Abstracts of Panels and Roundtables

This page contains the abstracts for whole panels and roundtables. Please note that not all panels have a shared abstract. For abstracts of individual papers, see the alphabetical list of participants with surnames beginning with letters A — D, E — H, I — K,  L — NO — P,  R— S and T— Ö  on respective pages.

The panel aims at tracing the social processes related to children left without parental care in the history of Russia between the 1910s and the 2010s.

By analyzing the legislation, statistics, media and research publications, as well as other documents, the panel seeks to better understand, first, the discourses around disturbed childhood that are rooted in the history of the state; secondly, the legacy that current social welfare system has to deal with, and third, the power dispositions of various agents and institutions in the field.

The first presentation provides general overview of the child welfare politics in Soviet Russia in the 1920-1930s and traces the history of residential care for children. It describes the ideology of child welfare provision, ideals of care for children left without parental care, types and profiles of the institutions working with children in need, as well as professional language used to discuss these topics. The second paper examines the beginning of the 1990s, and another series of crucial social-economic reforms in Russia, and various agents and institutions that have stepped into the field of child welfare. The third presentation of the panel is focused on the present-day Russia and the massive child welfare deinstitutionalization initiated by the state in the 2010s. It aims to discuss the ideas underlying the reform of the child welfare and highlight the unintended consequences that the reform brought forward.

Silver tsunami is a global issue in contemporary societies. The challenges of demographic ageing are addressed by different actors and solutions are always partial. Inequalities in care access and quality of life in the life of elderly populations are described as care gaps and deficits. Static approaches to solving the problems of aging are hardly fruitful. The well-being of societies is constantly changing, one generation with its values, needs and demands replaces another. A family, which was once pinned on the main hopes of providing care for the older generation, is undergoing significant transformations. Also, global migration processes are tearing up families, pulling people out of national welfare systems, forcing them to adapt to new conditions and finding new ways of problem solution. Welfare state becomes greedy and makes a neoliberal turn in care provisions. Choices and technologies are multiple, but not all of them are available for everybody. In our sessions we problematize the care gaps and inequalities as well as mutability of care in the conditions of turbulent societies.

Both Russia and Finland are in permanent search of relevant and reliable care arrangements, which could provide worthy quality of life for elderly people and the dignifies end of life. In our panels we are discussing different levels of the debate, roles of various stakeholders involved into the sphere of elderly care. We are taking into account cultural, social, institutional, and interactional dimensions of care arrangements of contemporary Russia and Finland.

On macro-level we consider institutional reforms of welfare systems, long-term care systems development, and also non-governmental initiatives, providing ingenious solutions for adaptation for old age. We consider structural inconsistency that result in care gaps and inequalities.

On middle level we investigate new public and professional discourses, forming around the problems of social and medical care, debating figure of geriatric patient and fragility, migrant elderly people and caregivers. We consider the deficits in care arrangements revealed in the activities of institutions of care
On micro-level we explore new practices of care about elderly people on interactive level.

Soft power, as coined by Joseph Nye, has been the most preferred term for discussing non-military and non-economic sources and tools of power. In the context of Russia, we prefer to use the notion of cultural statecraft e.g. due to the top-down nature of Russia's approach to wielding power of this sort. We examine how the Russian state has attempted to use different fields of culture, broadly understood, for the purpose of achieving its foreign policy objectives. In particular, we are interested in how Russia attempts to promote these certain fields and how these fields are received by international audiences. This panel examines Russia's cultural statecraft in four  different fields: nuclear energy, history and commemoration, higher education and literature. First, Russia's nuclear energy sector and international cooperation in the field of nuclear energy is approached as part of Russia’s diplomacy. Nuclear energy sector is not influenced by sanctions and therefore, Russia has aspired to increase its agreements on nuclear energy export with countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. Second, in the field of history it is investigated how Russian political actors enact a sense of shared history and common identity through Soviet War memorials abroad. In addition to studying how WWII commemoration is promoted by Russian actors in Berlin, Vienna and Tallinn, the focus is also on how it has been perceived by the general public and political elites of the targeted countries. Third, Russia’s higher education is studied from the point of view of its promotion and reception in the post-Soviet space and EU members states. Perceptions of both Russian education providers and education receivers in different post-Soviet and EU countries on Russian higher education and its promotion are analysed. Fourth, following the decline of the Russkiy Mir Foundation which promoted the Russian language, Russian literature has been resurfaced as a tool for cultural diplomacy and the weaving of transnational networks, as well as for the mobilization of the Russian-speaking diasporas. Central to this strategy is the Read Russia initiative that will be examined based on recent ethnographic fieldwork in London. All these four  studies seek to critically discuss Russia’s cultural statecraft and answer to the question of which role these fields play in Russia’s cultural statecraft (if at all). They apply rich empirical materials such as expert interviews, media materials, and documents in the analysis. 

