New Perspectives on Russia and Eurasia

Highway in Moscow

 

This series of research seminars and open lectures sheds light on the recent and current phenomena related to Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. It provides deep scholarly information on social, political and cultural issues of today, but also about their background and the processes leading to them.  The scholars presenting their research are members of the Aleksanteri Institute's staff and researchers from its network from PhD students to renowned international academics. 

The research seminar doesn't have a set date, so please keep an eye on this page or our event calendar! The events are open and free to all, and when possible they're also streamed live on the Aleksanteri YouTube channel and provided later as video recordings on that same platform. 

 

From Homophobia to Homonationalism… and Back? Russian-speaking LGBTQ Migrants in New York City

Growing numbers of LGBTQ individuals leave Russia and other post-Soviet states as a direct consequence of the state-sponsored homophobia in the region. Since 2013, New York City has been a site of emerging community and grassroots activism for non-heterosexual migrants from all over the former USSR who, arriving in the city, alter both its landscape and themselves. Currently, they embark on their migration journeys against the backdrop of major social and political changes in the United States with the country’s immigrant and LGBTQ policies in flux. In this presentation, I will discuss the ethnographic research of the Russian-speaking LGBTQ migrant community that I have been conducting since 2015.

Guest lecture by Alexandra Novitskaya, a PhD candidate in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Stony Brook University, SUNY and a visiting scholar at the Jordan Center for the Advanced Study of Russia, New York University will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on Thursday, 10 January at 12:00. The event is free and open to everyone. Welcome!

Deconstructing the Great Man Narrative in Science:  The Case of Ivan Pavlov

Many pioneering women are missing from the history of science, especially women from non-Western countries like Russia. The Russian physiologist Ivan P. Pavlov is a canonical figure in science, yet historical accounts of his work have followed an androcentric great man narrative. Based on a discourse analysis of stories about Pavlov in American psychology textbooks, several problems with these representations will be discussed, particularly, the omission of the role of women in Pavlov's science. New historical research documenting the women who studied in Pavlov's laboratories, as well as these women's lives and careers, will be described. The talk will conclude with a discussion about androcentrism in science and obstacles to a global history of science.

Guest lecture by Darryl B. Hill, PhD, Professor of Psychology at the College of Staten Island and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on 16th of January at 12:00. The event is free and open for everybody. Welcome!

 

 

The Golden Horde and Its Legacy in Present-day Politics in Tatarstan

The Golden Horde (13th – 15th centuries) was a major state, which possessed a distinctive, syncretistic material and high spiritual culture. It was a symbiosis of nomadic and sedentary elements. By contrast, the era of the Mongol conquest and the rule of the Golden Horde constituted a ‘deep vault’ for Russian national identity, according to Russian nationalistic historiographical tradition. The Horde has been seen as a band of greedy, conniving bandits by Russian historians of Russia, who have always emphasized only the negative side of Rus’-Tatar relations.

After the declaration of sovereignty of Tatarstan (Russia) in 1990 a reevaluation of the preceding half millennium of Russian/Soviet dominance seemed due: Tatarstan needed a national history for the consolidation of state and nation. The redefinition of Tatar ethnohistory began under ‘perestrojka’. From that point onwards, the official version defined the Golden Horde as the cradle of Tatar statehood and Tatar ethnicity. However, the specter of Tatar nationalism has given the corresponding process at the end of the 20th century a repute of ‘ethnic engineering’ and malicious political manipulation. The ‘Federal Center’ of the Russian Federation has been trying to minimize the specific political status of Tatarstan within the Russian Federation. The mainstream of both Russian and Tatar historical narratives began to change. In 2007, the president Putin removed most of Tatarstan’s special privileges. These trends became more obvious after the conservative turn since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. Now it seems that process of writing history both on the Russian ‘federal’ and the Tatarstan republican level is gradually moving back to Soviet standards. Once again, the Golden Horde is perceived as an evil force in the history of Russia, and as a cornerstone for any pan-Turkic (and, thus, anti-Russian) ideology in national regions like Tatarstan.

