This page contains the names, abstracts and panel information for 18th annual Aleksanteri Conference participants with surnames beginning with letters L to N. Please see speakers A — D, E — H, I — K, 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 L — N
Democracies in Crisis and Their Institutional defenses
The paper describes a new theoretical framework and empirical method to understand the crisis of democracy from an institutional perspective. Since the most famous writings on the topic in the Seventies, the use of the expression “crisis of democracy” has grown in a confused manner both in political science and comparative politics. Hence, the focus of this new paradigm of research is based upon democracy’s institutional defenses and strength. In this vision, democracy is in crisis when its institutions are attacked from within by the incumbents who use democratic means against democratic aims. For instance, by emerging leaderships which use the democratic game to dismantle its constitutional and non-constitutional guarantees.
The first part of the paper offers a general overview of institutional defenses within democracies, it proposes a refined research agenda to answer to the following questions: How do democracies defend themselves? To what extent are democracies able to cope with current threats? And which democracies can withstand a crisis better and why? The second part deals with the development of the Index of democratic strength to accurately measure the capacity of a democracy to withstand attacks. The index of democratic strength would refer to the degree of which its political balances, institutional guarantees and constitutional design provide effective defense to democracy. From this standpoint, the key feature of a democracy is its capacity to self-defense and how this purpose has shaped its institutional system.
The information collected in the index allows for observation of strengths, showing how and why some may fail while others overcome. The empirical method used here systematically analyses a sequence of symptoms, which maps how a crisis develops from the beginning, its impact over democratic defenses, and significant causal links between formal and informal changes occurring in the institutions of democracy. This measure represents the extent to which democratic institutions are attacked as a kind of litmus paper of the crisis of democracy.
The third part analyses two main cases: United States of America and Poland. The Index of democratic strength shows us which are the condition of the essential defenses of these democracies and which are the main dynamics of every democratic crisis. Finally, this research offers some guidelines for a more scientific approach to the debate on the crisis of democracy as an inescapable priority for the advancement of political science.
Presents in panel 5F
Unfinished Revolution: the Muslim Press in Russia
In January 2018, during a meeting with Russian Muslim leaders in Kazan, President Vladimir Putin acknowledged the role of traditional Islam in the cultural codex of Russia. Putin’s remark evoked Russia’s ambiguous relationship with Islam and Muslims in the Russian Federation.
For scholars, Islam in Russia remains a challenging subject matter on a number fronts. Outside of the Near East, Muslims in Russia represent one of the most diverse religious communities in the world, consisting of numerous ethnic groups, with distinct linguistic and cultural traditions, as well as regional and national identities spanning across regions. Furthermore, it is an arduous task to decipher the exact number of Muslims in Russia. This is in part due to the presence of millions of “ethnic” (Этнические мусульмане) or “cultural” Muslims (Культурные мусульмане) vs. the so-called “observant” Muslims (соблюдающие мусульмане).
Yet within with this complex cultural and religious system, there exists a multifaceted Muslim press, whose evolution from the late Imperial to the early Modern Russian Periods remains a fascinating area of scholarship. This paper will trace the growth of the Muslim press after the 1905 Revolution, its consolidation and survival during the Soviet Period, followed by its awakening after two historic legislation passed by Russia (“O pechati i drugikh sredstvakh massovoi informatsii” and “O svobode sovesti i o religioznykh ob”edineniiakh).
These unique publishing cultures represent outlets for freedom of expression (even in confined cultural space) and protest among Muslim communities in Russia. Understanding their cultural and religious contributions is critical to the advancement of contemporary Russian Studies.
Presents in panel 3A
Digital activism in Russia
In this paper we will investigate the context, modes and impact of various types of activism in the Russian-language segment of the Internet and social media after the beginning of the opposition protest wave in 2011. We will examine the interplay between Russian authorities’ efforts to have a full control over civil society (which we dub ‘The occupation of the Runet’) and democratic initiatives effectuated through Runet by civil society actors.
This paper is co-authored with Larisa Shpakovskaya and Philip Torchinsky.
Transnational human rights networks and St Petersburg LGBTQI activism
Since the 2000s, established Russian LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, transgender, queer and intersex) movement has become increasingly part of transnational human rights movement. In my PhD research, I study the impacts of these networks localizing in St Petersburg. I ask how local LGBTQI NGOs and activists manifest these impacts in their activities, what negotiations are involved in them and how these discussions reflect the geopolitical division between ‘east’ and ‘west’ in the knowledge production of gender and sexuality.