The panel brings together three case studies investigating the role of digital media and popular culture in constructing and contesting religious identities and discourses across the Eurasian space and the South-Eastern Europe.

The first paper by Elena Rodina provides an analysis of blogging platforms and Muslim women's media agency in the North Caucasus. In Dagestan, a Russian republic in the North Caucasus, a process of re-Islamization took place after the collapse of the Soviet Union (Yarlykapov, 2017). While the majority of the religious discourse in the public sphere, especially when it comes to conservative Salafi Islam, has been generated by men (Ware et al, 2003), proliferation of the on-line media has allowed Muslim women to speak up and share their values, opinions, and aspirations via personal blogs and social networks. By doing so, female Dagestani Muslims have entered this largely male-dominated space, and have acquired their own voice in the contemporary religious discourse, changing existing power balance and contesting some embedded stereotypes about the role of a Muslim woman in society. The analysis in this paper relies on data gathered through digital ethnography of two popular on-line resources created by women from Dagestan, Dnevnik Musulmanki (461,000 followers on Vkontakte page) and Musulmanka (465,000 followers on Vkontakte page), to explore the ways in which Dagestani female bloggers alter the public religious discourse in the republic, and in Russian-speaking on-line Muslim community at large.

The second paper by Dragana Cvetanovic investigates the relationship between video platforms and Muslim youth in the Western Balkans. One of the legacies of the wars of 1990s in Western Balkans turned out to be re-establishing of a tight connection between people and religion. The re-identification with the tradition and the past in general echoes in young people’s confusion when trying to balance between the modern cosmopolitanism and local radical forms of identification. By using the most recent video-material from 2018 and 2019 of the project “Perspektiva” (Perspective, Radio Free Europe and National Endowment for Democracy, NED), an ongoing conversational video-documentary on youth in the region running since 2015, this paper discusses youth’s narratives regarding religious identities. Young people in various cities of Western Balkans discuss different interpretations of Islam, influences and the forms of organizations of Salafism or Wahhabism (a term used by those who are outsiders to the movement) on local life, local youngsters fighting for ISIS, relations between conservatism and liberalism in their cities and in the region. The data showcases the ways young Muslims of Western Balkans see their religion mirrored in their surroundings.

The third paper by Saara Ratilainen offers insights into digital mediation of Islam through popular culture and online fan communities. More specifically, her paper analyzes how Russophone fans engage in conversations about Islam as response to the Norwegian TV series Shame (Skam), which has reached global popularity among young TV audiences via horizontal online networks and grassroots communities. The fourth season of the series introduces a young Muslim girl Sana as its main character further generating a multitude of conversation threads and other online reactions around the topic of religious identities, Islam and especially Muslim women’s role and status in different national, cultural, and geopolitical contexts across Northern Europe and the Eurasian space. This paper will apply feminist geopolitics and theories of intersectionality as methodological framework to investigate how Russophone online conversations on fan sites reflect an encounter with Islam repositioned from the national Russia-centric context to the new context of global popular culture. The preliminary observation is that on the Russophone fan forums the discourse on Islam centers around the main character’s veiled appearance, which then prompts discussions on religious rules and regulations, and the role of religious values in one’s life. The context of popular culture also creates room for alternative geopolitical interpretations of the role of Islam and Muslim communities in contemporary world.

Scholars nowadays explore the transformations of the political institutions in democratic countries by the digital technology, in particular its negative consequences. In the case of non-democratic regimes, however, the relationship between the political regime and digital technology is quite often analyzed form the perspective that presupposes the democratizing potential of digitalization – even though most often the empirical research attests the lack of observable effect of new technology on political liberalization. However, digital technology may be used as a source of political legitimacy for non-democratic authorities, while not promoting democratic institutions. The panel explores the state's activities in digital sphere in relation with the construction of the legitimacy.