Presentation will examine perceptions of the Golden Horde in the historical narratives of Tatar nation that have been affecting the policy-making process in the Republic of Tatarstan since the beginning of ‘perestrojka’ in 1985.

Dr. Bulat Rakhimzianov is a Senior Scholarly Researcher at the Institute of History of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Tatarstan (Kazan’, Russia) and a visiting Researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies (Joensuu, Finland). His presentation will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on 7th of March at 1e:00. The event is free and open for everybody. Welcome!

 

Welcome to a guest lecture by Dr. William E. Pomeranz, Deputy Director of the Kennan Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington DC):

Vladimir Putin and the Establishment of 21st Century Russian Legality

Twenty years ago, on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s assumption to the presidency, he issued his millennium message where he outlined his vision of Russia’s future.   While Putin emphasized the need for a more centralized state, he also expressed satisfaction with the 1993 constitution and its newly-established economic and civil liberties.  Two decades later, Putin has put his own stamp on the constitution, Russia’s legal institutions, and Russian law that, while addressing modern problems, also reflects the country’s deeper legal tradition.  This talk will discuss Putin’s legal policies over the past two decades, looking both at the judicial system and the broader law-creating process to access Putin’s impact on contemporary Russian law. 

Dr. Pomeranz's lecture is based on his recent book Law and the Russian State. Russia’s Legal Evolution from Peter the Great to Vladimir Putin, published in the Bloomsbury History of Modern Russia Series in December 2018. 

 

Political Survival under Electoral Authoritarianism: Regional Governors in Russia and Their Tenure Length

Nowadays, Russian political regime is widely considered as personalist type of an authoritarian state, and the political structure with the top-down command principle called ‘power vertical’ had been successfully established. Even though gubernatorial elections have been restored in 2012, the formal conditions of the new institutional system still provide the President with extensive control over the regional executives and, in particular, a right to dismiss the governor if desired at any moment. This may suggest that the political survival of the governors remains totally subject to the Kremlin, and even the electoral outcome is highly predicted by its strategies and expectations. However, then, the most recent gubernatorial elections of 2018 provoke a certain reconsideration of this assumption: even after numerously documented manipulations with the results, 4 incumbents could not get re-elected for the next term. Thus, it becomes intriguing whether it's an illustration of a small shift in the Kremlin's instruments still allowing to achieve its goals within the new institutional context, or it is an insignificant failure in the Kremlin's strategy as a result of the changing intraregional context, which implies the emerging transformation in the political context of Russia's personalist rule?

To answer this question, I analyze the factors determining the longevity of gubernatorial tenures in post-2012 Russia. What explains the political survival of Russia's regional executives in the new institutional era? Do the actors emerging under the previous context, survive within the new political and institutional circumstances and why? The two main assumptions are tested in this paper: the governor's political survival depends either on the political performance or on the socio-economic performance in the assigned territory. I also control for several political and socio-economic features of the region to test the importance of the intraregional situation.

Tatiana Tkacheva is a PhD candidate in the YRUSH programme.

 

The New Local Activism in Russia: Biography, Event and Culture

A new type of politicized local activism emerged as an outcome of the nationwide post-election 2011-12 protests in Russia. The presentation by Svetlana Erpyleva aims to explain how the event of protest mobilization could lead to the long-term changes in activist political culture. Considering this political evolution, Erpyleva will focus on activists’ biographical trajectories. Basing on qualitative data (interviews, focus-groups, and observations of local activists groups organized in Moscow and St. Petersburg) and the existing theories of social movement studies, social events and political socialization, she proposes a new approach to the analysis of social and cultural changes through an event which takes into account activist biographies and socialization.