My research is empirical, employing an ethnographic research method: I observe and interview St Petersburg LGBTQI activists and participate in their activities. Additionally, I interview Russian LGBTQI activists who have migrated from St Petersburg since 2013. Legislature on “the propaganda of homosexuality to the minors” was introduced on a federal level in Russia the same year. Ongoing data collection consists of 45 interviews and participatory-observation during five months in St Petersburg.
Both emigrated and local St Petersburg LGBTQI activists express how stepping into the transnational networks similarly means clashing with a universalized concept of human rights. The activists emphasize their expertise and look for an equal partnership within transnational networks. Nevertheless, this attempt is contested against the dominant western vision of Eastern Europe as lagging behind the ‘progressed’ west.
Negotiations on the concepts of human rights continue within the heterogeneous St Petersburg LGBTQI activist movement. Many activists recognize and problematize these neocolonial aspects in global human rights discourses. However, the imbalanced recourses together with unification project of human rights conclude at times in self-colonizing practices. Nevertheless, activists employ also some of the Soviet samizdat practices into their activities. Activists create the hybrids of methods and discussions and similarly reveal blind spots in the western human rights discourse.
Presents in panel 1I
Post-Soviet Conflicts and Foreign Policies in Europe, the West and Russia: Buffer States or ‘New Sovereignty’?
How do we deal with the old concept of buffer states and what is the recurrent relevance today in the post-Soviet space and the protracted conflicts? Similarly, how do we evaluate the radicalisation of not yet visible but emerging conflicts?
The argument of this research identifies the reasons for the foreign policy behaviours of smaller, which I call buffer states that lie in the orbit of larger entities, as institutions and organisations, or in-between more ‘significant’ countries, and are highly influenced by the conflict dynamics of their protracted conflict. It asks, How successful can an IO act for the post-Soviet state and the conflict in question and how much can it actually do in light of Russia and what does a failure mean, if an IO gives priority to the post-Soviet state but neglects Russia’s place?
The responses by pan-European actors towards the internal conflicts have been decisive in defining Moldova and Georgia’s trajectories. This speaks for reconceptualising the techniques of conflict resolution through forms of sovereignty, as the Westphalia model or that of shared sovereignty; yet, sovereignty speaks to forms that are reinterpreted by Russia on the one hand and by IOs on the other hand. By placing this thought, I refer to the established and new concepts and ask: What does it mean for the macro level, referring to relations between Russia and the West? This is also related to the question, as to how can external actors and domestic politics influence this development on the micro level? If local actors dominate the IOs to support them financially and viably through investment, what does it mean then for state-building and sovereignty and how IOs could communicate with the ‘emerging states’ of today? Finally, how would the effect of ‘new sovereignty’ show in conflict transformation?
Presents in panel 4E
Race, Civilization, and the New Primordialism: South Africa and the Soviet Collapse
For decades, the banned organizations of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement found friends in the Soviet Union. Championing the right of all South Africans—regardless of race—to self-determination, the Soviet Union provided aid to the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party in the mission to end apartheid and establish a non-racial democracy. This paper focuses on the late 1980s, as the old order came under attack in both South Africa and the Soviet Union. Questioning inherited certainties about Others and Brothers led members of every camp to seek out new conversations and often to take new, unexpected positions. Closed conversations became open; a tightly-regulated trickle of information became a flood. Everyone was forced to ask: what, if anything, from the old world was true? Amidst tremendous upheaval, an unexpected friendship emerged between Russians and white South Africans who agreed that freedom meant anti-communism and the partition of multi-ethnic societies into ethnically-defined homelands.
Apartheid means “separateness.” Emphasizing the ethnic violence that accompanied the Soviet breakup and observing what seemed to be a similarly unruly process of transformation in South Africa, some Russian Africanists began to defend the virtues of separateness. This paper analyzes the dramatic changes in their thinking about race, civilization, and culture. Beginning around 1990, these Africanists warmed to the idea that, contrary to what they had earlier thought, ideological barriers might be constructed and artificial, while, also contrary to their earlier thinking, ethnic or national differences were primordial and likely insurmountable.
Presents in panel 7F
Protest in the Name of Putin
Pickets and demonstrations, in which ordinary Russians ask their president for help and intervention in conflicts with local powerholders, became increasingly common in contemporary Russia. Posters saying “Putin, help us!” are now an integral part of any individual or group protest related to deforestation, waste disposal, unjust resettlement and other non-political issues. People’s pleas for the presidential help are often ridiculed by Russian liberal opposition and overlooked by civil society scholars who tie these practices into the classic “good Tsar, bad boyars” trope.
