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. 


Playing a Double Game: Effects of European Neighbourhood Policy on the Political Regimes of Eastern Neighbourhood Countries

The study analyses the impact of the EU democracy assistance on the political regimes of Eastern neighbourhood countries projected through the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP). The general question the author answers is why neighbourhood policy does not produce full-scale democratization in Eastern neighbourhood. Although the ENP lacks the membership perspective and thus is perceived as an ineffective, the study shows how the ENP through the stimulation and/or reinforcement of domestic structural reforms in different policy areas changes the calculations of both ruling political elite and opposition operating in the context of limited access order. Thus, the dissertation using the comparative theory-testing and theory-building process-tracing analyses of electoral and judicial reforms in Georgia, and Moldova contributes to two lines of theoretical discussion. First, it contributes to the debates on the role of the democracy assistance efforts and external factors in the dynamics of political regimes. Second, it addresses the discussion on strengths and limitations of application of the Europeanization perspective to the analysis of EU democracy assistance in neighbouring countries without the short-term membership perspective and with the limited access orders.

The study based on the regime transformation theories, Europeanization perspective, and political-economic approaches aims at exploring the mechanism of the EU influence on the domestic political developments in two Eastern neighbourhood countries (Georgia and Moldova). In contrast to the majority of studies using the Europeanization perspective to analyse ENP partner-countries the study shifts the focus of analysis from the EU policies to the interaction between EU policies (which reinforce or stimulate domestic reforms) and domestic political actors and institutions.

At the first stage, the study tests three basic hypotheses which are commonly used to explain the ENP impact: rational-choice, idea-based, and one connected to the role of “black knights”. The analysis shows that these hypotheses are not supported by the evidence from the Eastern neighbourhood countries. The second stage of the study is devoted to theory-building process-tracing. It shows that the key element for the ENP impact is the limited access order, which emerged in Moldova and Georgia during the first years of political transition in the 1990s. In such conditions, the support under the ENP framework is used by the ruling elite to preserve the limited access order and by opposition to broaden the access to political institutions. Thus, the ENP both contributes to the preservation of the limited access order and, at the same time, prevents the slide towards the authoritarian political regime.

Yurii Agafonov is a lecturer at the Department of Comparative Political Studies and a research fellow at the Laboratory for Applied Policy Analysis, Faculty of International Relations and Politics at the St. Petersburg branch of RANEPA. He is currently completing his PhD at the Faculty of Arts, University of Helsinki, and participating in the YRUSH programme at the Aleksanteri Institute.

Russian Science and Innovation: Current State and Government Strategic Plans

The presentation will provide an overview of the current state and recent trends in scientific and technological development in Russia and major directions of the government policies in this area.  I will discuss the key directions in the formation and implementation of science policy, which in recent years have been aimed at strengthening research at universities, reforming the Russian Academy of Sciences, and introducing the performance-based management.  A special attention will be given to the new National Project “Science” that follows the Presidential order from May 2018.

The analysis of the Russian scientific-technological complex, which focuses on its structure, funding, workforce, scientific output, and technological advancements, suggests that many aspects of science and innovation system in Russia continue to be directed, supported, and controlled by the government.  The government strategic plans indicate that the leadership ambitions are growing.  Now, the major focus is on achieving the international visibility by improving the positions of Russia, including its research institutions and innovative companies in various rankings.

Irina Dezhina is the Head of the Science & Technology Development Department at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Moscow, Russia) and Professor at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Moscow, Russia). 

She received her Ph.D. in economics from the Institute of National Economic Forecasting, Russian Academy of Sciences, and her D.Sc. degree in economics from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Dr. Dezhina has been a Fulbright Scholar at the MIT Program “Science, Technology, and Society” (1997) and a fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Studies in Washington, D.C. (1994 and 2013).  In 1998-1999 she worked as a Science Policy Analyst at SRI International, Washington, D.C. She has served as a consultant for various international organization, including World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, CRDF, OECD, APEC, and EU Framework Program.  She was awarded The Ordre des Palmes académiques (Order of Academic Palms, France) for her works on Russian science and innovation policy. Her current research interests include studies of science and technology development. She has published 12 monographs (two in English) and over 260 articles on these and related topics. Her key monographs are Government Regulation of Science in Russia (Magistr, 2008), Science in the New Russia: Crisis, Aid, Reform (Indiana University Press, 2008) co-authored with Prof. Loren Graham, Development of Collaboration with Russian-Speaking Research Diaspora: Experience, Problems, Prospects (RCID, 2015), a chapter Who Needs Russian Science? in the book “Russia – Strategy, Policy, and Administration” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).  As a professor at the Higher School of Economics, she teaches the course on Post-Soviet science and technology policy.

At Aleksanteri Institute Dr. Dezhina is working with Dr. Sari Autio-Sarasmo under the researcher mobility program of the Academy of Finland.  Her project  focuses on the analysis  of the reforms in Russian and Finnish universities and their implications for research and innovations.

Non-Governmental Elderly Care in Russia: Expertise, Participation and Objectification

The study covers the topic of non-governmental elderly care provision in Russia from a perspective of feminist micro-level welfare state care regime and the third sector “NGO-isation” (also known as “professionalisation”) theories.

The main objective of the thesis is to contribute to the discussion of power relations between caregivers and care receivers and the reasons for inequalities they face. In practice it means a study of limits of care receivers’ ability to influence decision-making regarding content and process of care (i.e. “agency” of care receivers, see Hudak et al. 2002 and Bayliss et al. 2008 for details). Aged people participation is studied from the perspective of organisational arrangements of the non-governmental elderly care providing organisations (ECP NGOs).

The main research questions are “what is the most common caregiving approach [in terms of the agency of the aged people]?” and “why non-governmental elderly care is paternalistic, i.e. depriving of the agency?” Several explanatory mechanisms – dependency of the authoritarian state, third sector “professionalization” (NGO-isation), historical path-dependency, individual caregiver factor, and socio-economic conditions - are tested in pursuit of the answer.

Caregiving is approached through the lenses of the third sector “NGO-isation” (Krause 2014) and clientelist state-dependency of civil society (Cook and Vinogradova 2006).  The context for the research is ageing of the Russian society, the worldwide trend of welfare state recommodification (Cammett and McLean 2014), as well as the recent Russian elderly care policy transformation towards active ageing policy framework and non-governmental actors’ involvement in social service provision.

Methodologically, the project is a qualitative sociological extended case study combining participatory observations, semi-structured interviews and document analysis. The fieldwork had been completed in 2014-2016 in Saint Petersburg, the city of a significant aged population, several federal “pilot” programmes and the large third sector community. It includes fifty interviewed informants, extended participatory observations and document analysis of the sixteen non-governmental elderly care providing organisations, three social service providing state institutions and some other relevant elderly care involved organizations (such as religious organizations).

Based on the data obtained, empirical chapters uncover all aspects of the organization of elderly care involving third sector in Saint Petersburg, as well as micro-level caregiver-care receiver dyads’ dynamics. Because of the study, I conclude that NGO-isation is the main institutional factor contributing to the widespread ECP NGOs’ preference of paternalistic care approach to equal participatory relations between caregivers and care receivers.

Artūrs Hoļavins is a research associate at the European University at Saint Petersburg (Russia), research & development officer at the Transport and Telecommunication Institute (Latvia) and a PhD student at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. He is also a current YRUSH Programme fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute.