Speakers O-R

This page contains the names, abstracts and panel information for 20th annual Aleksanteri Conference participants with surnames beginning with letters O to R.

Please see speakers A — D, E — H, I — K, L — N, S and T— Z on respective pages. Note also, that panels and roundtables covered by a single abstract are listed separately.

Oinas, Maria

Colonized or Colonialists? The Participation of the European Nationalities of the Russian Empire in the Colonization of Kazakhstan in the End Nineteenth - Early Twentieth Centuries

The aim of the paper is to analyze the mass peasant migration from the European colonies of the Russian Empire to the Kazakh steppe from the perspective of a colonization policy. Russian colonial policy in the mid-nineteenth century included not only the unification of the administrative-political system and large-scale Russification policy but the process of internal colonization. For the settlement of conquered territories, including the Kazakh steppe, tsarism was originally used Cossacks and exiles. However, the most significant number of migrants was as a result of mass peasant resettlement. One of the features of the Russian colonization policy was the involvement of peasants in migration not only from Russian provinces but also farmers from the European colonies of Russia (present-day Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania).  Scientists' interest in these processes increased markedly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, most studies focus on the formation of diasporas, rather than the role of peasant migration in the colonial policy of tsarism. This paper based on a comparison of the characteristics of migration process from various European provinces of the Russian empire. As a result of the comparison, we conclude that the resettlement conditions for the Russian peasant (for example, from the Vologda province) and the peasant from Little Russia or Estonia were equal, and it based on the voluntary character of migration. Encouraging the migration of peasants from the European colonies to Siberia, Kazakhstan and the Far East, tsarism solved colonial goals both at the place of exit of the peasants and at the place of their settlement. So, the emancipation of serfdom in Russia did not solve the land problem in the densely populated Western provinces of the empire. Peasant discontent grew, ready to develop into riots and uprisings. The resettlement of peasants to the ""Asian outskirts"" of the empire not only solved the land problem in the densely populated European regions but also contributed to the ongoing Russification policy. So the primary language of communication became the Russian language, the traditional institutions of power were replaced by the unified Russian, and the Russian authorities became closer to the peasants than the local one. There was a rallying of such different colonies around a single centre - the metropolis. Arriving at the place in the Kazakh steppe the colonized peasant became a colonist. Ukrainian, Belarusian, Estonian, and Latvian farmers, along with the Russians, carried out the tasks of colonizing Kazakhstan. They settled the lands taken from the Kazakh nomads; included in a trade with the metropolis and contributed to the civilization mission of colonization. Since special state bodies were engaged in determining the place of settlement, often resettlement sites were formed in places strategically crucial for Moscow (for example, on the border with China). Thus, we see that the mass migration of peasants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the Russian Empire had one unique characteristic: it involved the peasants of the European colonies in the internal colonization in Kazakhstan, transforming them from colonized to colonialists.

Pechurina, Anna

Researching Russian Migrants’ Homes: Diasporic Objects and Ambivalences of Migration

This paper is concerned with the connection between the concepts of home and migration, and how the sense of belonging and cultural identity can be understood as a result. In particular, I will focus on my long-standing interest to material cultures of migrant homes and the ways different objects may contribute to creation of a particular homely atmosphere and a feeling of being at home. In this talk, however, I explore how these objects and things can be conceptualised as having ambivalent meaning and significance, thus acting both as symbols of connection and detachment, of home and non-home. To help illustrate these issues, I discuss the concept of diasporic objects and bring the ideas surrounding the meaning of objects and ‘sticky’ relationships drawing on my research into Russian migrants homes in the UK. 

Piipponen, Minna

Informal Practices and the Rule of Law. Russia, Migration and the ‘Arctic Route’

When the border between the Russian Federation and Norway and, later, between Russia and Finland ‘opened’ during the ‘migration crisis’ of 2015 and 2016, the so-called Arctic route through Moscow and Northern Russia became another major channel to the European Union. This study examines the Russian state as a legal power operating through informal practices, and how these practices manifested in the Arctic route. We focus especially on migrants’ experiences with Russian informal practices, intermediaries in the process of migration and encounters with the Russian legal system. In doing so, we aim to improve our understanding of migrants’ experiences in Russia as a country of immigration and transit, and our understanding of the everyday insecurities and opportunities such informal practices amongst migrants generate. Our analysis relies on narrated stories from the asylum application protocols of 1164 asylum seekers who used the Arctic route and applied for asylum in Finland in 2015 and 2016. The paper is based on our article published in Turaeva and Urinboyev (2021) on Labour, Mobility and Informal Practices in Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.

This paper is co-authored with Joni Virkkunen.

Polese, Abel

State Reproduction From Below: Informality, Mobility and Unorganized Resistance in the Reconfiguration of Eurasian States’ Political Life

Transcending from its initial focus on informal payments and shadow economies, this presentation widens the scope of informality research to apparently non-economic and non-monetary practices. Using a definition of informality as the aggregate of transactions that are (deliberately or incidentally) concealed from the state, it argues that the distinction between economic and non-economic informality is tedious. Ultimately, the function of an informal transaction might change over time. An apparently economic transaction (i.e. an informal payment) may come to take social significance (i.e. generate a long term dependence relationship) and vice versa: transactions that have (apparently) only a social meaning can acquire economic signification in the medium and long term. Empirically, this presentation foots on a national conducted in three post-Soviet regions to explore: 1) the relationship between a person’s status (migrant, local, male/female) and their willingness and capacity to comply with state rules; 2) the main alleged motivations to justify lack of compliance with state rules and 3) the typology of informal behaviours used not to comply.

Preter, Varvara

Looking for (Trans)National Belonging: New Migration from Russia to Israel in 2010th

“Vova, I left because of you!” (Vova – pet name of Vladimir) – this and other slogans were showcased by the participants of the largest Russian-speaking public protest organized on January 23, 2021 in the major Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa and on April 21, 2021 in Tel Aviv. As opposed to immigrants’ organized activities oriented to internal Israeli issues, these protests were driven by the “Russian agenda” - a desire to express anti-Putin position and personal solidarity and support to relatives, friends and former colleagues who remained in Russia, as well as a sense of belonging to the community of new immigrants from Russia, which is now in tension with еру immigrants from Russia and USSR of past waves. Echoing the global protest events in Russian and diaspora, the local Israeli demonstration was launched by recent immigrants from Russia, commonly referred to in Hebrew as Putin's Aliyah (roughly meaning “repatriation” in Hebrew). Remarkably, this aforementioned slogan presented the authoritative regime in Russia as a major cause of immigration to Israel, implying the ambiguity of choice and necessity, and even associating the decision to emigrate as forced by Putin himself. In this paper we sketch a portrait of new migration wave from Putin’s Russia coming to Israel which increased during the last decade until today (CBS 2020). We present this group as a particular type of migration not only in the Israeli scene but also globally. It is as a part of the group which is described as new Russian “middle class”, high-educated and “westernized”, anxious about Putin’s regime and therefore deciding to emigrate from Russia (Gudkov, Zorkaya, 2013, Florinskaya, Karachurina, 2018, Levada-Center 2019). We will reveal how this migration is distinct from the very well-studied “Russian speaking Israelis” that arrived here in the earlier period (1990-2000). Combination of political and life-style dispositions of this new wave of migration and their practices of self-relocation makes them an intriguing case for study transnational forms of movement and belonging. These new immigrants usually practice distant jobs in their first years of immigration, continuing working on Russian employees. They participate in protest actions devoted to Russian politics which serve as symbolical group bond. They also reflect on their immigrant experience in blogs and digital communities which could be perceived as quasi-private quasi-public sphere where their transnational identity is also developed. These practices we examine in the paper. The paper is based on the ethnographic and netnographic interviews and observations collected in our pilot study within and about this group while examining their everyday and digital life, and is enriched by the comparative analysis with the earlier studies on Russian speaking migration to Israel.

Literature: Central Bureau of Statistic, Media-release “Immigration to Israel 2019”. 26.07.2020. Link https://www.cbs.gov.il/en/mediarelease/Pages/2020/Immigration-to-Israel-2019.as… Gudkov, L. D., & Zorkaja, N. A. (2013). Sterilizacija social'noj differenciacii: rossijskij «srednij klass» i jemigracija. [Sterilization of social differentiation: Russian “middle class” and emigration]. Mir Rossii. Sociologija. Jetnologija, 22(2). Florinskaya Y. F., Karachurina L. B. (2018) New wave of intellectual emigration from Russia: motives, channels and mechanisms. Monitoring of Public Opinion: economic and Social Changes. No. 6. P. 183—200. https://doi.org/10.14515/monitoring.2018.6.09. Levada-Center, Press-release “Emigration ressentiments”. 26.11.2019 Link https://www.levada.ru/2019/11/26/emigratsionnye-nastroeniya-4/

This paper is co-authored with Julia Lerner.

Rethmann, Petra

Migrant Ruins: Russian German Right-Wing Nationalism, Historical Revisionism, and the Challenges of Victimization

Between 1989 and 1993 approximately 1.5 million Russian Germans migrated from Siberia, Kazakhstan, and other places in the ex-Soviet Union to the reunified German Federal Republic. Initially described as politically unobtrusive and quiet, in September 2017 this assessment changed when it became clear that the right-wing party Alternative for Germany (AfD) would enter the German parliament with a stunning election result of 13.3 %. In this election’s aftermath, AfD politicians and pundits openly began to speculate that about one third of the party’s support was provided by German Russian-speaking voters. In this talk I examine how and why Russian German women and men who heretofore had largely voted for the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) did cast their vote for the AfD. I argue that this vote does not – as so often argued - rest in an intrinsic Russian German right-wing nationalism, but has been supported by a conservative-revisionist historiography that finds its roots in German post-War failures to address self-identifications of Germans as victims and larger issues of victimization.

The term Russian German marks a bifurcated identity. Ever since in 1763 Russian Empress Catherine the Great invited German peasants to settle parts of southern Russia, have Russian German women and men understood themselves in diasporic relations to Germany, settler-colonial relations to cultural others in Russia and Kazakhstan, as well as victims of Soviet Russian and Kazakh national aggression. Within this context, especially the 1941 deportations of Russian German communities from the Autonomous Socialist Republic for Volga Germans (Avtonomnaia Sovetskaia Sotsialistecheskaia Respublika Nemtzev Povolzh’ia; 1918-1941) to northern Kazakhstan, as well as conscripted service in a Soviet Labor Army and Karaganda Corrective Labor Camp mark key experiences of wounding and traumatization. In popular histories and biographical memoirs that Russian Germans authors have produced for wider German publics they particularly point to Russian-Soviet anti-German aggression as a particular site of wounding. In these description the term victim assumes a lexical stability that does not only exclude other victims – Jews, Roma, Sinti, communists, social democrats, and those who swerved from heterosexual norms – but also Turkish, Syrian, and other Middle Eastern migrants in contemporary Germany.

For years considered a quiet minority, in 2017 Russian German understandings of victimization turned into a problem when they clashed with the values of German welcome culture. In this talk I ask what happens when Russian German understandings of themselves as victims meet up with other narratives and experiences of victimization? What happens when one form of victimization supposedly surpasses another? And I ask how national historiographies support or disavow particular forms of victimization. In conceptualizing Germany nationalist historiography as a site of ruin I am particularly interested in understanding Russian German  often unaddressed experiences of historical injury, as well as attachments to those injuries.


Rocheva, Anna

Targeting in Social Networking Sites as a Method of Sampling for Migrant Studies in the Eurasian Context

Lack of sampling frames is one of the most serious challenges facing migration scholars worldwide. Even if a country has a population register covering its whole population including various groups of migrants, using this population register as a sampling frame requires caution. In the Eurasian space, reliable migration-related statistics does not exist for the majority of countries. At the same time, we observe development of the digital information and communication technologies (ICT) and rapid increase of the Internet penetration rate internationally, including the Eurasian space and migrants travelling within it, specifically. Migrants in Russia rely on messengers and social networking sites (SNS) for a variety of reasons: to connect to their relatives and friends, track migration laws changes, find employment and accommodation, spend leisure time, to name a few. Moreover, SNS provide opportunities to target SNS users with specific characteristics and expose them to advertisements. Targeting in SNS implies creating an advertisement with a link to an online survey and selecting those SNS users who will be exposed to an advertisement. In the presentation, we aim at discussing how targeting in SNS can be used for migrant surveys in Eurasia basing on seven surveys of first- and second-generation migrants from Central Asia and South Caucasus and non-migrants in Russia that we have implemented online with targeting in SNS from 2016 onwards. We describe the method itself, discuss its advantages and challenges focusing on the biases as well as delineate possible solutions such as dropout analysis, external validation and weighting. Furthermore, we illustrate the applicability of these solutions with a case of a web-based survey of migrants from Uzbekistan in Russia that used targeting in SNS. We conclude with outlining further directions of work that include the cooperation with SNS staff, further exploration of SNS usage practices among migrants, and combination of online and offline methods.

Ryzhova, Anna

Transnational News Repertoires in times of Conflict: How Russian Speakers in Germany Navigate News Media Landscapes

Migrants from the countries of the Former Soviet Union constitute the largest group of immigrants in German society today. While there are no official numbers, it is estimated, that at least 3 million people migrated to Germany after 1989, which constitutes around 3.5% of the German population. Despite the size and the prominence of this group, this group of migrants was largely neglected by sociological research in Germany after the 1990s. One area of research to be addressed are the media choices of the Russian speakers in Germany and the drivers of their media choices. Media plays an important role in democratic societies, as trust in news and media are essential for the functioning of the democratic system through citizens’ engagement within it, such as voting, political participation, etc. 

Studying media choices of the Russian speakers is especially relevant in the light of the promotion of the anti-Western narratives in the Russian state-sponsored media and well as the efforts of the Russian government to formulate its “compatriot policy” in media and through the affiliated institutions, within which the Russian state guards the interests of the Russian speakers outside its legal territories. As the media choices of the Russian speaking migrants in Germany were never explicitly addressed before, this paper aims to address this gap by conceptualizing Russian speaking migrants in Germany as audiences and as users, and studying their media diets through the prism of the concept “news media repertoires” and their motivations within the Uses and Gratifications theory. Another innovation of this study is that through combining the lens of transnationalism with the concept of “news media repertoires”, I propose the concept of “transnational news media repertoires” to capture the news use of the audiences, who use media from more than one media field. This study is based on a series of qualitative semi-structured interviews. The respondents are the Russian-speaking migrants of the first and 1.5. generation, who moved to Germany between the 1990s and 2015. The results of this study are presented as a classification of the Russian speakers’ news media repertoires, and their motivations for choosing or avoiding specific media/ platforms/ outlets within those. The study also offers an insight into the diverging understandings of what constitutes the Russian speakers’ understandings of domestic or ethnic media, precisely into what “Russian media” means to the participants – a question, previously not addressed in the literature. The results of the study facilitate the understanding of why do the Russian speakers in Western democracies read Russian language media, what are their patterns of news media use and what gratifications reading media from different media fields (Russian and German) satisfy.