Svetlana Yerpyleva is a doctoral student  at the University of Helsinki, a researcher with the Public Sociology Laboratory, and a lecturer at the School of Advanced Studies, University of Tyumen. She started her education in the Sociological Dept. of Moscow State University, but was dismissed due to her participation in the protest campaign against the dean as a member of OD-Group. She acquired a BA in sociology from the Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg and an MA in sociology from EUSP. Since 2011, she has been part of a number of PS Lab research projects on civil society, protest movements, and war in the post-communist world. Her primary field of research is a research with children and the study of political socialization and biographical analysis. She is an author of articles on political socialization and public participation published in peer-reviewed journals, and a co-author of the collective monograph ‘Politics of Apoliticals’ (2015, in Russian).

The presentation will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on 10th of April at 14:00. The event is free and open for everybody. Welcome!

Republicanism in Russia: Community Before and After Communism

“If Marxism was the apparent loser in the Cold War, it cannot be said that liberalism was the winner, at least not in Russia. Oleg Kharkhordin is not surprised that institutions of liberal democracy failed to take root following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. In Republicanism in Russia, he suggests that Russians can find a path to freedom by looking instead to the classical tradition of republican self-government and civic engagement already familiar from their history.

Republicanism has had a steadfast presence in Russia, in spite of tsarist and communist hostility. Originating in the ancient world, especially with Cicero, it continued by way of Machiavelli, Montesquieu, Tocqueville, and more recently Arendt. While it has not always been easy for Russians to read or write classical republican philosophy, much less implement it, republican ideas have long flowered in Russian literature and are part of a common understanding of freedom, dignity, and what constitutes a worthy life. Contemporary Russian republicanism can be seen in movements defending architectural and cultural heritage, municipal participatory budgeting experiments, and shared governance in academic institutions. Drawing on recent empirical research, Kharkhordin elaborates a theory of res publica different from the communal life inherited from the communist period, one that opens up the possibility for a genuine public life in Russia.

By embracing the indigenous Russian reception of the classical republican tradition, Kharkhordin argues, today’s Russians can sever their country’s dependence on the residual mechanisms of the communist past and realize a new vision for freedom.” (published by Harvard University Press, November 2018) http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674976726

A book talk by Oleg Kharkhordin will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on Tuesday 16 April at 14.15. The event is free and open to everyone. Welcome! Oleg Kharkordin is Professor and director of Res Publica research center at the European University at St.Petersburg.

Moscow Rules. What Drives Russia to Confront the West

In his new book Moscow Rules: What Drives Russia to Confront the West, Keir Giles draws on Russia's history and the present day to explain why the Kremlin feels it has no choice but to challenge the West.  

Hope for a better relationship with Russia has to contend with Moscow's view of the West as an adversary and a threat. This view, and the hostile Russian actions that result from it, can be difficult to understand from Western capitals. But, Keir argues, understanding it or at least accepting it forms an essential starting point for managing relations with Russia without lurching from crisis to crisis. 

Mr Giles will present key findings from the book, and address a number of critically important questions for dealing with Russia. Why does Russia misread Western intentions so consistently? How can past experience of both successful and unsuccessful engagement guide future attempts? And can recognizing the reality of confrontation with Russia help the West manage the challenge from Moscow effectively while avoiding the risk of a deeper conflict?

About the presenter

Keir Giles is a Senior Consulting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He also works with the Conflict Studies Research Centre (CSRC), a group of deep subject matter experts on Eurasian security formerly attached to the UK Ministry of Defence. 

After beginning his career working with paramilitary aviation in Russia and Ukraine immediately following the fall of the Soviet Union, Keir Giles joined the BBC Monitoring Service (BBCM) covering political and military affairs in the former Soviet space. While attached from BBCM to CSRC at the UK Defence Academy, he wrote and advised for UK, NATO and international government customers on human factors affecting Russian military, defence and security issues, strategy and doctrine. In April 2010, Keir brought key team members into the private sector to re-establish CSRC as an independent provider of research and expertise. 