Daria Gritsenko and Andrey Indukaev analyse, using case studies in Russian cities, how local governments use of civic technology attempts to build their legitimacy through other means that democratic representation. Digital technology is thus used to improve local administration performance and its ability to maintain tightly controlled channels of civic participation. Anna Shpakovskaya paper explores strategies employed by the Chinese Communist Party to increase its online presence and demonstrate its capacity for not only symbolic but also responsive representation.

Silver tsunami is a global issue in contemporary societies. The challenges of demographic ageing are addressed by different actors and solutions are always partial. Inequalities in care access and quality of life in the life of elderly populations are described as care gaps and deficits. Static approaches to solving the problems of aging are hardly fruitful. The well-being of societies is constantly changing, one generation with its values, needs and demands replaces another. A family, which was once pinned on the main hopes of providing care for the older generation, is undergoing significant transformations. Also, global migration processes are tearing up families, pulling people out of national welfare systems, forcing them to adapt to new conditions and finding new ways of problem solution. Welfare state becomes greedy and makes a neoliberal turn in care provisions. Choices and technologies are multiple, but not all of them are available for everybody. In our sessions we problematize the care gaps and inequalities as well as mutability of care in the conditions of turbulent societies.

Both Russia and Finland are in permanent search of relevant and reliable care arrangements, which could provide worthy quality of life for elderly people and the dignifies end of life. In our panels we are discussing different levels of the debate, roles of various stakeholders involved into the sphere of elderly care. We are taking into account cultural, social, institutional, and interactional dimensions of care arrangements of contemporary Russia and Finland.
On macro-level we consider institutional reforms of welfare systems, long-term care systems development, and also non-governmental initiatives, providing ingenious solutions for adaptation for old age. We consider structural inconsistency that result in care gaps and inequalities.

On middle level we investigate new public and professional discourses, forming around the problems of social and medical care, debating figure of geriatric patient and fragility, migrant elderly people and caregivers. We consider the deficits in care arrangements revealed in the activities of institutions of care
On micro-level we explore new practices of care about elderly people on interactive level.

This is the second panel organised under the project ‘Does Concern for Ethnic Russians in the Near Abroad influence Russian policy making’, funded by a grant from the Kone Foundation. The panel will explore the interconnections between identities and foreign policy and consider them in the international order. This will be done at both theoretical and empirical levels. At the theoretical level, the panel will present a framework for analysis which incorporates national identities expressed in mass common sense at the domestic level to evaluate foreign policy outcomes. The conditions behind the emergence of alternative hegemonic projects, which increases the possibility of international conflict and structural change, will be described. One distinctive aspect of the research is the incorporation of social dynamics, at the domestic level, as an essential component of a ‘thick’ understanding of hegemony – a consensual type of power, as proposed by Antonio Gramsci – at the international level.

At the empirical level, the panel will explore the discourses on ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan. These empirical cases focus on two seminal events, each of which marked important transitions. First of these is the December 1986 protests in Almaty following the appointment of ethnic Russian as the Secretary of the Kazakh Communist Party. The second is the annexation of Crimea, and the impact this event had on the represenations of ethnic Russians in Kazakhstan. By focusing on these two empirical cases, the panel will also question the conceptualization of international order as based on equal nation states. The two case studies provide evidence of various degrees of foreignness and “Otherness” and their interconnections with identity.

At this panel, we aim to discuss contemporary manifestations of the culture-nature divide, focusing on the enactments of this divide in several empirical cases. Stemming from Tim Ingold’s statement of ‘the ecology of life’ as ‘the whole-organism-in-its-environment’, we are interested in the situations and contexts where the borderline between culture and nature gains principal importance, playing out as an instrument of social, economic and political relations. We are also curious to see how the discursive and practical work on the arrangement and (re)arrangement of this boundary enables the production of new values for both environment and organisms. We focus on four cases, which are resistant to their instrumentalization as ‘people-less nature’ or ‘nature-less culture’ (Denis Byrne, Sally Brockwell and Sue OʹConnor) and yet are framed in terms of nature-culture divide. 

