Visiting Fellows 2018-2019

In the academic year 2018–2019, sixteen scholars have been invited to the Aleksanteri Visiting Fellows Programme.
An, Sofiya

Deinstitutionalization of Child Welfare in Post-Soviet Contexts: A Comparative Analysis of Russia and Kazakhstan

In memory of Sofiya An (1966-2019)
Dr. Sofiya An visited the Aleksanteri Institute as a Visiting Fellow in May-June 2019. We were deeply saddened by her premature passing away later that year. It was our great privilege to have had her here, for our scholars to work with her, and for all of us to enjoy her presence, so full of sunshine, happiness, laughter, and optimism. Many of us are among the many in whose hearts she goes on living, in fond and loving memories.

Sofiya An was an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Nazarbayev University School of Humanities and Social Sciences (Astana, Kazakhstan). She received her Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University in New York City (2002) and her PhD from the University of Toronto (2014).  Her research interests included the changes in post-Soviet child welfare institutions as well as transnational institutional factors and Soviet institutional legacies that have shaped the policy process and policy outcomes. She was also interested in examining the development of professional social work and social service provision in the post-Soviet contexts.

Research project at the Aleksanteri Institute
Sofiya An’s research project focused on the deinstitutionalization of child welfare in the post-Soviet context. As all former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan has inherited the Soviet system of child protection, in which state residential institutions were the last resort for children whose parents failed to provide necessary care. While in the Soviet discourse, residential institutions were legitimized as an embodiment of the Soviet paternalistic state caring its children, within the UN rights-based paradigm, children’s residential institutions are viewed as inherently harmful for children and as a violation of children’s right to family care. Driven by UNICEF, deinstitutionalization of care for children and its replacement with different types of family care and community-based services were the key feature of the child welfare reform in the post-Soviet region (UNICEF, 2001).

Dr. An’s research project sought to add a comparative perspective to the analysis of factors shaping post-Soviet deinstitutionalization of child welfare systems. She worked with Dr. Meri Kulmala, an Academy of Finland Post-doctoral Researcher and a leader of the project A Child's Right to a Family: Deinstitutionalization of Child Welfare in Putin's Russia, on a joint research paper that compared the introduction, interpretation, and implementation of the deinstitutionalization policy in Kazakhstan and Russia. The purpose of this work was to identify differences, commonalities, and transnational institutional factors that shape policy processes and outcomes. This analysis led to formulating a grounded explanatory model of deinstitutionalization in the post-Soviet policy context drawn on case studies of Russia and Kazakhstan. This research was published in 2020 in journal Global Social Policy. (An, Sofia, and Meri Kulmala. “Global Deinstitutionalisation Policy in the Post-Soviet Space: A Comparison of Child-Welfare Reforms in Russia and Kazakhstan.” Global Social Policy, May 2020.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute were Meri Kulmala and Anna Tarasenko.

Beumers, Birgit

Integration or Isolation: Russia’s Film Industry in the European Context, 1991-2017

Time of visit: 15 September–15 December 2018

Dr. Birgit Beumers has taught at Bristol and Aberystwyth Universities in Russian Studies and Film Studies. She has specialised in Russian culture, especially cinema and theatre, and the cinemas of the former Soviet territories. Her publications include A History of Russian Cinema (2009) and Aleksandr Sokurov: Russian Ark (KinoSputnik 3, 2016); she has edited Directory of World Cinema: Russia (2010; 2014), A Companion to Russian Cinema (2016) and – with M. Rouland and G. Abikeyeva – Cinema in Central Asia: Rewriting Cultural Histories (2013). She is editor of the online quarterly KinoKultura and of Studies in Russian and Soviet Cinema (Taylor & Francis).

Current research project

This project will look at the nature of the film business in contemporary Russia with a view to assess whether production methods strive towards integration within European practices. It evaluates how Russia positions itself within or beyond a broader, global cultural-economic context through its film production. This makes the project innovative, because it approaches a national cinema (usually studied in isolation) in an international context; and because it considers film not only in terms of narrative and visual style, but also as a business. The research project is timely, because it scrutinizes Russia’s role as a player in a European, and global, culture and business over a period of political and economic change, in which the country has emerged from isolation and sought integration, only to return – in the context of recent political events and sanctions – once again to (cultural) politics of isolation.

