Visiting Fellows Seminars

The Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Seminar Series features the work of the outstanding scholars who have been invited to conduct their research within the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Programme. The topics cover a wide range both geographically, and with regard to methodology, discipline, and focus.

Join the seminars and discussions in
Metsätalo, Unioninkatu 40, or via Zoom!

The seminars are not recorded.

If you have any questions about our Visiting Fellows Programme or the upcoming seminars, don't hesitate to be in touch with Anna Korhonen.


The (in)visible and indispensable Russian soldiers’ mothers and women from military families

Speaker: Natasha Danilova, Senior Lecturer
Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen
Chair: Anna Tarasenko, Research Fellow
Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

Since February 2022, many commentors have provided various assessments of Russian society’s response to war in Ukraine by focusing on the position of men-dominated political and military leadership, male conscript/reserve/recently mobilised or recruited soldiers or male dominated paramilitary groups. This presentation shifts the focus to women’s roles as part of war-meaning making.

Drawing on content analysis of official newspapers, we highlight the paradoxical representation of Russian women as both invisible and indispensable to the Russian state war efforts as well as Putin’s ‘traditional (family) values project. We observe that women, including soldiers’ mothers and female military-family members, are either barely mentioned, or their roles are narrowly framed through reporting on their engagement in mostly war-supportive, hyper-feminine, ‘traditional’ activities such as knitting soldiers’ socks and/or camouflage nets. The reporting on the popular digital news media (Meduza and MediaZona) expands this framing through reporting on women-military family members’ legislative, predominantly, complaint-focused activism, but it also deploys a gendered frame of ‘patriotic distress’/confusion represent women as emotionally and politically conflicted (Co-author: Dr Jenny Mathers, University of Aberystwyth).

30 Aug | 15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed on Zoom

Russian ‘Patronage Policy’ for Ottoman Christians in the second half of the 18th - the first third of the 19th centuries: on example of Greeks

Speaker: Olena Uvarova, Associate Professor
Odesa National Medical University
Chair: Elina Kahla, Principal Investigator, Liaison Manager
Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

By studying European international affairs in the 18th-19th century and the solution to the Eastern Question, one can see the ideological component of diplomatic and military-political relations between European countries and the Ottoman Empire. The ‘Patronage Policy’ to Ottoman subjects of the Christian faith is an example - a tool that was actively used by the Russian Empire, emphasizing ancient ties and religious commonality. ’Patronage Policy is understood as Russia's protection of Ottoman Christians with the help of provisions in intergovernmental treaties and as an invitation to resettle on Russian lands, providing benefits and privileges. The focus of the Russian authorities has always been on the Greeks, who at the end of the 18th - first third of the 19th centuries were at the stage of struggle for their independence.

During the seminar, the speaker will consider the genesis and ambivalent nature of the ’Patronage Policy’; the motives that guided the tsarist government in its implementation; international circumstances that affected its specific tasks; philhellenic tendencies in Russian society; the basis of the hopes of the Greeks in Russia's liberation mission; the socio-economic and cultural development of Greek communities on the territory of the empire; and the subjective and objective consequences of Greek-Russian relations. Based on the conclusions, it will be possible to draw historical parallels with modern times.

Sept 13 | 15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed on Zoom

Assistance Through Control. De-Constructing the Binary Social Representation and State Policy Towards the Homeless in Post-Soviet Moldova

Speaker: Petru Negură, Researcher, Institute of Legal, Political and Sociological Research in Chisinau 

Chair: Anna Tarasenko, Research Fellow, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki 

This seminar will explore and explain the binary social representations, and ambivalence of state policies, towards a specific category of the poor -- homeless people -- in the Republic of Moldova.

A representative survey, conducted in 2017, highlights respondents’ high perceived social distance towards homeless people. Only 21% of respondents would accept homeless people “in the vicinity of their home,” and 20% would accept them “on the streets of their locality”. Against this background, it seems striking that nearly all (93%) respondents were, however, willing to help a homeless person if he or she asked for help.

In my presentation, I will explain this apparent contradiction between high social distance and willingness to help by corroborating this finding with three sets of data:

1) semantic and statistical analysis of the social representations of homeless people in the 2017 survey,

2) print and visual media analysis of the representations of homeless people, and

3) analysis of the state’s policies towards homeless people in recent decades.

Additionally, I will present the results of a socio-historical analysis of the policies applied by state institutions in the Republic of Moldova and the former Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic (MSSR) regarding homeless people in the late Soviet period and post-socialist transformation. The research discussed in the seminar is part of my book-length project Labour, Help and Stigma of the Homeless in Moldova. 

Wed, Nov 22 | 15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed via Zoom


Historical Narratives in Propaganda: Cases of Russia and Ukraine

Speaker: Sergii Pakhomenko, Associate Professor, Political Science and International Relations Department, Mariupol State University

Chair: Markku Kangaspuro, Director, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

In this seminar, I identify and classify the historical narratives of Russian propaganda, and the goals and methods of using history as a tool of influence.