Ekaterina Melnikova is dealing with Archipelago Valamo. An important Orthodox heritage and pilgrimage site and at the same time a popular eco-tourism destination, Valamo is currently undergoing a large-scale remapping and rearrangement driven by the idea to separate ‘culture’ from ‘nature’ and make this divide visible. Alla Bolotova is concerned with the issue of ‘nature’ and ‘natural resources’ which paradoxically occur on the opposite sides of culture-nature divide in the urban spaces of mono-industrial cities. Lidia Rakhmanova is working with the case of fishery economy in the Siberian village where the ‘nature’ is understood as a limited resource endangered from both human culture and the nature itself. Natalia Kosyak focuses on the environmental changes in the village Shoyna and their local interpretations in terms of ‘ecological disaster’ and ‘touristic brand’ at the same time. In all these cases, the ‘nature’ is too inhabited and humanized and thus requires some alternate instruments to be naturalized and distinguished from ‘culture’. Proposing this panel, we open the floor for the discussion of technologies that are applied to make ‘the nature’ ‘verily natural’ for its further use in the cultural domain.

 

The three papers on this panel explore different means by which new kinds of political subjects are produced across four post-communist polities: Russia, Estonia, Belarus and China. United by a commitment towards Foucauldian understandings of power and government, the papers analyse a variety of ‘technologies of governing’ and ‘biopolitics’ employed by local governments to foster the creation of new types of citizens considered by local authorities as necessary for modern public life in market states. These technologies rearticulate globally salient neoliberal rationalities alongside domestic traditions of governing, creating both local responses to the social tensions produced by a marketizing state structure, while echoing a broader international trend towards the creation of homo economicus (Lemke 2001).

Anna Tarasenko’s paper focuses on the outsourcing procedures of social services to non-profit organisations and private companies, seeking to conceptualise the essence of such technologies of governance. Though the claimed goal is to delegate service provision to more effective and cost-wise non-state providers, in practice involvement into this kind of procedures brings more governmental control and bureaucracy, as well as less flexibility in choosing the content of services provided. Characterised as neo-liberal by nature, the paper evaluates outsourcing procedures through an analysis of policy outcomes/implementation in Russian regions between 2016 and 2017.

Eleanor Bindman’s paper examines patterns of provision of both state and non-state welfare in Russia and Belarus. It explores the idea that current and potential welfare recipients in these countries are forced to become active and self-governing ‘market citizens,’ forced to navigate a frequently unstable and unpredictable mixture of private resources and schemes of welfare assistance and support provided by non-state actors such as NGOs and commercial enterprises.

Andrey Makarychev’s presentation employs concepts associated with urban biopiolitics, such as “biopolitics from below” (Arboleda 2015), “liveability” (Kraftl 2014), “sensible life” (Rutland 2015) onto the case of Narva. It will look at this Estonian border city from the viewpoint of projects aimed at developing and infusing new life/lifestyles into the urban spaces badly affected by post-industrial depopulation (largely exemplified by the shut-down of the Krenholm manufacture), coupled with the strong Soviet nostalgia grounded in the self-reproducing patriarchal / conservative lifestyles. The analysis will be built on an empirical base that includes insights from a series of workshops “Narva Urban Lab” (2018 and 2019), events related to Narva’s bid for European Capital of Culture in 2024, as well as participant observation of major cultural projects implemented in this city since 2015.

Catherine Owen’s paper compares the production of active citizenship in St Petersburg and Shanghai through the concept of ‘governmentality’. Specifically, the paper explores a set of technologies known as participatory budgeting, which occurs in both cities, but which is executed in contrasting ways. It considers the processes of subjectification – the means by which participants become political subjects – built into each version, as well as the extent to which local levels of political pluralism and local government marketisation shape the construction of (post)communist active citizens.

Digital technologies have opened access road to those who want to report locally. Variety of grassroot and amateur media initiatives emerged during the last decade: local news web sites, groups in SNS, blogs, chats in messengers, etc. Traditional local media including media in small and indigenous languages were also forced to react and made many efforts to go digital.

We have quite a lot of scholarly discussions on how digital technologies influenced on traditional local media and journalism. There is significant group of works, mapping hyperlocal media and hyperlocal practitioners in Western countries (Leckner et al 2019, Tenor 2018, Harte & Williams 2017, Chadha 2016).