Email: birgit.beumers[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Katja Lehtisaari, Sanna Turoma, Ira Österberg

Brunstedt, Jonathan

The Russian Myth of World War II and the Politics of National Identity from Stalin to Putin

Time of visit: March–May 2019 

Jonathan Brunstedt is Assistant Professor of Modern European History at Utah State University. His research centers on nationalism, war memory, and ideology in the Soviet Union and Communist bloc. Before arriving at the Aleksanteri Institute, Jonathan was among the inaugural March-of-the-Living Faculty Fellows—a program designed to support the development of Holocaust education at US universities. His research has been supported by the International Research & Exchanges Board IARO fellowship and the Kennan Institute, among other bodies, and he was the recipient of the Evan and Peggy Anderson Prize for his published work. Jonathan received his PhD (DPhil) and MPhil, with distinction, from the University of Oxford. He is currently completing a book on Soviet and post-Soviet memory of World War II and is engaged in a second book project on the entangled cultural legacies of the Vietnam and Soviet-Afghan wars.

Current research project

Dr. Brunstedt will use his Visiting Fellow period, firstly, to finalize his book manuscript, The Soviet Myth of World War II: The Politics of Patriotism in a Multinational State, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. The book challenges a widespread interpretation of Soviet war memory, which holds that it reinforced the Russocentric basis of Soviet identities. It conceptualizes the war’s public remembrance during the Soviet era as an official attempt to develop an inclusive source of all-Union patriotism and political mobilization that counteracted, rather than melded with, ethnonational forces and Russocentric hierarchical configurations. As the book demonstrates, Russian nationalist intellectuals and many high-ranking party officials were never satisfied with the war’s official veneration since it strongly differentiated between “Soviet” and “Russian” identities. These figures thus sought to chip away at the supranational pretentions of the Soviet war myth and develop a properly Russian national victory narrative. Although the Kremlin consistently resisted this Russocentric variant of the war myth, it nevertheless thrived below the surface of official culture. The public “Russification” of Soviet war memory, which occurred between 1985 and 1995, and persists in many respects to this day, is the subject of the book’s coda, and constitutes the section of the book Jonathan will finalize during the fellowship period.

Secondly, he will begin developing the framework for his second book project on the entangled cultural legacies of the American war in Vietnam and the Soviet-Afghan War. The project examines the deep cultural connections between the wars, arguing that the metaphor of Vietnam, applied to the Soviet-Afghan War on both sides of the Iron Curtain, became central, on the one hand, to delegitimizing Soviet authority at home and abroad, and, on the other, to the revival of an American exceptionalism and interventionism that outlived the Cold War itself.  

Email: jonathan.brunstedt[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Sigrid Kaasik-Krogerus, Markku Kangaspuro

Crowley, Stephen

Stability Amid Stagnation: The Politics of Labor and Deindustrialization in Putin's Russia

Time of visit: June 2019

Stephen Crowley is Professor and Chair of the Department of Politics at Oberlin College, USA, where until recently he was Chair of the program in Russian & East European Studies. In the Fall of 2017 he was Visiting Scholar at George Washington University's Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, and in the 2016-17 academic year he was a Fellow at the Kennan Institute/ Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC.

Dr. Crowley’s research has focused on labor politics and the political economy of post-communist transformations. A recurrent question has been how post-communist workers and labor unions respond to the challenges from past institutional and ideological legacies, current political conditions, and the constraints placed by the global economy. 

Current research project

Vladmir Putin weathered a wave of protests from middle-class demonstrators in Moscow and St. Petersburg in 2011-12, but can he survive working class strikes based in Russia’s industrial heartland? With slower economic growth in Russia, labor protests have risen. While there is little sign such protests pose a direct threat to Putin’s regime, the cost of dampening them -- by propping up Russia’s many unprofitable industrial enterprises – risks hindering economic growth, and therefore Russia’s social and political stability.

The current project aims to shed light on a number of interrelated dilemmas for Russian politics. The first concerns Russia’s labor market, where the fear of “social explosion” in the 1990s led – instead of mass layoffs and widespread unemployment – to extremely flexible and often very low wages, a phenomenon which continues today. This has fed into a second dilemma, the economically and socially precarious nature of Russia’s industrial geography, especially its monotowns — one-company towns left from the Soviet era. Together this has created a chronic problem of low labor productivty, which contributes to slow economic growth.

The calls of Russia’s economic liberals to boost growth by unleashing the “creative destruction” of capitalist markets would almost certainly come at the cost of greater unemployment, leading to the danger of social unrest.Yet the status quo of low wages and low growth also appears untenable. All of this has taken place alongside a very ineffective system of labor relations, where strikes are severely restricted yet protests erupt spontaneously. Such protests can become quickly radicalized, as the recent case of Russia’s truck drivers demonstrates, and have the potential to shake a central foundation of Putin’s claim to legitimacy: that he is a leader who projects “stability” and defends the interest of working class Russia. 