The following issues are covered in the report:1) What are the main narratives of memory politics in Russian Federation and Ukraine based on; 2) How the denial of the Ukrainian narrative builds not only the Kremlin's understanding of Ukrainian history but also its policy towards the modern Ukrainian state; 3) Whether references to history serve as ideological support for Russian aggression or whether it constitutes one of the goals to destroy Ukrainian identity.

In general, I try to clarify the algorithm for securitizing Kremlin's version of history that is being used to justify and argue for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. I consider those internal and external tasks that Russian politics of historical memory  is designed to solve, show the key myths of the official narrative -- above all the myth of the “Great Victory” in World War II -- and, finally, trace a number of specific cases of planting this narrative in the occupied Ukrainian territories

Wed, 28 Feb 2024
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed via Zoom

Activism under Repression: Russian Environmentalists’ Adaptation at Home and Abroad

Speaker: Laura A. Henry, Professor of Government and Legal Studies, Bowdoin College

Chair: Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen, Professor of Russian Environmental Studies, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

How do environmentalists continue their activism under conditions of increasingly authoritarian governance? In the 1990s, Russian environmentalists developed strategies to expand the movement in a period of political instability and economic recession. Over time, many of the conditions that facilitated early forms of activism changed. Foreign funding for civil society development declined sharply even as new digital spaces for activism emerged. The Russian government became less and less tolerant of criticism from civil society, particularly from those designed as foreign agents. These trends culminated in a new wave of repression following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Throughout, Russian activists have adapted to and challenged shrinking space for advocacy while making the case for environmental causes. Their activist strategies both embody and complicate Hirschman’s ideal types of loyalty, voice and exit in ways that illuminate how environmentalism may endure under authoritarian regimes at home and in exile.  This paper, based on data drawn from interviews with Russian environmentalists, will examine activists’ strategic adaptation to changing political conditions in recent decades. The paper will pay particular attention to how the experience of migration and exile challenges the forms of environmentalism undertaken by Russian activists who fled the country since Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Tue, 19 March 2024
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)

Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed via Zoom

Displacement, Emplacement, and Reintegration: IDP Experiences of the Ukrainian State, 2014-2016

Speaker: Dr. Emily Channell-Justice, Director, Temerty Contemporary Ukraine Program, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University/Visiting Fellow, Aleksanteri Institute

Chair: Jouni Järvinen, University Lecturer, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

At the time of Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, the issue of internal displacement had already created major challenges for the Ukrainian state. With an official number of 1.5 million people from Donetsk, Luhansk, and Crimea displaced across the rest of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government had not created and implemented a singular policy about displacement since the illegal annexation of Crimea and the beginning of the war in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Yet the status of “internally displaced person” (IDP) continued to exist as an official state status, with changing benefits and limitations through 2021. 

This presentation explores IDP engagement with state actors and institutions as they processed their displacement. It is based on analysis of interviews with IDPs in Kyiv, Lviv, and Dnipro in 2014-2016, in the immediate aftermath of the first invasion (2014) and before the newly elected Poroshenko government had the capacity to develop policies to support IDPs. It also assesses Ukrainian state policies toward IDPs that were created and implemented in this time period, paying special attention to the changing responsibility for displaced people among various Ukrainian government institutions. The gaps left by the state created the space for self-organized responses to displacement among ordinary Ukrainians, as well as for the intervention of international humanitarian aid organizations, many of which remained in Ukraine through 2021. This presentation concludes with a consideration of the implications of even larger numbers of displaced people on the feasibility of reintegration of Ukraine’s currently occupied territories in the future. 

Wed 3 April 2024
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time) 
Unioninkatu 40, room 17 
Streamed via Zoom 

Layered identities at a time of war: Post-mobilisation Buryat diaspora in Mongolia

Speaker: Kristina Jonutytė, Associate Professor, Institute of Asian and Transcultural Studies, Vilnius University

Chair: Kaarina Aitamurto, University Lecturer, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

The war in Ukraine has escalated discussions of ethnic identity and belonging among non-ethnic-Russian populations in the Russian Federation. Many are redefining what it means to be an ethnic minority in Russia and their place in the country’s social and political fabric. Such negotiations of belonging take place amidst long-term racialisation and discrimination of ethnic minorities in Russia. The war has intensified discussions of these issues online and among the diaspora, and ethnic anti-war movements have become prominent. At the same time, the public field in Russia is extremely limited for expression of critical views. Many in Russia seek to justify losses of minority soldiers using the official patriotic narratives provided by the Russian state in a concerted discursive effort to increase the connection of ethnic minorities to the state. 

Thus, the war seems to have become an important point of shifts in Buryat identity, especially as new diaspora communities are growing abroad as a consequence of the war. After “partial mobilisation” in the Russian Federation took off in September, 2022, thousands of men from Buryatia fled to Mongolia to escape conscription. This paper, based on ethnographic with them, explores the ways in which the new arrived Buryat men in Ulaanbaatar reflected on their position at a time of great uncertainty. In their narratives, the different strands of Russian, Buryat and Mongolian identity were intertwined, reflecting their multifaceted sense of belonging. This paper analyses the findings of these interviews and the hybridity and ambiguity as experienced by Buryat interlocutors.