However, how these new digital local media influence on local society and local communication is still to be understood. Non-democratic context of media systems in Russia and Belarus brings another angle to this problem: when traditional media are unfree, do digital media initiatives provide new space for local public communication and civic engagement? When people get and take opportunity to communicate with townspeople, does it have any implications for local society? How do media practitioners perceive their users – as an audience or as a community? When do users of digital local media become a community? In what way (if any) do these media contribute to local political communication?

During the panel evidences from different regions of Russia and Belarus will be presented to explore above-mentioned questions. Using these evidences as starting points, we aim to investigate more general question on how digitalization of local media space transform the very notion of local media, its functions and values for local society.
 

It has become the standard frame to interpret Russia’s handprints abroad as evidence of its malign intentions against the Western political and societal order – whether they are (thought to be) found in news broadcasts, on social media, in street protests or elections. Many refer to this ostensibly new state-of-affairs as the ‘information war’ between Russia and the West. In recent years, Russia indeed appears to have expanded its information influence abroad, among others in Europe, testing and applying novel strategies for shaping and disseminating narratives that make use of the opportunities offered by, e.g., social media platforms. The relatively free flow of (online) information in European countries provides a grey zone for such foreign power activities. Moreover, conclusive identification, monitoring and regulation of foreign influence is increasingly difficult due to globalization, digitalization and fragmentation of the structures of mass communications. How does Russian information influence, e.g. through its international broadcasters and activities on social media, work, and how harmful are these for democracy in Europe? How do policymakers define this perceived threat, what measures do they propose and how should we evaluate their necessity, proportionality and effectiveness?

The panel presents recent research on the topic of Russian global information influence, with papers on international broadcaster RT (formerly, Russia Today); (alleged) Russian interference in the parliamentary elections in Finland in 2019; and, the connection between Russian disinformation and the securitisation of social media in EU policymaking. Among others, the presentations shed light on how the comprehension, objectivity and subjectivity of target audiences have changed and what kind of actors are involved. The panel is co-organised by two collaborating projects: ‘Strategies of Persuasion: Russian Propaganda in Algorithmic Age’ (University of Helsinki) and ‘Reframing Russia for the Global Mediasphere: From Cold War to “Information War”?’ (University of Manchester & Open University).

Russia’s international broadcaster, RT is increasingly viewed as both a tool of malign influence and a substantive threat to liberal democracy: it faces foreign agent registration in the US; regulatory scrutiny in the UK and political scrutiny in France. RT, for its own part, presents its outputs merely as alternatives to the mainstream: democratic free speech in action. Drawing on empirical findings from the multidisciplinary Reframing Russia project, Tolz and Hutchings address the question of whether RT is a threat or attack on democracy, and what this means for effectively addressing the RT phenomenon. In spring 2019, national and EU parliamentary elections took place in Finland and potential Russian influence was a concern of many. Similar to other countries in Europe, the political margins in Finland are speculated to be leverage for Russian information influence within Finland’s domestic and European political climate, which is the focus of Oivo’s paper. Finally, Wijermars examines the securitisation of social media in EU debates. As one of multiple threats facilitated by social media platforms – from hate speech to (violent) political extremism – how important has the understanding of Russian information influence been in propelling and shaping EU policymaking concerning social media?

Rulers in various types of regime, from monarchies and empires to authoritarian regimes or managed democracies, have long been preoccupied with ensuring continuity of their regime beyond their own tenure in office. One strategy that has been adopted, even in hereditary dynasties, is for the ruler to step aside from the formal leadership role but remain in order to supervise his or her successor, either informally or through retaining other formal positions. In Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev appears to have embraced this strategy, which is already being pursued in other countries, notably Kyrgyzstan and Cuba, and is being touted as one of the options for President Putin when his current term as President of the Russian Federation comes to an end. Studies of succession in authoritarian regimes, based for the most part on cases from post-colonial Africa suggest, however, that such strategies do not succeed as often as might be expected. This roundtable makes what is, then, an extremely timely evaluation of the strategy and the technologies behind its implementation as things stand in 2019. Leading experts on each case will summarise the current experience in the roundtable, alongside presentations on general understandings of succession.

