis of rich archival resources that have already been collected in Moscow, Aktau and Stanford. Shevchenko's international and transnational dimension resulted from its status as a focal point of techno-diplomacy across the Iron Curtain; the nuclear technologies it boasted (breeder and seawater desalination technology) were core fields of Soviet cooperation with socialist and capitalist countries alike. Furthermore, the city served as a showcase of Soviet technological prowess vis-à-vis the Third World. International entanglement continued after 1991, when Shevchenko's aging reactor and sizable stockpile of weapons-grade plutonium spurred international decommissioning and non-proliferation efforts. During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, Guth will draft an English-language article on the topic and seek feedback from the Institute's experts. The article will also form the basis of one of the five main chapters of the final book.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, Markku Kangaspuro

Marcin Kaczmarski

University of Warsaw, Poland

“Two Ways of Influence-building: Comparative analysis of the Eurasian Economic Union and the New Silk Road”

(April - May 2017)


Marcin Kaczmarski is Assistant Professor at the Institute of International Relations, University of Warsaw. He was a Visiting Scholar at the Aberystwyth University in 2013 and a Taiwan Fellow at the Chengchi University in 2016. He has combined his scholarly research with policy analysis for the Warsaw-based think-tank, the Centre for Eastern Studies (OSW), where he worked in the Russian Department (2006-2012) and, since 2014, has been heading the China-EU Programme. His research interests focus on the Russian-Chinese relationship and Russia’s foreign policy, with special reference to domestic sources of Russia’s international conduct and Russia’s role in international crises. His recent publications include a monograph Russia-China relations in the post-crisis international order (Routledge 2015) and articles in International Politics, Problems of Post-communism and Demokratizatsiya. He blogs on current developments in Russia-China relations at

Short description of ongoing research:

Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and China’s New Silk Road (NSR) have emerged as prominent symbols of Moscow and Beijing’s growing international ambitions. On the surface, the two projects are of economic nature. With the EEU, Russia attempts to forge close economic integration in the post-Soviet space. The legal-institutional framework of the project as well as its major economic assumptions are modelled after the European Union. China’s New Silk Road aims at creating land and maritime infrastructure that would enable better connectivity between China and Europe as well as foster economic cooperation with China’s neighbours. However, the importance of the EEU and NSR goes far beyond the economic realm. The Eurasian Union and the New Silk Road represent Russia and China’s most sophisticated attempts to-date at rearranging international politics at the regional level. EEU and NSR can be interpreted as two distinct sets of practices, employed by Russia and China with the aim of building political-economic influence resilient to domestic shifts in their respective neighbourhoods. My research asks what kind of regional orders Russia and China have been pursuing by means of EEU and NSR.

The specific aspects of my research I plan to develop at the Aleksanteri Institute concern the type and components of influence exerted by Russia and China. I will ask how Russian and Chinese elites conceptualise influence and what are their expectations with regard to the ultimate outcome of their respective influence-building processes. The implementation of the Eurasian Economic Union and the New Silk Road in Central Asia will be the focal point of my research.  The juxtaposition of narratives on the projects with concrete steps in economic and political realms, will allow for understanding what kind of influence Moscow and Beijing are projecting into the region. I am specifically interested in the extent to which the principles of European integration have impacted on Russia’s notion of influence.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Hanna Smith, Tuomas Forsberg

Ilya Kalinin

Saint Petersburg State University, Russia

“The Politics of Identity and (De)Modernisation Processes in Contemporary Russia”

(January 2017)


Ilya Kalinin is an Associate Professor at Department of Liberal Arts and Sciences (, St.-Petersburg State University. PhD (2002) Saint Petersburg State University. Dissertation: “Russian Literary Utopia, XVIII-XX Centuries: The Philosophy and Poetics of the Genre.”  His researches focuses on early Soviet Russia’s intellectual and cultural history, practices of self-fashioning of Soviet Subject and on the historical and cultural politics of contemporary Russia as well (post-soviet social and cultural transformations; contemporary Russian politics of history; modenization/demodernization and politics of identity in contemporary Russia).

He is editor-in-chief of the Moscow-based intellectual journal “Emergency Rations: Debates on Politics and Culture (Neprikosnovennyj Zapas/NZ: Debaty o politike i culture)” and two series of books published in Moscow Publishing House “New Literary Observer” ( He has published in a wide range of journals including Ab Imperio, Baltic Worlds, Sign Systems Studies, Social Sciences, Russian Literature, Russian Studies, Russian Studies in Literature, Slavonica, Wiener Slawistischer Almanach, New Literary Observer, etc. His book “History as Art of Articulation. Russian Formalists and Revolution” is recently forthcoming in New Literary Observer Publishing House (Moscow).