Email: scrowley[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kivinen, Jouko Nikula, Marina Khmelnitskaya

Gorokhovskaia, Yana

From Protest Tent to Government: Local Opposition to Authoritarianism in Russia

Time of visit: August 2018

Dr. Yana Gorokhovskaia received her PhD in Political Science from the University of British Columbia in November 2016 and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Russian Politics at the Harriman Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies at Columbia University in New York City. Broadly, her work examines political participation and institutions in authoritarian regimes, focusing on Russia’s post-Soviet development. Dr. Gorokhovskaia’s research and political analysis has appeared in Post-Soviet Affairs, Oxford Bibliographies in Political Science, Harriman Magazine, PONARS Eurasia, IPI Global Observatory,, The Washington Post and Deliberately Considered.

Current research project

At the Aleksanteri Institute, Dr. Gorokhovskaia will work on her current book project, Political Opposition in Moscow: From Protest Tent to Government, which analyzes how anti-regime activists were able to capitalize on a wave of opposition protest to compete in local elections and evaluates the success of their electoral efforts. The project builds on a series of interviews, now numbering over fifty and still in progress, conducted with local politicians in Moscow following elections in 2012 and 2017, as well as data gathered from participant observation while in the field. The project’s main contribution to existing scholarship is to frame mass protest as the starting point for political organization, and to elucidate how, in the world’s premier hybrid authoritarian regime, the opposition can build political capital. Using original data, Dr. Gorokhovskaia argues that the protest wave of 2011-2012 helped to direct individuals and activists into organized politics at the local level in Moscow. After being elected to municipal office, these oppositionists developed tactics to oppose authoritarian practices and corruption. In the 2017 election, they innovated new electoral strategies and technologies in order to overcome administrative barriers to political participation created by the regime.

The book offers an alternative to the prevailing scholarly narrative that highlights failed attempts by civic actors to unite and challenge authoritarian practices in Russia. Instead of focusing on the imperfect development of post-Soviet civil society or on the way the state has constrained the activities of non-governmental organizations, it examines the local and long-term consequences of anti-regime activism for political capacity building.

Email: yg2510[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Vladimir Gel’man, Mark Teramae

Götz, Elias

Explaining Russia's Neighborhood Policy

Time of visit: 1 June–15 July 2019

Dr. Elias Götz is Researcher at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) at Uppsala University. His main areas of expertise are security studies, international relations theory, and Russian foreign policy. He has published in journals such as International Studies Review, Foreign Policy Analysis, International Politics, Contemporary Politics, and Global Affairs. He is currently working on a book project entitled Russia’s Quest for Regional Domination. Götz holds Ph.D. and M.Sc. degrees in Political Science from Aarhus University, along with an M.A. degree in International Studies from Uppsala University.

Current research project

Dr. Götz's current research project focuses on Russia’s neighbourhood policy. More specifically, he seeks to examine the evolution of Moscow’s policy towards the other former Soviet republics from 1992 to the present. During this more than 25-year long period, Russia’s neighborhood policy has been marked by many zigs and zags. Nonetheless, two major phases can be identified.

In the first phase, which runs from 1992 to 2003, a consensus emerged in the Russian foreign policy community to establish a Moscow-led security order in the post-Soviet space. On the ground, however, Russia’s neighborhood policy was incoherent, self-contradictory, and overall relatively restrained. In the second phase, which runs from 2004 to the present, Russia has adopted a more coherent, proactive, and tough-minded approach. Moscow has exerted pressure on neighboring states through attempts at internal subversion, economic sanctions, and military interventions. At the same time, Moscow has provided extensive economic, diplomatic, and military aid to countries like Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus.

These variations – over both time and space – beg for analysis. More specifically, this development raises three questions that are addressed in the project: (1) What explains the discrepancy between words and deeds that characterized Russia’s neighborhood policy in the first phase? (2) What accounts for the shift in Russia’s neighborhood policy in the mid-2000s? (3) What explains the variation in Moscow’s policies vis-à-vis individual post-Soviet countries in the second phase? 

To address these questions, Dr. Götz develops a so-called neoclassical realist theory that explains how the interplay of international and domestic factors shapes the neighborhood policies of major powers. During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute, he intends to work on the empirical part of his project, which entails the construction of a dataset of Russian foreign policy vis-à-vis the other 14 ex-Soviet republics.

