How networking helps researchers to better understand Central Asian economic reforms

Several EU funded projects bring means and tools to the Aleksanteri Institute to research economic reforms underway in Central Asian countries.

In the last week of May, the Aleksanteri Institute welcomed two PhD researchers, Ainur Samsayeva and Kenzhekhan Kabdesov from KIMEP University in Almaty, Kazakhstan for a 35-day visit at the research center. The young academics are here to utilize the database provided by the Helsinki University Library and to get to know the local researchers specialized in the theme of Central Asian politics.

Their visit is part of a larger EU Horizon 2020 RISE (Research, Innovation and Staff Exchange) program. The project called New Market: an exploration into the changing nature of business environments, informal barriers and emerging markets in the post-Soviet region aims to provide tools to research new economic policies in Central Asia via international researcher mobility. It connects six European and three Central Asian universities.

Ainur Samsayeva and Kenzhekhan Kabdesov have both specialized in political administration and are currently working on their doctoral research projects on society in Kazakhstan: Kenzhekhan is delving into the effects of public transportation commute and Ainur is looking into effectiveness of local COVID policies.

As part of the New Market project, they will be looking into the local policy reforms to find out how the current practices are reflecting into their research subjects – how do economic policy transformations have affected public transportation, and how did they influence the measures taken during the pandemic.

Central Asia in focus


Since 2016, researchers at the Aleksanteri Institute have worked on topics linked to societal change in Eurasia. The Global Processes and Flows in the Eurasian Space network has included projects funded by the Kone Foundation, the Academy of Finland, and the EU Horizon programs. Three EU Horizon consortium sub-projects are currently led by Anna-Liisa Heusala at the Aleksanteri Institute. For the Aleksanteri staff, the New Markets project has so far provided opportunities to conduct empirical research in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan via the local partners that have served as hosts. For instance, Sherzod Eraliev and Mirzokhid Karshiev have travelled to Uzbekistan to collect data on migration patterns and public administration reforms.

The Horizon 2020 ITN program project, Markets: Mapping Uncertainties, Challenges and Future Opportunities of Emerging Markets, has provided a research platform for a doctoral training network.  In full, there are 15 doctoral researchers funded by the Markets project around Europe. In the Aleksanteri Institute, Eugenia Pesci is studying the practical implications of employment reforms in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. The countries have adopted several international practices and Pesci is looking into the local interpretations and implementations of these new employment reforms.

A third Central Asia themed EU Horizon Europe RISE funded project MOCCA: Multilevel Orders of Corruption in Central Asia began in 2023. This consortium is coordinated by Dr. Rustam Urinboyev from Lund University. He, as well as the consortium coordinator in the two Horizon 2020 projects, Dr. Abel Polese from Dublin City University, hold the title of docent at the Aleksanteri Institute and are thus also closely knit to the University of Helsinki.

All in all, the Central Asian economic reforms have been and continue to be a central part of research focus at the Aleksanteri Institute with a closely knit European and Central Asian network working together towards a common goal of collecting data and understanding economic and political processes underway in the area of interest.