Short description of ongoing research:

One of the central conceptual goals of my research is articulation of a description of culture (or cultural production) as a space for the interaction and interrelationship of two opposed tendencies. The first of these may be characterized as the appearance of various zones of cultural autonomy—practices of self-expression and subjectivization, creative work with traditions, the performative reinvention of cultural legacies—that collectively contribute to the increase in complexity and variety of available social and cultural positions. The second we may refer to as the drive to exert state control over culture in order to endure the ideological hegemony of the state and to transform culture into a resource for state patriotism and normative political, national and cultural identification. Ironically, both of these tendencies, which exist to various degrees in the cultural space of contemporary Russia, are expressed in terms of the concept of modernization. For this reason, culture becomes an arena for struggle over the meaning of this latter concept—a struggle in which cultural and political conservatism, which more and more dominates in Russia in recent years, is gaining the upper hand. My aim is to trace the characteristic features of the state’s administrative efforts in the area of cultural production back to the total infrastructural dependence of the Russian economic and social spheres on extraction and exploitation of natural resources. To my mind, the specificity of post-Soviet modernization derives precisely from this interconnection. 

The current regime of external isolation, magnified by an internal aspiration towards isolationism that is characteristic for a significant element of the Russian elite, inevitably transforms culture (in particular, understood as “national traditions,” “the legacy of the past,” “collective memory,” “historical experience,” “cultural codes,” etc.) into an important strategic resource on which the state of necessity depends. In a situation of disjuncture from the global market of capital and technologies, Russia is forced to focus on its own internal resources, which consist of hydrocarbons and… cultural legacies. This is the root cause conditioning the drive for a more intensive cultural politics (a technology for the extraction and exploitation of cultural legacies), which is being more and more urgently expressed and recognized by Russian political elites and cultural institutions connected with the state.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma, Jussi Lassila

Luke March

University of Edinburgh, UK

“Nationalist Values Projection in the Foreign Policy of Great Powers: Russia, China and the United States”

(April 2017)


Luke March is Senior Lecturer in Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics at Politics and International Relations and Deputy Director of the Princess Dashkova Russian Centre, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  He is the author of five books on Russia and European Politics, including The Communist Party in Post-Soviet Russia, Russia and Islam: State, Society and Radicalism,   Radical Left Parties in Europe, and Europe’s Radical Left: From the Margins to the Mainstream?, as well as over 30 articles for journals such as Party Politics, Slavic Review, Comparative European Politics and Europe-Asia Studies. His general research interests include:  the politics of the former Soviet Union, especially Russian and Moldovan politics, political parties in the FSU, democratisation and institution-building; the radical left in Europe; populism; communism and Russian nationalism.

Short description of ongoing research:

My research plan at Aleksanteri is entitled ‘Nationalist Values Projection in the Foreign Policy of Great Powers: Russia, China and the United States’. It is part of a longer-term project beginning in 2016 on ‘Nationalism in the foreign policy of Great Powers’.  As the titles suggest, the aim is to position the role of nationalism within foreign policy formulation and conduct. It will critique those paradigms that assume that Russia is uniquely nationalist in its conduct, as a supposedly consistently aggressive, revisionist power, motivated by a strong sense of grievance and wish to project its power abroad, and will compare it with other ‘Great Powers’ to assess the unique and the general in Russian foreign policy. The immediate focus is to produce a research monograph that analyses the relationship between nationalism and foreign policy in depth, and which challenges and adapts existing heuristic frameworks. In addition to focusing on nationalism and foreign policy as the central line of analysis, the key innovation is its comparative angle. It is my contention that analysing Russian nationalism without awareness of the comparative context risks ‘Orientalising’ Russia, whereby its nationalistic proclivities are seen uncritically as deviations from the ‘normal’ path espoused by Western states.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Hanna Smith, Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus

Galina Miazhevich

University of Leicester, UK

“Hierarchy of Intolerance: Populist “Othering” in the post-Soviet Mediascape”

(March - April 2017)


I joined the department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester as a Lecturer in January 2013. Previously I was the Gorbachev Media Research Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK (2008-2012) and before that a Research Associate on an AHRC-funded project led by Professor Stephen Hutchings at the University of Manchester, UK (2006-2008). I convened the Gorbachev Lectures on Press Freedom held at Christ Church, University of Oxford in 2011. I worked on several projects dealing with media representations of Islam as security threat; multiculturalism in Europe; democracy in post-communist Europe; gender, media and emergent forms of post-Soviet identity and nation branding of post-Soviet states. I have extensively published in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored several monographs. My articles reflect my multidisciplinary background, bridging cultural, development and media studies.