Email: elias.gotz[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Dragana Cvetanovic, Vladimir Gel’man, Katri Pynnöniemi

Kalinina, Ekaterina

Lives that Matter: Political, Ethical and Technological Uncertainties of Digital Archives

Time of visit: 15 October–15 December 2018

Dr. Ekaterina Kalinina is a postdoctoral researcher at Södertörn University, Department of Media and Communication, Sweden. She works predominantly in the fields of digital memory and information warfare by focusing on contemporary media landscapes of Russian Federation. Her current project ‘Uncertainty of Digital Archives: Exploring nostalgia and civic engagement’ investigates the role of affective mnemonic experiences, such as nostalgia, in triggering social mobilisation in digital and physical environments. She is also actively engaged in practice based research and works as a project manager at the Swedish organization Nordkonst, where she manages cultural projects and conducts research on cross-cultural artistic practices and intercultural communication. She is currently leading a project on Hip Hop as cultural diplomacy in Russia financed by Swedish Institute.

Current research project

Open List (Otkrity spisok) is a digital archive allowing to search and upload information about people who fell victims of repressive state machine in the period 1917-1991, built up by merging many large data sets. Archives like Open List contribute to the construction of shared public digital heritage infrastructure that advances cultural production and knowledge sharing going beyond national borders. However, while the digitisation of ego-documents, the use of big data technologies and geo-location carries a promise of a wider access to cultural and historical heritage, they also raise ethical, political and techno-methodological questions concerning the re-use and dissemination of data which can be highly sensitive.

This project contributes to our knowledge of ethical, political and technological uncertainties produced by digital archives by shedding light on what stories remain untold and for what reasons, as well as provides an analysis of the best practices of managing these uncertainties. It will help to understand: 1) how digital archiving becomes a form of civic engagement in the countries with authoritarian political settings; 2) how these digital archives on the one side give voice to the silenced narratives, and on the other, contribute to politics of exclusion; 3) what are the new sites of unspeakability and forgetfulness created by the digitisation on the one side, and history politics on the other; 4) how by using big data technologies we can create shared infrastructures for re-use of the archival material that foster radical, creative, decolonial and technological collaborations between engaged citizens, non-governmental organisations and commercial corporations.

Email: kalinina.a.ekaterina[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Daria Gritsenko, Marianna Muravyeva, Sanna Turoma

Kalkandjieva, Daniela

Eastern Orthodoxy and Democracy from the Perspective of the interwar Russian Church Emigres

Time of visit: August–September 2018

Dr. Daniela Kalkandjieva has a doctoral degree in history from the Central European University (2004). She leads a project on Religion & Education, administrated by the Scientific Research Department of Sofia University St Kliment Ohridski. She is also a member of the Research Network on the History of Orthodox Monastic Economy – a 3-year project (2017-2019) realized with the support of by the Centre for Advanced Study Sofia (CAS) and the Center for Governance and Culture in Europe (GCE) at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in the University of St. Gallen.  

Her main research expertise is in the field of the contemporary history of Orthodox churches. In 2017, as a research fellow of the Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia, she accomplished a research on the interplay between Russian Orthodoxy and geopolitics between the two world wars. She is also author of the monographs The Russian Orthodox Church, 1917-1948: From Decline to Resurrection (London: Routledge 2015) and The Bulgarian Orthodox Church and the State, 1944-1953 (Sofia: Albatros, 1997) as well as of multiple studies dealing with various aspects of Orthodox churches and societies, published in English, Bulgarian, German, Italian, and Russian.

Current research project

Dr. Kalkandjieva's current project approaches the issue of the encounter of Orthodoxy and democracy from a historical perspective. It explores visions, concepts, and practices regarding the lay participation in the governance of church affairs and the modes of church-state relations, which have been adopted by the Russian church diaspora between the two world wars. More specifically, the project is inspired by an intriguing paradox that concerns both the red commissars and the Russian church exiles.

On the one hand, ceasing the power under the slogan of the rule of people, the Bolsheviks established a totalitarian regime in the lands under their control. In the late 1930s, however, the Soviet leadership replaced the attacks against the local Orthodox Church as an anti-democratic agency with a more sophisticated anti-religious policy that even advanced the idea of the Orthodox Church’s patriotic role in the past centuries, e.g. the struggle of St. Alexander Nevski against the Teuton knights.

On the other hand, the majority of Russian bishops, who had fled their country after the October Revolution and launched the most fervent criticism of the totalitarian regime established there, did not come up with democratic ideas. Instead, they became the most zealous defenders of Russian monarchism and envisioned a fusion between the Orthodox Church and the state in a future Russia, liberated from the red menace. Such a perspective deviates not only from the present day understanding of liberal democracy, but is at odds with certain decisions of the All-Russian Church Local Council (1917-18) as well as with practices adopted by the Balkan Orthodox churches already in the mid-nineteenth century, e.g. the lay participation in the management of church economic and administrative affairs, the election of diocesan bishops by church councils with lay participation, etc. At the same time, many Russian émigré theologians, laymen and priests, who also were critical to the Bolshevik regime, ended up with concepts and views that open a different perspective where Orthodoxy seems compatible with democracy, e.g. father Sergei Bulgakov.