Keir Giles’s work has appeared in a wide range of academic and military publications across Europe and in North America, and he is a regular contributor and commentator on Russian affairs for international print and broadcast media. 

A guest lecture by Keir Giles will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on Wednesday 24 April at 14.15. The event is free and open to everyone. Welcome!

Totalitarian Routines: Why the Ovation to Stalin Never Ends

Totalitarian regimes are commonly described as exceptional states ruled by extreme heroes/villains and sustained by outrageous actions. While this may be partially true, it is hard to believe that all relevant social systems, actors and practices in Soviet Union, Nazi Germany or Fascist Italy were extraordinary. Drawing upon conversation analysis and ethno-methodology, the talk argues that such seemingly unusual “totalitarian” activities as the followers’ incessant applauding to the leaders can be rooted in ordinary communicative routines performed by general public on a daily basis. 

Guest lecture by Kirill Postoutenko will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on the 7th of May at 2.15 pm. The event is free and open for everybody. 

Poestoutenko is a Senior Researcher at the University of Bielefeld,  he is also a Docent in Russian literature and culture at the University of Helsinki. Before that, he has held research and teaching appointments at the Universities of Munich and  Constance (Germany), Columbia University and University of Southern California (USA), IEA and ENS/Rue d’Ulm (France), Queen Mary, University of London (UK), University of the Basque Country (Spain) and Aarhus Institute for Advanced Studies (Denmark). He is the author and editor of 6 books and 80 articles devoted to the history of Russian poetry and literary criticism, social history of identity, conceptual history and history of communication in 20th century Europe.

 

Transformation of Maternity Care in Russia: State Policy and Professional Agency

The paper addresses the scope of professional agency in the particular institutional context of maternity care services in Russian small towns, perpetually changing under the influence of state reforms. The key research question is: what is the role of the professionals, acting in the context of the structural/top-down change in the organization of maternity services? In order to provide the evidence of professionals’ different opportunities and forms of agency, the object of the research – institutional field of maternity care in Russian small towns is investigated through the different cases. Each case consists of the system of all healthcare units, providing antenatal, obstetric and neonathological services in remote districts of Russian regions.

There are many studies, demonstrating multiplicity of discrepancies between macro-level tendencies and micro-level processes of social change. This research participates in the investigation of these inconsistencies and provides the evidence that there is no one-direction, coherent and straightforward process of institutional transformation in the field of Russian maternity services’ provision. The empirical data demonstrates that various grass-root initiatives, and micro/mezzo-level social changes can emerge in the formally homogenous facility-based and state-founded childbirth.

Presenter: Anastasia Novkunskaya, YRUSH fellow, Aleksanteri Institute, Research fellow, Gender Studies Program, EUSP, and Doctoral student, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki

Discussant: Meri Larivaara, leading expert at the Finnish Mental Health Society

The presentation will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on May 8, at 11.00 (sharp). The event is free and open for everybody. Welcome!

Online Civic Participation in Ukraine: An Institutionalized Democratic Governance

During the dramatic regime change in Kyiv in late 2013-early 2014 and subsequent hostilities in Crimea and Donbas, Ukraine witnessed a massive mobilization. Later it focused on institutionalized change, in particular, in the form of offline and online participation in public policy. The Revolution of Dignity has triggered civic activism, openness of authorities, and support by international organizations, which in turn accelerated the advance of digital democracy in Ukraine. However, some forms of e-activism became more widespread, inclusive, and impactful than others. Therefore, several research questions arise. What forms of electronic democracy have been introduced in Ukraine in 2014-2019? Which became the most influential? What caused the impactful ones to arise and sustain?