Short description of ongoing research:

This research project was conceived during my employment at the University of Oxford where I was Gorbachev Media Research Fellow (2008-2012). It was at that time when I have identified a marked disjunction between the hollow, official post-Soviet media discourse of racial tolerance and the alarming growth in xenophobic extremism at the local level which it masks. I wrote an article in Televisions and New Media using the case of Pozner’s talk show Vremena highlighting how these inter-ethnic tensions are mediated on Russian television (2011). Being originally from Belarus, I decided to use Belarus as a case study for my research inquiry into the issue of post-Soviet populist extremism. I stress the still unrecognised encounter of popular xenophobia and state rhetoric as a key to repositioning ‘Belarusianness’ at the core of the post-Soviet experience. The idea of this book is to combine my knowledge of Belarusian socio-cultural context with the expertise in media coverage of inter-ethnic cohesion issues and post-Soviet nation building. The fieldwork data (interviews with media practitioners) and the ongoing media monitoring will form the basis of the book, which I intend to write up as a monograph during my fellowship at the Aleksanteri Institute in spring 2017.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Katja Lehtisaari, Jussi Lassila

Ulla Pape

University of Bremen, Germany

“Confronting HIV/AIDS in Russia and Ukraine: A Comparative study on epidemic impact and policy response”

(February - March 2017)


Ulla Pape is university lecturer at the University of Bremen. Previously, she was post-doctoral researcher at Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands) and senior research fellow in the Laboratory for Nonprofit Sector Studies at National Research University Higher School of Economics (Russia). She studied Slavonic languages, Eastern European History and Political Science at the University of Münster (Germany) and Humanitarian Action at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). In 2012, she received a Ph.D. from the University of Groningen with a thesis on „Civil Society and the Politics of HIV/AIDS in Russia“, in which she studied the collaboration of civil society organisations with Russian state institutions and their impact on domestic policy-making. Ulla’s research interests include social policy and civil society development in the post-Soviet space.

Short description of ongoing research:

The research project aims to analyze the difference in the policy response to HIV/AIDS in Russia and Ukraine, two countries that are hotspots for the rise of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. According to UNAIDS, they account for more than 90% of new infections in the region. The epidemics in the two countries show many similarities. In both Russia and Ukraine, the spread of HIV/AIDS is closely linked to injecting drug users and other vulnerable groups such as prison inmates, sex workers and men who have sex with men. Whereas Ukraine has made tentative progress in stabilizing HIV/AIDS by focusing on prevention among key groups, the situation has been worsening in Russia, where government institutions have been opposing prevention programmes for vulnerable populations.

The research project sets out to understand why we can observe a difference in policy response in two neighbouring countries that are confronted by a similar policy challenge. Based on the impact model, developed by Barnett and Whiteside (2006), the research project will address the following research question: How can the differences between Russian and Ukraine in their government policy response to HIV/AIDS be explained? In the comparative analysis of governmental policies, the research project will focus on four interrelated dimensions: (1) institutional framework, (2) funding, both by government and external donors (3) cooperation with international organizations, including the preparedness to discuss and consider evidence-based interventions, and (4) involvement of civil society actors. These four dimensions are crucial for understanding the policy response to HIV/AIDS.

The project will make an original contribution to the existing literature on the social aspects of HIV/AIDS in Russia and Ukraine. Data collection will be conducted during several visits in 2016. During the research stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, I plan to analyse the data material, discuss the research project with the institute’s experts and prepare a journal publication.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Meri Kulmala, Andrey Starodubtsev

Anna Paretskaya

University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

“Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union” (mid-May - mid-July 2017)


Anna Paretskaya is a political and cultural sociologist, currently teaching at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Her primary research is in political and economic liberalizations in Europe and Eurasia in the late twentieth century. Her work on this topic has won awards from the Council for European Studies and the American Sociological Association’s sections on theory, comparative-historical sociology, and sociology of culture. She is currently working on a book manuscript titled Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union. Her other current research projects focus on the culture of recent political protest movements in Wisconsin (2011) and Russia (2011–2012). She is also a coeditor of the international journal Laboratorium: Russian Review of Social Research.