The present study provides an alternative view on pro-Putin resistance in Russia and investigates it as a form of political protest in an authoritarian regime. By appealing to the president for help, protesters shield themselves from repressions and are able to demand resignation of local and regional authorities. This study argues that the protests in the name of Putin are not an expression of people’s loyalty to the president, but rather a pragmatic use of the official state rhetoric and permitted frameworks for social resistance and mobilisation.
Public Perceptions of Social Inequalities in Russia
Public perception of social inequalities as unduly high, based on illegitimate foundations and generally not conforming to the "ideal" social model, can have significant negative social consequences. Based on the empirical data of all-Russian representative surveys carried out by the Institute of Sociology FCTAS RAS in 2012-2018 it is shown that the problem of social inequalities and their fairness in the eyes of the population poses a serious challenge for the state in modern Russia, which the population sees as the main actor in solving this problem.
Currently, only 2% of the population state the absence of sharp inequalities in modern Russia, and only 9% do not suffer from any inequalities themselves. The ranking of the most painful inequalities is headed by inequality in income; among the non-monetary inequalities the most sensitive are those associated with the basic aspects of the quality of life - medicine and housing, followed by a group of inequalities related to the possibilities of social mobility.
There currently is an observed gap between the "ideal" and "real" model of modern Russian society in the public perception of Russians in terms of depth of social inequalities. The imbalance between expectations and reality influences, among other things, the assessments of the situation in the country and its prospects as well as confidence in the state; it also leads to the formation of a request by population to state to reduce inequality.
It is important to emphasize, however, that while striving for a society of greater social homogeneity, most Russians still have in mind not equality of incomes and living conditions, but equality of opportunity. Efficiency of work and qualification in conditions of equal opportunities continue to remain in the eyes of Russians legitimate grounds for the formation of monetary inequalities, although with certain reservations.
Presents in panel 5I
A State Pretending to Be a Civilisation: Making Sense of Russia’s Conservative Turn
While China has been characterised as ‘a civilisation pretending to be a state’ (Lucian Pye) today’s Russia represents an opposite example of a state pretending to be a civilisation. The recent conservative ideological turn in Russian politics is connected with an emphasis on Russia’s specific ‘civilisational’ identity. Some commentators stressed a ‘Eurasian’ civilisational component of the new ideology and its impact on foreign policy. However, it has been argued that the ‘Eurasianist choice’ is not particularly attractive to the Russian elite and bearers of that discourse mostly remain marginal. According to Marlene Laruelle, the particular kind of conservatism chosen by the Russian elite presents Russia as a European civilisation that does not follow the Western path of development.
The paper discusses some recent approaches to the concept of civilisation in historical sociology and international relations. At the same time it is emphasised that in order to make sense of Russia’s conservative turn we need to consider not only civilisational discourses but also interpretations of modernity. For Peter Wagner, the present world situation can be seen through the prism of attempts at reinterpreting modernity with significant regional varieties. From this perspective, Russia’s conservative turn is largely a revolt against the legacies of the Western 1968. The conservative turn is connected with preserving ‘authentic’ European values which mostly belong to the pre-1968 period of European history. The paper argues that the current conservative ideology of the Russian authorities includes not only elements of various civilisational imaginaries but also a non-liberal interpretation of European modernity.
Presents in panel 2F
The Russian Symbolists in 1918: Fedor Sologub and the Literary Response to the Bolsheviks
By early 1918, it was clear that the Bolsheviks intended to complement complete political power with extensive control over all aspects of Russia’s rich culture. Russia’s writers responded in different ways, but many publicly took a stance against the new order. One of the most vocal opponents of the Bolsheviks’ attitude toward culture was the Symbolist Fedor Sologub (1863-1927), one of Russia’s best-known authors at the time of the revolution. Sologub played a leading role in several groups dedicated to protecting Russia’s culture and frequently published articles in the press defending cultural autonomy, but made his major contribution in his literary works. This paper will analyze Sologub’s 1918 collection of short stories The Blind Butterfly (Slepaya babochka) as his response to the Bolsheviks’ intent to control cultural production. In the collection’s ten stories, Sologub utilizes themes and images that that he had employed for many years in his prose and poetry and that were well known to readers familiar with his works, but repurposes them ironically to refer to the new order in Soviet Russia.