Email: kalkandjieva[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Kaarina Aitamurto, Elina Kahla

Kowalsky, Sharon

"The More You Beat Your Wife, The Tastier the Soup": Violence and the Family in Revolutionary Russia, 1900-1936

Time of visit: June 2019 

Dr. Sharon A Kowalsky is Associate Professor of History at Texas A&M University-Commerce, and Director of the university’s Gender Studies Program, where she teaches courses on modern Europe, revolutions, gender, and crime.  She received her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004.  Her book, Deviant Women: Female Crime and Criminology in Revolutionary Russia, 1880-1930 (Northern Illinois University Press, 2009), won the Best Book Prize from the Southern Conference on Slavic Studies.  Her research interests include infanticide, sexual violence, deviance, punishment, and criminology in the Russian revolutionary period.  She has published several articles and presented at numerous conferences in the United States, Canada, and Europe.  

Current reasearch project

Domestic violence remains a serious problem in contemporary Russia, but it is not a new phenomenon. Dr Kowalsky's research deals with the nature of domestic violence and its relationship to alimony, divorce, family, and proper behavior across the broad revolutionary period in Russia, 1900-1936.  It examines these issues through the lens of systems designed to regulate behavior—the official judicial system of courts, trials, and prisons, and the informal sanctioning of peer groups, workplace unions, and housing committees.  From these angles, this project explores how the ideals and ideologies of the revolutionary period shaped family violence and state and community responses to it, how family violence provided a forum for establishing what it meant to be “Russian” or “Soviet,” and how personal experiences reflected broader attitudes toward violence among ordinary Russian citizens and across the revolutionary divide.

Understanding the nature of family violence and state responses to it will help create better informed polices and approaches to deal more effectively with this problem.  Dr. Kowalsky's examination of this issue will clarify the ways that the pervasive violence of the early twentieth century, through war and revolution, shaped attitudes toward domestic violence that persist in Russia today. 

Email: Sharon.Kowalsky[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Meri Kulmala, Marianna Muravyeva

Leving, Yuri

Contours of Cultural Resistance: Suppression and Artistic Opposition in Modern Russia

Time of visit: 15 May–15 July 2019                   

Dr. Yuri Leving is University Research Professor in the Department of Russian Studies, Dalhousie University, Canada. He was an Alexander von Humboldt Senior Research Fellow at Heidelberg University and an affiliated research fellow at the American Academy in Rome. Leving is the author of four monographs and editor of six volumes of articles, most recently Marketing Literature and Posthumous Legacies (2013), Lolita: The Story of a Cover Girl – Vladimir Nabokov’s Novel in Art and Design (2013), and Anatomy of a Short Story (2012). Leving has published over a hundred scholarly articles on various aspects of Russian and comparative literature. He served as a commentator on the first authorized Russian edition of The Collected Works of Vladimir Nabokov in five volumes, and was the curator for the exhibition “Nabokov’s Lolita: 1955-2005” in Washington, D.C., which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Lolita. Leving is the founding editor of the Nabokov Online Journal. The American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages (AATSEEL) has named Yuri Leving the 2017 recipient of the award for Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship. 

Current research project

In his research under the title “Contours of Cultural Resistance: Suppression and Artistic Opposition in Modern Russia” Dr. Levin tracks the latest tendencies of the ‘state vs. artist’ paradigm during the early stages of Vladimir Putin’s last term as a Russian President (following the 2018 elections) 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 public shaming of the creators of the film “Matilda” exposing the Czar Nicholas’s love affair; Andrey Moguchy’s latest stage adaptations in BDT, etc.). This research will combine various methodological approaches and should be based on multiple sources in several languages, thus making an important contribution to our broader understanding of interaction between various artistic branches – visual arts, performative Actionism, civic activism, and new drama – and contemporary politics in Putin’s Russia.