Short  Bio

Dr. Dmytro Khutkyy is a KONE Foundation fellow at the Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies. He is a National Researcher at the Independent Reporting Mechanism, Open Government Partnership initiative, and the Manager of E-Democracy Group, Reanimation Package of Reforms, in Ukraine. He has obtained his PhD in Sociology at the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and taught sociology courses at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. After that he has accomplished several international programs in Austria, Estonia, Germany, and the United States. In Ukraine, he participated in grassroots civic activism within the Center for Innovations Development and Transparency International. Also, Dr. Dmytro Khutkyy evaluated reforms of Ukrainian government. Besides, he performed expert consultancy for UNDP, OECD, eGA, EGAP, DRI, IRI, and other organizations on best practices of civic technology and open government. Dr. Dmytro Khutkyy conducts research, training, and communication to promote civic participation, good governance, and institutional change.

 

Russian TV Viewers’ Reception of Russia-Ukraine Conflict: TV News, New Media, and News Repertoires

Since the unleashing of Russia-Ukraine conflict, media are seen as essential for the legitimacy of the Putin’s regime. However, it is far from being a fact: there is little research on Russian audiences, and the viewer’s mind traditionally remains a black box of media research. Based on the focus groups with TV viewers, I analyze Russian TV viewers’ political information processing. In this talk, I will focus on two issues. Borrowing conceptual apparatus of psychology and political communication research, I will present the analysis of how Russian TV viewers process information they receive from TV news and how they form opinions about politics. However, given the rapid growth of the Internet use and the availability of multiple alternative sources of information, it is no longer enough to focus on TV news only. I will also present the analysis of how Russian TV viewers combine different media, such as TV news, online news, news aggregators, and social networks, in news repertoires and what effects different news repertoires have on information processing and TV viewers’ opinions about politics.

Classics for Common People as an Educational Project of the Standing Commission of Public Readings in Late Imperial Russia

After the Great Reforms of Alexander II a new, numerous and poorly educated reader came to the public scene. It was a challenging mission for educators to bring up the new reader by delivering him the ‘right’ book and developing his interest in reading. The new reader became an object of a struggle among different publishers. I am going to focus on the non-commercial educational project of Russian officials, who designed not only special books for common people, but also the whole practice of public reading with magic lantern slides (special images projected on a screen accompanying a reading).

Since the Standing Commission of Public Readings was established in 1872, the non-school educational practice of publicly reading books became an official instrument by which to influence the common reader. My current research investigates the construction of the common reader and studies how magic lantern slides contributed to the process of its construction.

I am going to discuss three types of sources according to three basic aspects of dealing with slides in the period of rapid development of public readings. First, I will consider the representation of readings with slides in the conservative press, and then I will discuss the readings with slides in the context of censorship with reference to archival materials. Finally, I will use the available slide collections to talk about visual strategies of illustrating literature for common people.

”This Thing of Darkness: Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible in Stalin's Russia”

Abstract:

Sergei Eisenstein’s unfinished masterpiece, Ivan the Terrible, was no ordinary movie. Commissioned by Joseph Stalin in 1941 to justify state terror in the sixteenth century and in the twentieth, the film’s politics, style, and epic scope aroused controversy even before it was released. In This Thing of Darkness, Joan Neuberger, Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin, offers a sweeping account of the conception, making, and reception of Ivan the Terrible that weaves together Eisenstein’s expansive thinking and experimental practice with a groundbreaking new view of artistic production under Stalin. Drawing on Eisenstein’s unpublished production notebooks, diaries, and manuscripts, Neuberger’s riveting narrative chronicles Eisenstein’s personal, creative, and political challenges and reveals the ways cinematic invention, artistic theory, political critique, and historical and psychological analysis went hand in hand in this famously complex film.

A talk by professor Joan Neuberger (University of Texas at Austin, USA) will take place at the Aleksanteri Institute 2nd floor meeting room on Wednesday 5 June at 13:15. Professor Neuberger will be presenting on her new book: This Thing of Darkness: Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible in Stalin's Russia (Cornell University Press, 2019). The event is free and open to everyone. Welcome!