Taken together, these stories create a coherent whole that on the surface is consistent with Sologub’s previous works but at the same time a stinging indictment of the Bolsheviks and their plans for Russia. The publication history and analysis of The Blind Butterfly will be placed in the context of Sologub’s other activities in the period immediately following the revolution, and related archival sources will be brought into the discussion. This collection was one of the last books Sologub published in Soviet Russia; in subsequent years he appeared less and less in print as his fears about the Bolsheviks and Soviet Russia came true.
Presents in panel 3B
Ukraine 1918. The Unachieved Unity
1918 was a watershed in the history of the Ukrainian nation. In January the Ukrainian entity subjected to Russia declared its independence and in November the end of WW1 and the concomitant collapse of Austria-Hungary enabled West Ukrainians to merge. Two Ukrainian republics were born: Ukrainian National Republic in the East and West Ukrainian People's Republic. Hence, 1918 seemed to be the year of the national unity. However, that goal was not achieved. The two states put first their respective survivals and fought different enemies. Whilst West Ukraine chiefly strove to emancipate from the newly reborn Poland, Kiev sought the help of Warsaw to resist the invasion from Bolshevik Russia. Besides, the two societies expressed different values and patterns of unity. Ukrainian National Republic came from the centuries long assimilation imposed by Russians that had smashed local identity. Therefore, the spread of nationalism towards masses was associated with social claims. Instead, in Western Ukrainian provinces the Habsburgs reinforced ethno-ritual localisms as a tool of divide et impera, in order to counteract the political and cultural significance of some minorities which had previously dominated such provinces, i.e. Poles in Galicia, Hungarians in Transcarpathia and, to a lesser extent, Romanians in Bukovina. Thus unifying projects cannot ignore the different apperceptions of the identity not only between East and West but also at a regional level. Theorists and politicians had envisaged (con-)federal patterns to better achieve national unity. However, these plans did not find any practical implementation. The two statehoods were taken over by the neighboring power in a matter of two years and fall in the hands of two illiberal states. Galicia became part of the Second Polish Republic, a clericalist democrature (until 1926) that sought to assimilate its minorities and Central Eastern Ukraine was swallowed up by Bolshevik Russia.
Presents in panel 2C
'Flower-power' and the 'Hammer and Sickle' – the role and reaction to popular music in the 1968 student protests.
Although an uneasy peace became the norm following the end of WWII, this lead to frustration in the post-war generation who rebelled against the ‘greyness’ of society and led, in 1968, to protests against the policies of established governments.
The protest singers within the Soviet-bloc countries bordering on Western Europe were emboldened by Western music; they drew attention to the failure of communism and the lack of freedom of speech. However, this clearly demonstrated to the Soviet officials that music was beginning to supplant socialist ideologies. This view and reaction to it culminated in the 1968 Prague Spring, where the liberalisation policies of Dubček were forcibly suppressed.
Through the 1950’ and 60’s there had been many songs protesting at Soviet rule, the inefficiency of central committees, the lack of everyday items in the shops and the melancholy of a controlled and restricted society. The rock scene had, however, thrived in Prague. It was, however, the Warsaw Pact tanks rolling into Prague that raised pop songs to a new dimension. Since the national radio still closely controlled what was broadcast Western songs needed to be translated into the national language. This gave scope for additional protest. Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 song These boots were made for walking became political in translation: These boots trample on everything beautiful and Marta Kubišová’s popular song A Prayer For Marta, recorded in 1968 became the anthem of opposition to the invasion.
When considering the issues surrounding protest music it is essential to understand how this is linked to social movements, views of society and the politics of the time. Music became one of the powerful elements of opposition to authority in 1968. This paper will show how the freedom of musical expression and reaction to it reflected the clear ideological differences between East and West.
Presents in panel 1B
The Determinants and Dynamics of Subjective Well-Being in Russia in 2012 - 2018.
The paper deals with either factors for subjective well-being and its dynamics in Russia over 6 years period, basing on the 6th and the 7th round of the World Value Survey data. According to a reference group theory, social, national and ethnic identities are important determinants for the level of happiness, financial satisfaction and general life satisfaction at the individual level. The subjective well-being is conductive to self-identification with a reference group, a model society that the respondents attribute themselves to and compare with. As a measure of comparison with internal or external reference population group, this research employs self-identification in the spatial dimension that proved to have a significant impact on subjective well-being. Taking into account the great variety of socio-cultural setting and spatial diversity of Russia, the research focuses on local, national and cosmopolitan identities to explain different levels of well-being in Russian regions. The research also looks for the links between social class, religious identity and subjective well-being. The set of main predictors contains self-reported income, relative income to regional average, reference group income, relative income to reference group average, satisfaction with financial situation, religiosity, self-identification in the spatial dimension or regional identity, along with such socio-demographic controls as age, gender, education (5 item scale), marital status, number of children, size of town, employment status, social class, self-reported health.