Email: yleving[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Saara Ratilainen, Sanna Turoma


Li, Chunling

Rising Middle Class in Russia and China

Time of visit: mid-May—mid-July 2019
(Visiting Fellow invited by the Centre of Excellence)

Dr. Li Chunling is a Chief Research Fellow of Institute of Sociology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), and director of the Department of Youth Studies and Social Problems in the Institute. She is also a professor of Department of Sociology of CASS University. She has been serving as the vice-chairman of Research Committee of Social Stratification and Mobility at the Chinese Sociological Association. She received B.A. and M.A. of history in Peking University and Ph.D in sociology in Graduate School of CASS. She had studied as visiting scholar and visiting professor in Ecole Normale Superieure of France, Princeton University, Sciences Po Paris, Stockholm University, Oxford University and the University of Michigan. Her primary research interests are inequality and social stratification, as well as sociology of education and youth studies. She is the author of a dozen books and edited volumes and over one hundred articles and chapters on these issues. Books she published include Handbook of The Sociology of Youth in the BRICS Countries (2018), Sustainable Development in Education: progress and challenge (2017), The Youth and Social Change: a comparative study between China and Russia (2014), Experience, Attitudes and Social Transition: A Sociological Study of The Post-1980’s Generation (2013), Rising Middle Classes in China (2012), Gender Stratification and Labor Market (2011), Formation of Middle Class in Comparative Perspective: Process, Influence, and Socioeconomic Consequences (2009), Theories of Social Stratification (2008), Cleavage or Fragment: An Empirical Analysis on the Social Stratification of the Contemporary China (2005), Social Mobility in Urban China (1997).

Current research projects

De Chunling Li is currently working on several research projects that include Social Stratification and Social Classes in China (2018-2022); Rising middle class and its social-political consequences in China (2017-2019); Rising Middle Class in BRICS Countries (2016-2019); The Panel Survey on Employment, Living Condition and Value of Chinese College Students (2013-2018); A Study of Primary and Secondary Education in Western Rural Areas (2014-2018); Chinese Sociology of Education and Educational Expansion (2017-2021).

Email: licl[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kivinen, Jouko Nikula

Martus, Ellie

Domestic Decisions, Global Challenges: The Politics of the Environment in Post-Soviet States

Time of visit: June 2019

Dr. Ellie Martus is currently a WIRL-Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick. Ellie’s research explores environmental and climate politics in the post-Soviet region. She completed her PhD at the University of NSW and an MPhil at St Antony’s College, Oxford. She has been a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s Centre for European Studies, and is currently visiting researcher at the International Center for the Study of Institutions and Development, Higher School of Economics, Moscow.

Current research project

Dr. Martus's current research examines the capacity of the former Soviet states to design, implement and enforce policy which protects the environment. Her project involves a comparative study, which explores the institutions and actors responsible for environmental policymaking and implementation in the post-Soviet states. This research seeks to explain the variation and synergies that exist between post-Soviet states, and asks why some states are better at addressing environmental problems than others. It concentrates specifically on the governance of industrial pollution, and examines a range of issues including institutional arrangements, environmental spending, and the openness and transparency of the policymaking process.

Dr. Martus's research ties into the Aleksanteri Institute’s environmental sustainable development research theme, and explores the considerable environmental challenges faced by the region. There have been relatively few studies of environmental governance in the former Soviet Union, given the scale of the environmental challenge presented by this region. Her research will be of interest to scholars working on Russian and Eurasian politics and policymaking, state capacity, state-business relations and environmental studies.

Email: e.martus[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Daria Gritsenko, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen

Maslovskaya, Elena

Expert Evidence in Legal Proceedings in Contemporary Russia: Structural Constraints and Social Practices

Time of visit: 10 August–10 September 2018

Dr. Elena Maslovskaya is a senior researcher and head of the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the Sociological Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, St.-Petersburg. Her research interests include contemporary sociological theories, sociology of law, sociology of professions. She conducted research on transformations of the Russian judicial system, the juridical profession and interaction of human rights NGOs with legal institutions. Some of the findings were presented in her books Sociological Theories of Law and Analysis of Legal Institutions of Russian Society and Transformations of the Russian Judicial System. Her articles have appeared, among others, in such periodicals as Sotsiologicheskie issledovaniya, Zhurnal sotsiologii i sotsial’noi antropologii, Mir Rossii and Uppsala Yearbook of Eurasian Studies. Her ongoing research project is devoted to expert evidence in Russian courts and interaction of forensic experts with jurists.

Current research project

Dr. Maslovskaya’s ongoing research aims to analyze from the perspective of sociology of law and on the basis of qualitative methodology the practices of using expert knowledge in the Russian legal system and the peculiarities of interaction between forensic experts and jurists. In today’s Russia the role of specialized non-legal knowledge in pre-judicial and judicial proceedings is ambiguous and contradictory. It is the actors representing state bodies who possess strategic resources while the power position of forensic experts is much weaker. In the conditions of such power asymmetry representatives of state bodies particularly investigators often abuse their right to appoint expertise. At the same time expert reports have been used for legitimizing controversial and sometimes clearly unlawful decisions.

