This page contains the names, abstracts and panel information for 18th annual Aleksanteri Conference participants with surnames beginning with letters A to D. Please see speakers E — H, I — K, L — N, O — P, R— S and T — Ö on respective pages. Note also, that panels and roundtables covered by a single abstract are listed separately.
Speakers A — D
“Is it Possible Russia Could Join NATO? – I Don’t See Why Not?” Russia’s Quest for Identity in the Post-Gorbatchev Era
In a series of speeches in 1989 the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared the philosophy of the “Common European Home” by which he emphasized the improbability of war and conflict in Europe. This concept was a leap forward from the “peaceful coexistence” of the Cold War period in the sense that it signified a deeper engagement by the Soviet Union to see Europe as a commonwealth of sovereign and economically interdependent nations. A wider reflection of this idyllic image was Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History (1992) where the American scholar argued for the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. In post-Soviet Russia, after the chaotic years of Boris Yeltsin as president, his follower Vladimir Putin (2000−08, 2012−) was seen as a saviour of Russia’s great power status. While Putin made tentative attempts to continue the rapprochement with the West, the authoritarian tendencies in the domestic as well as in the international arena in quest of great powerhood seemed to close the new vistas of cooperation raised at the end of the Cold War. This essay asserts that despite Russia’s relative isolation on the international scene in the 2010’s, Gorbatchev’s concept still has resonance as Russia’s historical and cultural bonds to the West leave little room for a total severance of ties to the rest of Europe. It is argued that far from being the “other”, the European heritage can tilt Russia’s path back to a more Western-oriented route.
Presents in panel 2G
Postmaterialist Values and Social Capital: Cohort Trends in Russia
Following Putnam`s approach (2001) social capital is treated as a threefold phenomenon consisting of generalized trust, civic activity and norms. Several papers demonstrate that postmaterialistic values amplify the level of trust and civic activity in a society (Welzel and Deutsch 2012; Welzel 2013; Welzel and Delhey 2015). However they detected only general impact of values not taking into account cohort differences. Moreover, cross-sectional data mostly used for such analysis does not solve the causality problem.
The current study contributes in the field in several ways. First, instead of cross-sectional data we incorporate time trends provided by the five waves of the World Values Survey which were collected in Russia in 1990, 1995, 2006, 2011 in 2017. Along with values we trace economic inequality and economic prosperity since previous studies revealed their positive influence on social capital (Delhey & Newton 2005, Rothstein & Uslaner 2005, Welzel 2013). For validation of the results we compare Russian trends with countries which demonstrated high levels of social capital. Second, we include norms measured through justification of antisocial behavior. Though generalized trust and civic engagement have been widely explored in recent decades the role of norms has remained underinvestigated. Third, we are interested in age cohorts with specific focus on younger groups as they are the main source of increasing stocks of social capital in a society.
Preliminary results show that while trust and civic activity shows positive dynamic, justification of antisocial actions demonstrate the opposite downward trend. Though these tendencies are common for all cohorts, younger groups are becoming more trusting and active but at the same time more tolerant to antisocial behavior. Trust and civic engagement are associated with decrease of inequality and rise of prosperity, but not with values.
Presents in panel 4H
Changing Cues – Changing Opinions: Russian TV Viewers’ Reception of Media Coverage of the Ukrainian Political Crisis of 2013-2014
Since the unleashing of Russia-Ukraine conflict in 2013, the idea of the uncritical viewer is considered to be an essential factor contributing to the legitimacy of the Putin’s regime. However, it often remains a political statement rather than a fact: the viewer’s mind remains a black box of media research. Based on the focus groups with TV viewers, I find that the consistency of political judgment varies by level of engagement. The politicized minority of focus groups participants stick to one opinion interpreting TV messages. Other participants have contradictory considerations in their memory; these considerations are activated depending on salience effects: they can change opinions from supportive to critical ones depending on cues introduced in a discussion.