Apart from whole-country survey data of 2012 and 2018, the ten samples employed in this study in 2012, cover Moscow and Saint Petersburg, well-known for their cosmopolitanism, socio-economic development, higher level of income and job market opportunities; Tambov, a typical city of Central Russia; Leningard oblast - a region located in the North-West of Russia, which is geographically close to Europe; the Altay, representing a cold and inhospitable region of Siberia; and four ethnic republics as regions representing the Caucasus, Central Russia, the Volga region and the Urals, respectively, with uneven levels of socio-economic development – the Kabardino-Balkarian Republic, the Chuvash Republic, the Republic of Tatarstan and the Republic of Bashkortostan. Here, regression analysis demonstrates how heterogeneous the Russian population is when inhabitants of different regions are distinguished according to their self-reported identities, life satisfaction and socio-economic environment, therefore it is hardly possible to consider the people of this highly differentiated country as a monolithic society.
This paper co-authored with Natalia Soboleva.
Presents in panel 4H
Constitution of the RSFSR of 1918 and Implementation of a New Socio-cultural Programme
Nowadays the national history in the Russian educational establishments (schools, universities) is usually presented within one conception. The latter presents an attempt to unify different approaches of understanding the history of Russia. For instance, events and facts occurred from February 1917 (the rebellion in Petrograd and fall of czarist regime) till autumn of 1918 (the beginning of the Civil War) are named the Great Russian revolution. One of the most significant events, especially in sense of juridical life, was the adoption of the first Russian Constitution. This phenomenon and its results shall be considered as the beginning of implementation of a new socio-cultural programme developed by a new political power.
The Constitution of the RSFSR of 1918 normatively consolidated the “key” points of that programme, both internal (such as change of the development path of the Russian society) and external (such as export of the Revolution and fundamentals of the new societal and legal order abroad).
The Constitution changed the social relations fundamentally. For instance, according to a new electing system: i) there were no general elections; representatives of the so-called exploitative class were forbidden to elect or be elected; ii) the elections were multistage – lower congresses of Soviets formed the bodies of the higher ones by the open vote. It limited the freedom of expression and made the elections controlled; iii) the elections were not equal – the presentational quota for labours went beyond the same one for the peasants for five times. It provided the social nature of the state of the proletarian dictatorship.
Forms of social and state organization entrenched in Russia for the first time at constitutional level in 1918, were used by the other countries later. The events occurred in 1917-1918 in Russia also influenced the doctrine and societal practice of human rights in the world. Social rights became a new generation of human rights.
This paper is co-authored with Tsybik Ts. Mikheeva.
Presents in panel 4H
WHO cares: new recommendations vs. old institutions in case of facility-based childbirth in Russia
The new recommendations of the World Health Organization have been issued in 2018, manifesting the new turn in the intranatal care towards more patient-centered approach to the facility-based childbirth in order to provide ‘positive experience’ for women and their families. This guideline appears to be not only of medical and practical importance but proposes a new array of societal values as well.
In particular, WHO promotes individualism in terms of sensitivity to the personal needs, demands and requests, required from all healthcare practitioners, working in maternity facilities around the world. The new recommendations construct a particular view of the most appropriate system of intranatal care, suggesting patient-centricity to become a core part of professional practice. In this way, at least normatively, power relations between healthcare practitioners and patients (as well as their family) have become reconsidered, arguing for more equality in the process decision-making and more egalitarian communication within maternity institutions.
This paper consists of two parts. Firstly, it addresses the emerging notion of normativity in facility-based childbirth, constructed through the new WHO recommendations. Secondly, it focuses on those dimensions of maternity care services’ organization in Russia, which appear to be problematic in comparison with promoted social values of individual choice, freedom of action, and egalitarian relations. Basing on the qualitative empirical data, collected in 2017-2018 years, it illustrates considerable discrepancies between normative care, constructed through the new WHO recommendations, and actual practices, wide-spread in the healthcare institutions. Ideals of ‘positive childbirth experience’ are compared with women’s narratives on their own experience of giving birth at Russian maternity facilities along several dimensions: institutional sensitivity to women’s needs and desires, affordability of free move during labour and choice of position, medical compulsion and even violence.