It is important to describe and conceptualize from a sociological perspective whether misuse of expert evidence by investigation bodies and courts is defined by the inner logic of the juridical field or by the pressure from the political field. Special attention should be devoted to the market of expert services and the authors of forensic expert reports. The research project will consider the main traits and developmental trends of the field of forensic expertise in the situation of absence of professional associations that might control expert activities and define the criteria of entering this field. It should also be analyzed how the perceptions of the judicial system by forensic experts impact their behavior in the court proceedings. Employing qualitative methods will allow to describe and analyze the set of tactics used by forensic experts within the juridical field. During the fellowship period at the Aleksanteri Institute Elena Maslovskaya will be working on an article to be submitted to a peer-reviewed international journal.

Email: ev_maslovskaya[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Anna-Liisa Heusala, Marianna Muravyeva, Rustam Urinboyev

Obradovic-Wochnik, Jelena

Geographies of the Refugee Crisis: Border Violence and Crime in Serbia

Time of visit: August 2018

Dr. Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, is Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, Aston University Birmingham.  Her work focuses around issues of transitional justice, peacebuilding and effects of violence and war on societies. Her work focuses on the Western Balkans, specifically Serbia, where she has researched reconciliation initiatives and the roles of NGOs in peacebuilding. Her most recent research project has taken a different route and she is currently researching the effects of the refugee crisis in Serbia. Her work has been published in leading journals including West European Politics, International Journal of Transitional Justice, East European Politics and Societies, International Relations and Development and others. She is currently working on her second monograph which brings tougher political geography and international relations in order to understand how cities (Belgrade and Athens) responded to the refugee crisis.  

Current research project

Dr. Obradovic-Wochnik returns to Aleksanteri Institute as an alumnus. She first took part in the programme after her PhD in 2009, and has visited the institute many times since. During this visit, she will be working on her paper which examines the urban geographies of the refugee crisis in Belgrade and Athens, She will be writing up her empirical research, having come back from trips to Serbia and Greece. The focal point of the work will be a discussion of how cities adapt to new arrivals, and how refugees and their allies make use of abandoned and derelict city spaces in order to create new communities of aid and support. This also brings in a wider discussion of how refugee aid support networks mobilised across Serbia and Greece and how cities and helped sustain refugee settlements and communities outside of formal camps. This research will be presented at the end of the visit. 

Email: j.obradovic-wochnik[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Brendan Humphreys, Rustam Urinboyev

Sgibnev, Wladimir

Marshrutkas Morphing into Uber. The Infrastructural Governance of Informal Transport Service Digitalisation

Time of visit: September–October 2018

Dr. Wladmir Sgibnev is Senior Researcher at the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography (IfL) in Leipzig. His work focuses on production of space in peripheral urban regions, as well as mobility and transportation studies. He has particular research expertise in post-Soviet countries, mainly Central Asia. After a M.A. degree in comparative politics from Sciences Po, Paris, he pursued a PhD degree at the Central Asian Seminar at Berlin’s Humboldt University in Berlin. In 2013, he defended his thesis on “Remont – the social production of space in urban Tajikistan”.

During his employment at the IfL, Wladimir Sgibnev has coordinated several mobility-themed research endeavours, such as the Marshrutka project (“Fluid mobilities for cities in transformation – spatial dynamics of marshrutkas in Central Asia and the South Caucasus”), delving into the interplay of informality, urban development and socio-economic transformations. At the institute, he is currently setting up a dedicated research group on mobilities and migrations, and, thematically, striving to combine the findings of the marshrutka project with infrastructures and digitalisation literature.

Current research project

Dr. Sgibnew's research project envisions to provide a first foray into combining studies on the post-Soviet informal economy with studies on modernisation-through-digitalisation in authoritarian market societies. Empirically, the research will focus on the shared taxis sector of the former Soviet Union, the mostly informally organised and weakly regulated minibuses, locally known as marshrutkas.

In the post-Soviet space as well as globally, digital mobility solutions are on the rise, but have yet received meagre scholarly attention. What is more, the humanities and social sciences voice in this field is only vaguely heard, as of now. However, the social and spatial implications are vast, all while major corporate players are involved in shaping the market. Yandex Taxi has entered the market in many Russian metropolitan areas, and has also recently spread to Georgia. On the Russian market, Uber and Yandex Taxi have merged in 2017 in order to avoid costly rival fights – a similar move which prompted Uber to retire from the Chinese market at the favour of Didi Chuxing. While the ‘traditional’ marshrutka sector itself has not experienced an increased dependency on digital demand- and supply-matching platforms, such platforms are already largely affecting urban mobility markets and respective taxi industry workers in former Soviet cities. Given the precarious working conditions of transport workers, the perspective of more dependency on digital platforms at the expense of undermining small scale informal social safety nets, would result in a further disempowering of already marginalised informal mobility providers.