I draw several conclusions from this analysis. First, I argue that cognitive engagement with politics is a crucial factor which should be taken into account in the analysis of media and opinion formation. The category of persuasion underlining many studies on media effects and opinion is meaningful only in case of people engaged in politics. Otherwise, the process of information processing can be better understood as the echo: viewers reflect information without opinion change. Second, my findings contribute to the understanding of Russian media and politics: contrary to the idea about media as an important pillar of Putin’s regime, I show that media power is fragile; once the dominant cues for interpretation are absent, the approval can turn into disapproval fast. As well, my findings put into question the methodology of mass surveys: given disengagement with politics, what pollsters measure as political opinions is often a pattern of psychological reactions reflecting the dominance of particular cues in media.
Presents in panel 6A
Russian Media in the Context of 'traditional values' Discourse and anti-LGBTQ ‘traditional sexualities’ Legislation: Resistance, Conformity or Compromise?
In recent years, Russia faced a neo-conservative turn manifesting itself, among other societal phenomena, in ongoing attempts at infringement on the freedom of press, as well as in state-promoted discourses of institutionalised heteronormativity and ‘traditional’ values. For example, Federal Law 195 Article 6.21 of June 2013 banning ‘propaganda’ of non-traditional sexual behaviour and relationships among minors came to be used not only against LGBTQ individuals, but also as a means of censoring portrayals of LGBTQ people and limiting their visibility in the Russian media.
The proposed paper explores how Russian media strategies of covering LGBTQ-related topics in the context of current legislation correlate with contemporary Russia’s conservative public discourses on issues of sex, gender and sexuality correlate. The report draws on the research findings of the analysis of the media data obtained during two stages of day-by-day monitoring of selected Russian media outlets in March – April 2017 and March – April 2018.
Four case studies observed during data collection are in the focus of the paper:
-April 2017 case of unlawful rounding up, detainment and torture of gay men in Chechnya;
-April 2017 case of Xavier Jugelé, police officer and gay rights activist, killed in a terrorist attack in Paris;
-March 2018 case of sexual harassment complaints filed by female journalists against Russian State Duma member Leonid Slutskiy, followed by several media outlets boycotting the Duma;
-March – April 2018 case of Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) blacklisting LGBTQ-catered websites gay.ru, lesbiru.com and parniplus.com.
The paper analyses the range of strategies for covering those cases applied by various media outlets (pro-, anti-Kremlin and neutral; newspaper websites, internet TV channel, news and entertainment portals) and illustrates the findings through in-depth critical discourse analysis of selected media texts devoted to each case.
Neglected and Forgotten? 1968 and the Belarusian Soviet Intelligentsia
1968 is remarkable for the upheavals and protest movements across the globe. For Eastern and Central European intelligentsia, the most significant event of 1968, most probably, was the Prague spring – a liberalization of socialist order initiated by Alexander Dubček – and its violent dispersal in August the same year. It is known, that the intervention did not evoke much open protest in the Soviet Union, yet it signified the watershed after which the belief in a reformed socialism evaporated. In my presentation, I will discuss the effects of the Prague Spring on the intelligentsia in the BSSR, the “most socialist” Soviet republic.
My main questions are: to which extent news from Czechoslovakia reached Belarus, how were they interpreted, and which changes the year 1968 brought to the milieu of the Belarusian intelligentsia? Did it foster the solidarity or circumspection? Were any lessons learned? Looking at the global development, the discontent flared up simultaneously at the different spots of Europe (Czechoslovakia, Poland, and France) and the World (US). In the BSSR, the first uncensored publication – Mikola Ermalovič’s “Following the track of one myth” – appeared in samizdat, and the Academic circle, one of the first informal nonconformist groups of the intelligentsia, started to consolidate in 1968. Was the coincidence accidental, or can it, on the contrary, prove a certain continuity of the events in Belarus with a global chain of noncompliance?
Presents in panel 3C
EU Normative Power as Discursive Practice: the Case of South Caucasus Countries
The normative power concept reasserts the priority of values above interests of global actors and frames the ability to implement external policy that would correspond to the normative basis of international relations. The 2015 review of the European Neighbourhood Policy changed the cooperation agenda for the EU partners, having strengthened the pragmatic side of it, but has not disposed of the values and norms discourse completely. Referring to the values discourse, the leadership of Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan have raised issues connected to the conflictual relations with the neighbourhing countries, thus
strengthening the dividing lines in the region. Search for bilateral cooperation formats between the EU and partner countries made the perspective of creating a common normative space in the South Caucasus
even less reachable.
In the absence of membership perspective the success of the approximation with the EU is predominantly defined by self- motivation of the partner countries. If the official political narrative correlates with the European values discourse, the European vocation argument is used to stregthen the national position. In those cases, when the official leadership of the country does not find it necessary to correpospond to the EU requirements, the partner countries can easily deviate from the "European way", given the ambiguity of the European values interpretations by the EU officials, inconsistency between the claimed values and factual results of cooperation.
Even though there exists a clear demand from the South Caucasus countries for a model of political and social development, any overwhelming normative agenda has to be aligned with the national one, which adds a new dimension to the European identity and opens it up for further deliberation and construction.
Presents in panel 4E
Labor of Independent Journalists in Russia: Doubly Precarious Employment?
The paper addresses the issue of labor experiences and subjectivities of independent journalists in Russia as a case of labor, related to knowledge production, in an authoritarian neoliberal state. I argue that journalists’ labor is simultaneously conditioned by the particular economic regime, placing workers in a “precarious” position, as well as state’s endeavor at reproduction of symbolic order and marginalization of those in conflict with the hegemonic state project. While most research on the impact of authoritarian regimes on independent media concerns the institutional level and focuses at the transformations that media industry suffers, this study puts individual labor experiences to the fore. Moreover, labor instability and insecurities are usually claimed to be a result of the transformation of the global economic regime only, whereas, I argue, labor in some domains, particularly related to symbolic production, might be stipulated by state’s striving at maintenance of its hegemonic project.
Therefore, the paper discusses how the two regimes of precarity – conditioned by the economic and political orders – are subjectively experienced by the independent journalists. Analysis is based on a series of semi-structured interviews conducted with journalists affiliated – formally as well as informally – with Russian independent media outlets, coupled with content analysis of public discussions of specificities of independent journalistic labor. It demonstrates that labor-related instabilities, caused by the political regime, are most frequently perceived as dominant and more problematic than those related to the neoliberal order, and seeks to point at some possible explanations.
Presents in panel 3A
The “Hitler Within You”: The Red Army Faction, Historical Memory, and West Germany in 1961-1970
This article examines the invocactions of the Fascist past in the writings of the West German terrorist organization, the Red Army Faction, aka the Baader-Meinhof Group. As a extremist offshoot of 1968 protests, the Red Army Faction (RAF) shared its origins, memories, and historical continuity with other leftist movements of the period. Many of its members - most notably, former journalist Ulrike Meinhof - became radicalized during protests and speeches by individuals such as activist Rudi Dutschke. The RAF conceived of themselves and their activities as a response to the West German failure to denazify its government and institute pro-democratic policies, notably with regards to the Vietnam War. Through a close reading of Meinhof’s collected writings and the RAF’s published communiques, this article explores how the RAF identified themselves and their enemies in the grand narrative of German history. They tied the late 1960s so tightly to the Nazi years, and reference a ‘neo-fascism’ that had developed in the West. Their identification with the ‘Red Army’ attempted to recreate the ideological conflict of World War II within a Cold War German context, and attract allies in their fight against the democratic-slash-fascist government of the Federal Republic in the 1960s. The RAF’s activities at a critical moment in European history revealed the anxieties of a generation once-removed from World War II, and prompted a discussion about codified historical memory and the further development of democracy in West Germany.
Presents in panel 3D
From National to Transnational: Socialism, Democracy, and Human Rights for Ukrainian Diaspora Students in the West after 1968
This paper will analyze the civic and political activism of university students of Ukrainian descent in the West during and after the social and cultural revolutions of 1968. In particular, I will describe the foundation and the activities of the Committee for the Defense of Soviet Political Prisoners (CDSPP), a transnational association with activists in America, Europe, and (tentatively) Australia, which fought to defend Soviet dissidents. Unlike the previous generation, which was predominantly right-wing, anti-Soviet and fixated on the national question, these youngsters did not reject the Bolshevik revolution and the Soviet experience as a whole. They were inspired by socialism in the particular version of Soviet (Ukrainian) sixtiers (shestidesiatniki or shistdesiatnyky), which included the principle of the democratic form of government and respect for human rights. Since its foundation, the CDSPP engaged in international information campaigns on the violation of human rights in the Soviet Union, often linking them to protests for the defense of human rights in other geographical contexts, such as the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. The caesura represented by this movement is twofold: on one hand this second generation of Ukrainian emigres had a transnational conception of their national belonging and they saw themselves both as Ukrainians and as members of their new home countries. Secondly, these activists were surely in favor of Ukrainian independence but were less focused on the national question and their ultimate task was the formation of an international democratic and libertarian socialist movement, which would renew the political objectives of the revolution that had taken place fifty years earlier. The paper will present both the initiatives of the CDSPP and the internal debate over the political line to follow.
Presents in panel 4D
Social Inequality and New Identities in the Context of Biotechnology Development in Russia
The paper deals with social consequences of biotechnology development on the example of modern Russia. Progress in biology and medicine, changing understanding of health and disease, has an impact not only on social practices of caring for the body, but also contributes to the formation of new kinds of social cohesion and structures of social inequality. Resulting from the interaction between medical knowledge, political and economic institutions, biological and genetic realities permeate in everyday life. The process of medicalization continues in biomedicalization and genetization of society. As well as understanding of being health is transformed today the concept of quality of life becomes more complex.
Using such conceptions as bioeconomics, biopolitics (M. Foucault), biological citizenship (N. Rose, A. Petryna, A. Kerr) and such empirical methods as analysis of Russian statistics, discourse analysis of mass media, in-depth interviews we studied new forms of social inequality and new identities resulting from the spread of biotechnology. Two main forms of social inequality were identified. The first one is inequality caused by differences in access to genetic and medical technologies, and biological tissues and materials. This affordability varies by socio-economic status, gender. Thus, traditional forms of inequality acquire extra dimension, creating new configurations. The second form is biological and genetic inequality associated with discovery of genetic conditionality of many diseases and possibilities of their prevention, management and control over them. Biological aspects have got social and cultural importance that leads to symbolic exclusion and discrimination against people with «susceptibility genes», and the formation of communities and social activism based on genetic and biological identities. Thus, such biologization and genetization of identities can be regarded as a marker of social change.
This paper is co-authored with Ekaterina Orekh.
The Impact of Interest Groups on Institutional Inertia: the Case of Social Protection of Disabled People in Russia
The activities of NGOs in the focus of the study of the Russian welfare policy are important aspects for analysis. The scientific discourse focuses on studying various factors within the framework of a hybrid / authoritarian political regime and the impact of reforms on the regional context (Magun, 2011; Kulmala, 2013; Tarasenko, 2015). Another issue for analysis is the cross-sectoral partnership in the public policy (Sungurov, 2005; Yakimec, Nikovskaya, 2011).
The current Russian welfare system is based on both neoliberal trends experienced through new public management and rooted in the soviet time, statist practice and paternalism. An important example of the paternalistic practices in the Russian welfare policy is the context of authoritarian modernization (Gelman, Starodubtsev, 2014). Inside of this context, there is the institutional inertia supporting conservative practices in the social protection of people with disabilities through structured management and co-financing of various institutions. The scholars argue about the impact on policy income among the professional NGOs as the interest groups involved in cooperation with the government in the sphere of social provision (Tarasenko, 2015; Kay, 2011). Applying the interest group theory, state executive bodies responsible for welfare and social-oriented NGOs are considered as the interested groups. Nevertheless, the existence of institutional inertia and the impact of interest groups towards the phenomenon of inertia are not clear and desirable to investigate.
Thus, my PhD project intends to get answers, what is the institutional inertia in the Russian welfare and which are inertial practices realized by NGOs considered as the interest groups. The project will be based on the theories of new institutionalism and interest groups.
It employs the discourse analysis to study the Russian welfare legislation, interviews with employees and members of the All-Russian societies of disabled, blind and deaf, analysis of the NGO’s documents and internet resources.
Presents in panel 2J
The Changing Nature of the Soviet Welfare System 1918-1988
The paper examines the changing character of welfare provision in the Soviet Union from its beginnings in 1918. It draws on ideas developed by Tomas's Inglot in his study of the development of welfare provision in communist East Central Europe, and seeks to explore how far his concept of 'emergency welfare states' can help understand Soviet developments. This concept proposes that each stage in the development of welfare systems under communist rule was influences by previous legacies, each of which in turn took shape through changes adopted in crisis situations in which existing arrangements were failing and needed to be adapted.
EU Policy Change Toward Russia and Russian Responses in Light of the Ukraine Crisis: A Conceptual Framework and First Conclusions
The outbreak of the Ukraine crisis brought a critical change that has been widely dubbed as heralding in a crisis in EU-Russia relations. Accordingly, since 2014 the EU has engaged in policy reflection, leading to adjustments, small and large, in various aspects of its Eastern policy and its relations with Russia . This paper will examine key arenas of this policy reflection and analyze the nature of EU policy responses and discuss, in a preliminary fashion, the nature of Russia responses. A question driving the analysis is whether these processes of change indicate a paradigm change in EU-Russia relations or whether they indicate a process of incremental change combined with sustained crisis response. The focal areas of EU policy reflection addressed in the paper are threefold (a) EU revisions to the EU’s Eastern Partnership policy; (2) EU responses to the Russia- supported regional integration scheme, the Eurasian Economic Union; and (3) EU energy policy affecting Russia. The paper explores the hypothesis that EU has engaged in a combination of incremental policy change plus sustained crisis response, while Russia has flirted with paradigmatic policy change, but with a continuing preference for a Europe-oriented foreign policy approach. The theoretical basis of the paper is constructivism, rooted in the premise that the relationship between the EU and Russia, even under present circumstances of heightened tension, is strongly influenced by the interaction of mutual perceptions.
Jiu-Jitsu Socialism: Dean Reed and the Cultural Revolution in East Germany
Dean Reed, the Colorado-born singer who captured the communist world’s imagination, remains in the memories of millions in the former Eastern Bloc and completely unknown in America. Sponsored by the German Democratic Republic for fourteen years, from 1972 until his death in 1986, he was beloved in Eastern Europe for his good looks, naïve optimism and cowboy persona. Yet for decades East German leaders had been railing against this very aesthetic: America’s “poisonous” and “decadent” popular music culture and its unruly “cowboyism.” Why, then, did the Socialist Unity Party (SED) choose to sponsor Dean Reed, and what does this decision reveal about the GDR’s leadership and society?
In my thesis, I argue that the SED sensed an opportunity to convert the singer’s fame into a platform for its agenda and was willing to tolerate his American aesthetic in order to promote socialism on a mass scale. Developing the concept of jiu-jitsu socialism, in which a communist society borrows artistic and entertainment models from the West and retools them for use under socialism, I document the arc of GDR culture policy between 1949 and 1986 through the case study of Dean Reed. I believe that the SED’s investment in Reed defies mainstream stereotypes of Eastern Bloc societies as rigid and uncompromising: on the contrary, jiu-jitsu socialism demonstrated resourcefulness, an acknowledgement of a rival society’s strengths, and an understanding that persuasion would have to complement repression if socialist culture was to survive in Europe.
Presents in panel 3B
Alternatives in a Making: Concept of Freedom in Lithuanian Catholic Samizdat (1972-1989)
In 1972 Romas Kalanta committed suicide by self-immolation while shouting “Freedom to Lithuania”. It was followed by mass protests now commonly interpreted as spontaneous call for a state independence. Though some recent interpretation raises a question whether this act of Kalanta could not be interpreted as call for individual freedom (he was known as one taking part in Kaunas’s hippie movement). Either way it raises a question, how can non-Soviet concept of freedom can be interpreted. It is true, that the common understanding of it is closely related to an idea of independent state. And it was openly declared in writing of nationalist underground organization “Lithuanian Liberty League” and Sajūdis movement. But next to these individual attempts to fight for freedom and above-mentioned state-centered interpretation of freedom it is worth mentioning stand towards freedom of probably the most influential non-state organization in Soviet Lithuanian – Catholic Church. Not only because it was at least partly free, but also because it took a possibility to speak about freedom in a different manner than dominant soviet discourse. Since 1972 and publishing of Chronicle of Catholic Church in Lithuania people closely connected to Catholic Church became the main samizdat producers in soviet Lithuania. They were presenting the most solid texts and alternative ideological interpretations.
In this paper I would like to focus on concept of freedom, which for them became one of the key ideas. Ideationally could be linked to tradition of Lithuanian Christian democratic though, but it also acts in relation with ideas developed by Lithuanians in exile and also reacts to changes in Catholic Church. The main goal of the paper is to present, what is the most important features of freedom and who are the subjects obtaining it in world view of Lithuanian Catholics.
Presents in panel 7J
New Age Spirituality in Russia: Local Peculiarities of Global Cultural Trend
New Age/Holistic Spirituality is a global cultural phenomenon which came into existence in the last third of twentieth century as a counter-cultural movement and later transformed into widespread set of bizarre practices and beliefs. In the beginning, it was seemed as “New Age Religion” (Wouter Hanegraaff), but later it perceived just as “culture and milieu” (David Bruce). Now different manifestations of New Age Spirituality, from yoga or holistic medicine to ‘wise’ (and predominantly fake) quotations of Buddha in social networks, became a part of daily routine.
In Russia modern Spirituality acquired some important cultural features, which make them not only expression of globalization, but also a unique fact of local socio-cultural life. Russian Spirituality is rooted from authentic sources such as autochthonous forms of Christian spirituality, national traditions of international esoterism of last XIX – early XX century, and soviet isolationism. The last led to creation of special atmosphere, which, from the one hand, was devoid of competition in scientific sphere, and, from the other one, forced people to escape to imaginary world. As a result, international and local Spirituality look like the same phenomena, but, at the same time, may carry different values.
Meanwhile, it may be presumed, that in Russia even typical Western forms of New Age Spirituality perform the special role. Spiritual discourse as an important feature of Late Modernity revolves around sacralization of the Self. In Russia ideology of this individualistic “Invisible Religion” (Luckmann, 1967), to some extent, helps to preserve middle class’ political indifference. Surprisingly, like the theory of small deeds, Spirituality imperceptibly shifts public’s attention from politics to individual’s inner life. Self-development, thus, substitutes involvement in public Affairs.
Presents in panel 7J
Non-western Visions of Regionalism: China’s Road and Belt Initiative and Russia’s Greater Eurasia
Since a joint declaration for combining the Belt and Road Initiative of China and Eurasian Economic Union was published and a great Eurasian partnership announced by Vladimir Putin, geopolitical competition between China and Russia as an argument for the crisis in Russian-Chinese relations has been avoided. Analysing China’s and Russia’s regional initiatives, this article offers an explanation of changing spatial narrative and its role in development of region. The article compares China’s and Russia’s interpretion of Eurasia and argues that although there are distinct views of regional order but powers could rebuild regional order by cooperation.
Presents in panel 6J
Transitional Justice and Public Sphere
De Greiff (2012) argues that transitional justice (‘TJ’) works by means of granting affirmation to certain norms. What is significant here is not only the substantive matter of norms, but also the procedural – i.e. how the norms are being produced. With that in mind, TJ should provide for a process and platform, where all stakeholders (including the opposing and conflicting parties) will have a safe space, where they can address TJ-related issues on equitable manner. Justice as a space of public deliberation and rethinking of the existent social arrangements is analogous to the concept of ‘public sphere’ as provided by Habermas. Investigating the compatibility of the notion of public sphere and TJ is useful as it can explain the possibilities of civil society’s involvement in TJ processes, and further investigate the opportunities outside of the traditional state- and institution- centric approach to justice. It would also enable to address the criticism of public sphere as it is similar to the contemporary issues TJ is facing.
Habermas’ public sphere is an elite, male dominated, exclusive space, where only political, not private or economic issues can be discussed. As with public sphere, it is often the case that TJ measures are top-down, state-centric, exclusive and do not allow for a wider participation of those concerned due to the structural inequalities a conflict and oppression produces. Adopting Fraser’s (1990) critique of Habermasian public sphere would enable to draw on multiple points important for TJ as well, such as: rethinking the presumption of social equality of those involved in public sphere; inclusion of private into the domain of public (for TJ it would mean inclusion of economic, social and cultural rights, religious rights and developmental needs, going beyond elite level analysis); rethinking the role of civil society and the interaction of it with a state; reflection on heterogeneity of public spheres. The given paper aims to analyse the compatibility of the notion of TJ as a public sphere and address the criticism that the field faces using the critique of Nancy Fraser, and expanding on the critique, based on the specificities of TJ as a field.
Presents in panel 1G