Short description of ongoing research:

At the Aleksanteri Institute, I will be working on a portion of my book project Middle Class and the Twilight of Socialism: Discourses of Politics and Culture in the Late Soviet Union. This books is an intervention into neoclassical sociology, a paradigm that emerged following the demise of socialism in Europe and which centers on the origins and varieties of postsocialist capitalisms. Drawing on variety of historical sources (official and underground publications, government documents, opinion polls, etc.), it shows that during late socialism the Communist Party of the Soviet Union inadvertently promoted individuality, self-realization, autonomy, and privacy—the values indicative more of post–World War II capitalism and the Western middle class than of the proletariat of socialism’s revolutionary period. These values resonated with a growing segment of the Soviet urban population, who were more educated and skilled, upwardly mobile, and consumerist. The nascent Soviet middle class became an “accidental agent” of capitalism when its members increasingly asserted their aspirations for and their right to individuality and personal success, in order to achieve which they engaged in quasi-market-like practices in politics, cultural production and consumption, and the economy, forming, spontaneously, networks autonomous from the socialist state. Among other findings, this project argues that the intricate relationship between the ideals of collectivism and postcollectivism played a role not only in the declining commitment to socialism on the part of Soviet citizens but also in what followed socialism’s demise, especially in terms of chances for the emergence of the culture of capitalism and the culture of democratic politics.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Katalin Miklóssy, Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus

Olga Shevchenko

Williams College, USA

“Snapshot Histories: The Afterlife of Socialism in Russian Family Albums”

(May - June 2017)


Olga Shevchenko is Associate Professor of Sociology at the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at Williams College (Massachusetts), where she teaches courses on social theory, postsocialism, sociology of consumer culture, visual culture, and social memory. She is the author of Crisis and the Everyday in Postsocialist Moscow (2009, Indiana University Press), and the editor of Double Exposure: Memory and Photography (2014, Transaction Publishers). Her articles on post-Soviet political culture, consumption and family photographic archives have appeared in such journals as Europe-Asia Studies, Journal of Consumer Culture, Slavonica and Social Psychology Quarterly, as well as a number of edited volumes and collections.

Short description of ongoing research:

Dr. Shevchenko will spend time at the Aleksanteri Institute completing a book project on the popular memories of the Soviet era in Russia, as viewed through the prism of family stories and photographic collections. This manuscript, provisionally titled Snapshot Histories: The Afterlife of Socialism in Russian Family Photographs, draws on a combination of in-depth interviews with a cross-section of Russians, ethnographic fieldwork, and analysis of images from specific domestic archives (collected and analyzed in collaboration with Dr. Oksana Sarkisova of Central European University). The book builds on a number of papers that Shevchenko and Sarkisova have previously published or presented on topic such as: Soviet amateur travel photography, generational conflicts of interpretation of the family past, personal album as a biographical project, Soviet-era portraits in Russian domestic interiors, and a number of others.

During her two months at the Institute, Dr. Shevchenko plans to complete the final chapter of the manuscript, dedicated to the lacunae and silences that inevitably accompany any commentary on personal photography in a politically charged context. She will also synthesize and revise the existing chapters with an eye to the overarching themes of the book: tensions between the official politics of remembering and private family memories in Russia, the dynamics of generational exchange, and finally the theme of photography as a “banal,” or everyday manifestation of ideology.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sanna Turoma, Markku Kangaspuro

Dilyara Suleymanova

University of Zurich, Switzerland

"Schooling the sense of belonging: education, language and politics of identity in post-Soviet Tatarstan, Russia"

(January 2017)


Dilyara Suleymanova is a postdoctoral researcher affiliated with the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Zurich. She received her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Zurich with the fellowship from the Asia and Europe University Research Priority Program. Her dissertation, based on an ethnographic fieldwork in public and religious schools of a small town in the Republic of Tatarstan, explores how Russian educational reforms play out locally and how education is implicated in the central, regional and local politics of belonging. Her research interests include politics of education and language, ethnicity and identity, post-Soviet Islam and Islamic education as well as more recently studies of conflict in the context of migration/diaspora. She published among others on Islamic education in Tatarstan, on politics of language and on Tatar youth identities on social networking sites. Her article on politics of education in post-Soviet Russia is forthcoming in the journal Europe-Asia (2017).

Short description of ongoing research:

At the Aleksanteri Institute I will be working on completing my book project on the politics of education in post-Soviet Tatarstan, Russia. The overarching political framework of the study are the educational developments and reforms that were implemented in Russia since 2000 that changed center-region relations in Russia and strengthened the role of education in forming a national, state-centered identity. This book project looks at how these developments were received in Tatarstan and how they played out locally, in a small, multi-ethnic town in Tatarstan. As an anthropological study based on a long-term ethnographic fieldwork in two public schools and in a religious school (madrasa) (2009-2012), this project reveals the ways education is implicated in the central (federal), regional and local politics of identity and belonging. It gives a perspective on how local population on the ground – teachers, parents, schoolchildren – reacts to and deals with educational policies and developments. At the same time it offers micro-level ethnographic accounts of the ways belonging is transmitted, constructed, negotiated and challenged within the classrooms and beyond. While some of the most recent political developments that have affected the Russian school curriculum could not be included into the research, I hope to be able to obtain and include some data on it into the final manuscript.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Kaarina Aitamurto, Andrey Starodubtsev