With these ideas in mind, Sgibnev argues that digitalisation, in spite of being fostered by state authorities and international donors in the name of sustainability and ‘smart city’ futures, may indeed perpetuate or increase social injustice in many fields. Post-Soviet cities are still widely seen on the international arena in terms of their deficiency and non-compliance to ‘green’ and ‘smart’ development ideals. In this vein, international donors and planners see infrastructure development as a tool for fostering competitiveness and enabling access to markets. This transitological focus surely derives from the institutions’ tasks and mandates, but does not live up to a critical and political reflection of these projects.

In order to disentangle the interrelation between informal transport provision and digitalisation, Sgibnev proposea to turn to an ‘infrastructural’ conceptualisation of mobility. Drawing from the insights of the ‘infrastructural turn’, this allows to highlight the mutual relationship of infrastructural means and their users, which reciprocal influence and a continuous re-production of perceptions, meanings and usefulness. Although mostly perceived as something stable in everyday life, at second glance, infrastructures consist of multiple layers with varying durability changing over time and space on a material as well as on a conceptual level. This is also true for post-Soviet infrastructures in their characteristic hybrid forms, which continue to be heavily influenced by former Soviet techniques. The marshrutka market constitutes an ever-changing transport sector in almost all post-Soviet cities and regions, a hybrid mobility offer between formal and informal economy and, to a wide extent, an independent acting social network within old and new legacies, using and misusing pre-existing infrastructures in a creative and highly adaptive manner.

In more general terms, mobility provision may enhance our understanding of post-socialism: Socialism ideally may be associated with collectivism, as well as notions of ‘social justice’. May post-socialism thus, potentially, be seen as something that designates moving away from what constitutes a ‘just society’? ‘Post-socialism’ is thus in many ways related to a historical sense of justice, and controversial in the same sense as mobility provision, which clearly may be analysed and assessed in mobility justice terms.

Email: w_sgibnev[AT]
Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Marina Khmelnitskaya, Anna Lowry


Tremblay, Frederic

Vasily Sesemann and Russian Ontologism

Time of visit: 1 January - 28 February 2019

Dr. Frederic Tremblay is Senior Research Fellow at the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University, Kaliningrad, Russia, as well as post-doctoral fellow at the University of Sofia “St. Kliment Ohridski,” Sofia, Bulgaria. Originally from Canada, Tremblay holds a PhD (2014) in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo, USA; he did a post-doc at the Institut Jean-Nicod, Paris (2015); and he studied Russian at the Russian Language and Culture Institute, Philology Faculty, Saint-Petersburg State University, Russia (2016-2017). His main areas of research are metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, and their history, especially in Russian and German philosophy. He has published articles on the philosophies of Nicolai Hartmann, Nikolai Lossky, Vladimir Solovyov, Henri Bergson, and Edmund Husserl. He has also published translations of philosophical texts from Russian to English as well as from German to English.

Current research project

Dr. Tremblay's  current project is concerned with “Russian ontologism.” By “ontologism” he means the theory according to which there is such a thing as being in itself, i.e., being as it exists independently of a thinking subject, and according to which this being is at least partially accessible to cognition. Dr. Tremblay thinks that, in stark contrast to the general trend of nineteenth- and twentieth-century German philosophy, which followed from the philosophies of Kant and the German Idealists, Russian philosophy has been predominantly anti-subjectivistic and tended strongly toward ontologism. Russian philosophy underwent many phases: Slavophilism, Westernism, nihilism, prerevolutionary religious philosophy, dialectical materialism, etc., and, at first sight, each one of these phases seems radically antithetical to the preceding one.

Yet many historians of Russian philosophy, including Ernst Radlov, Nikolai Lossky, Semyon Frank, Georges Gurvitch, and Vasily Zenkovsky, have characterized the Russian mind as having a negative attitude toward the subjectivism of Kantianism and German Idealism and a penchant for ontologism. The question then arises whether these characterizations were just the biased self-characterizations of a minority of philosophers with a common agenda.  Tremblay thinks that they were not and tries to show that the majority of the chief representatives of Russian philosophy fell on the side of ontologism.

During his stay at the Aleksanteri Institute he intends to focus on the part of his project pertaining to the Russo-Lithuanian philosopher Vasily Sesemann, partially of Finnish origins. Sesemann’s philosophy, which was in great part influenced by his Russian teacher — Nikolai Lossky — and evolved in a constant dialogue with his lifelong friend Nicolai Hartmann, may be said to have developed along the lines of Russian ontologism.

Academic hosts at the Aleksanteri Institute: Markku Kivinen, Vesa Oittinen