Tue16 April 2024 
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time) 
Unioninkatu 40, room 17 
Streamed via Zoom 

Ukraine as a Place of Economic Imagination (1870-2022)

Speaker: Max Trecker, Postdoctoral Researcher, Leibniz-Institute for History and Culture of Eastern Europe

Chair: Katalin Miklóssy, Jean Monnet Chair, University Lecturer, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

Like no other country in Europe, Ukraine served as a projection surface for economic ideas in the modern era. These ideas came on the one hand from different strata of the Ukrainian population, but on the other hand from non-autochthonous actors. In some cases, Ukraine was seen as a component of a larger (imperial) economic space, and in other cases, as an independent economic entity that was not primarily dependent on integration into other economic spaces in order to unfold its full imagined potential. All these ideas had in common that they attested to Ukraine's – in theory – great potential, provided that the space was only reshaped in the right way. The project focuses on the period between the beginning of industrialization in Ukraine and the contemporary period. The following questions take center stage: Why was Ukraine repeatedly the focal point of large-scale economic planning? Why could these imaginaries be reproduced over a long period of time? Who were the subjects behind the idea of Ukraine as a potent economic space at what time? The methodological inspiration for comes from the use of discourse analysis in historical studies. The focus is on the production and circulation of economic knowledge about Ukraine and its utilization. The project is located at the interface of economic and cultural history and combines social sciences and humanities approaches.

Tue 23 April 2024 
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time) 
Unioninkatu 40, room 17 
Streamed via Zoom 

Deconstructing Russian Colonialism in Early Soviet Historical Narratives

Speaker: Alexey Golubev, Associate Professor, University of Houston 

Chair: Una Bergmane, Academy of Finland Research FellowAleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

My talk will discuss the anti-colonial scholarship produced by Soviet Marxist historians in the 1920s and early 1930s, in which the course of Russian history was explained as a process that was driven by commercial capitalism and included colonial expansion, violence against indigenous people, their dispossession, assimilation, and genocide, and the erasure of their cultures and histories. These critical studies of the Russian imperial expansion, their infrastructure, and their scholars formed what I refer to as the early Soviet school of historical anticolonialism. Overlapping with interwar Soviet nationalities policy, the agenda of early Soviet historical anticolonialism was epistemologically distinct as it sought to provide a historically accurate and rigorous critique of capitalism and imperialism by revealing their past crimes. Up to this day, his scholarship remains the most consistent effort to decolonize Russian history from within the Russian academic community. I will discuss the heuristic potential of this scholarship as well as the ways through which it can contribute to the current debates about Russia’s imperial legacy.  

Thu, 30 May 2024 
15.00-16.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed via Zoom
Professor of Russian and Eurasian International Relations
St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

Roy Allison, D.Phil, is Professor of Russian and Eurasian International Relations at the School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford. He also directs the Centre for Russian and Eurasian Studies at St. Antony’s College. His previous positions include Reader in International Relations, London School of Economics (2005-11) and Head of the Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House (1993-2005). His research addresses the international relations, foreign and security policies of Russia, Ukraine and post-Soviet Eurasian states. 

Pre-Covid Patterns of Crisis Management in Central Asia

Speaker: Luca Anceschi, Professor of Eurasian Studies, University of Glasgow

Chair: Vladimir Gel’man, Professor of Russian politics, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

It is to define the praxis of crisis management consolidated in Central Asia before the eruption of the Covid pandemic that my seminar devotes its core attention. To this end, I look at the key dynamics regulating emergency politics in the region before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Intended as a contribution to recent debates in the emerging field of Critical Disaster Studies, my presentation will look initially at how officials in Soviet Central Asia addressed a series of emergency situations, including the 1966 earthquake that destroyed Tashkent and the long-term environmental crisis erupted in Eastern Kazakhstan as the Soviet nuclear testing programme continued. Reconstructing the crisis management praxis of the Soviet era is in turn conducive to the operationalisation of the seminar’s second analytical prong, one that, specifically, looks at a more recent repertoire of emergency responses, which officials in Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan framed to address three context-specific emergencies: a fire in Kazakhstan’s capital city, a severe storm in provincial Turkmenistan, and the failure of a large water reservoir in Uzbekistan.  

Tue, 11 June 2024 
14.00-15.30 (Helsinki time)
Unioninkatu 40, room 17
Streamed via Zoom
Associate Professor
University of Toronto

Dragana Obradovic (Ph.D. University College-London, 2009) is Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Toronto, Canada. Her research interests are regionally connected to the cultural history of the former Yugoslavia. She is interested in the legacy of state socialism, particularly as it pertains to class transformation, the rural/urban divide, and the depiction of labour in literature and film. Her first book was Writing the Yugoslav Wars: Literature, Postmodernism, and the Ethics of Representation (University of Toronto Press, 2016). She has a forthcoming article on documentary filmmaking and war crimes. She has published articles on post-socialist literary poetics, contemporary Bosnian cinema, and diasporic graphic novel production. She was awarded the Jackman Humanities Institute (University of Toronto) Faculty Fellowship in 2022. 

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