Katya Tolstaya

VU University Amsterdam, the Netherlands

“Theology after Gulag”

(mid-May - mid-July 2017)


Katya Tolstaya is Founding Director of the Institute for the Academic Study of Eastern Christianity (INaSEC, 2010), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Visiting Professor at Lev Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Astana, Kazakhstan. She specializes in the revival of the Russian Orthodox Church and the impact of the Soviet legacy on post-Soviet Orthodoxy. Her main aim is to develop a post-Soviet theology with a Theology after Gulag as the first phase. Tolstaya was laureate of the prestigious VENI-grant (2009-2012) from The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for studying the transformation and (re-)invention of Orthodox theology and practice in Russia and Ukraine. Tolstaya collaborates with a range of universities, scholars, NGO’s and stakeholders in the post-Soviet space and beyond. Currently she leads two research groups: an NWO-funded international network project ‘Orthodox Kaleidoscope’, and an international research group on ‘Theology after Gulag’ (see

Short description of ongoing research:

In most post-Soviet countries, and primarily in Russia, there is still no broad societal and theological reflection on the Soviet legacy. This has direct geopolitical consequences. The long-term goal of my INaSEC (see is to initiate the totally new field of post-Soviet theology that will contribute to processing the past and present in these countries.

As a first step, I am initiating a ‘Theology after Gulag’ (ThaG). ThaG focuses on the unprocessed Soviet past, on the broad array of mind-sets, religious, political, and socio-historical factors, which engendered the camps and now hinder reflection on their causes and implications. My aim is to map the societal, academic, and theological conditions for ThaG – i.e., why it has not yet emerged, and what is required for its emergence. In support of this research I lead two international network projects within INaSEC, one on methodology in post-Soviet and Orthodoxy studies, and one on ‘Theology after Gulag’.

My research combines a spectrum of fields, amongst others Western and Orthodox theology, literature, philosophy, formal logic, and microstudies. The main question for ThaG is: what theological model will work in post-Soviet contexts to contribute to processing the past? My research explores conditions for a viable model in four main directions:

1. By learning from ‘theologies after’ - the interdisciplinary and interreligious theologies, e.g. Theologie nach Auschwitz, post-apartheid theology. Theologies-after engage with the ‘ultimate’, i.e. most difficult, questions: societal (victim-perpetrator-bystander, guilt) and theological (God’s existence and religious experience after radical evil).

2. By developing a model ‘tailored’ to post-Soviet contexts, ThaG poses own ‘ultimate’ questions for the specific theological, socio-political, and academic post-Soviet context.

3. By directly engaging with stakeholders.

4. By methodological research for a new approach to the study of religion.

During my visit at Aleksanteri I will work on publications on ThaG and consult the excellent Aleksanteri library. Also I intend to formally and informally encounter with colleagues from relevant disciplines and research fields.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Elina Kahla, Kaarina Aitamurto

Rustam Urinboyev

Lund University, Sweden

“Migration and Legal Culture in Russia: Central Asian Migrant Workers’ Everyday Experiences of Law in Moscow”

(September – October 2016)


Rustam Urinboyev is a postdoctoral research fellow at Lund University in Sweden. Rustam has a PhD in sociology of law (2013) from Lund University. His main research interests focus on state-society relations, pre-Soviet (Islamic) traditional governance structures in Central Asia, corruption and legal pluralism, law and society in Central Asia, and migration governance in Russia. He has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in post-Soviet Uzbekistan where his doctoral thesis examined the interlinkages between traditional governance structures and political stability.

Short description of ongoing research:

Rustam’s research focuses on the everyday life and socio-legal integration of Central Asian migrant workers in Moscow, Russia, specifically investigating how migrants negotiate and maneuver around Russian legal system (e.g. police, immigration officials, border guards) and informal structures (e.g. intermediaries, protection rackets). He is currently developing a new research project on protection rackets, "street life” and informal justice in Moscow, Russia. During his research stay at the Institute, Rustam will begin work on a book project entitled Migration and Legal Culture in Russia: Central Asian Migrant Workers’ Everyday Experiences of Law in Moscow that will be based on the ethnographic material he collected in Moscow and Fergana (Uzbekistan) during 2014-2015.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala, Kaarina Aitamurto