The aim of this panel is to explore the prospects for green growth in Russia. Our goal is to establish how is green growth conceptualized in Russia, and what are its potentials and the related benefits in Russia. Understanding how green growth is conceptualized and being advanced in practice in Russia, and especially in the Russian Arctic, carries a wider societal importance as it can open further dialogue and cooperation on many levels – government, business, academic and civil society. Diversifying the economy away from its dependence on raw materials and technology development are set as goals in recent Russian official documents and strategies. These goals have potential links to green growth i.e. ‘economic growth…which also achieves significant environmental protection’ (Jacobs 2012, p.4). Even though the concept has been criticized to be too vague, any greening of activities would be a positive development in Russia, where the traditional ‘brown’ economy remains mainstream. In recent years, several environmental policies with potentials for generating green growth have been introduced in Russia, and we use them as benchmarks to define green growth: Since policy failures are common in Russia, we argue that full implementation of the existing environmental legislation could be considered as green growth. The panel reports two case studies on the weakness of formal and dominance of informal institutions in environmental policy-making and two case studies on green growth in Murmansk waste sector. Further, the conceptualization of green growth in Russia and youth initiatives on waste recycling in Russia are discussed. Our research methods include multi-disciplinary case studies and frame analysis. A major part of the data is generated by conducting semi-structured interviews whilst also statistical and other data have been in use. The panel is linked to the ‘Green Growth in the Russian Arctic’ project funded by the Research Council of Norway’s NORRUSS programme, which was launched only in February 2019. Thus, first findings and recommendations of the project will be available by October, while two other studies are also invited to present their findings.

The panel brings together papers on the interplay between the Russian regime and the public under the worsening economic conditions. It asks the following set of questions: How do Russian citizens, politicians, and experts interpret the situation in the economy? Do economic hardships translate into the potential for mobilization? And how does the regime counter the threats to its stability? The panel contributes to the ongoing debates on the sources of (in)stability in electoral authoritarian regimes like Russia under Vladimir Putin.

The panel, organised under the project ‘Does Concern for Ethnic Russians in the Near Abroad influence Russian policy making’, funded by a grant from the Kone Foundation, will look at different factors influencing Russian interventions in the near abroad, especially in Ukraine. The perspectives of a range of actors – nationalist and Eurasianist Russian thinkers, paramilitary organsations, and military and political elites alongside popular opinion will all feature in this analysis. The annexation of Crimea and the subsequent intervention in the Donbass, the eastern part of Ukraine, remain contested in terms of the real motivation and aims of Russia’s leaders. Debates tend to be predominated by realist approaches which view the interventions in terms of security or other gains. This panel discusses other possible motives in a long term context, such as sympathy for Russian speakers abroad, imperial or neo-imperial designs of Russian nationalists. It examines the history and political traditions of Russian paramilitaries involved in the conflict, and ways in which they are able to exert influence on the public as well as on political authorities. We also look at how individual influential thinkers such as Dugin, Limonov and Strelkov position themselves regarding the war. While the papers do not have a common theoretical framework, they do draw on identity theory and constructivist approaches to foreign policy and warfare, and Giddens’ understanding of ontological security.

The proposed panel aims to analyse practices of governing and re-inventing the (post) Soviet Russian Arctic cities in the age of the ‘New Arctic’ with the changing notion of the region and its stakeholders. The core issues which will be addressed are the contemporary technologies, practices, and actors involved in managing extreme weather conditions and outcomes of the global climate change, re-designing Arctic cityscapes, defining the processes and outcomes of identity formation. Giving the contemporary technologies, the Arctic region seems closer than ever and much easier to access; however, the presumed proximity does not change its long-termed established strategic relevance for the state.

The major point on the agenda of this panel is to discuss whether the current approaches towards the national and regional policy formation for governing the development of the urban Arctic are continuing the Soviet era practices and technologies for running the northern territories.

ERA.Net RUS Plus initiative and its 2017 call for “S&T projects”; proposal: ID # 527 – AUCAM “Opportunities for and challenges to urban development and social cohesion in Russia’s Arctic under climate change impacts” 

In 2016-2019, the Finnish-Russian Network for Russian and Eurasian Studies in Social Sciences and Humanities (FRRESH) was supported by the Kone Foundation. We aimed to advance research training for young scholars and early career researchers from Finland, Russia, and Germany. In this round table, we intend not only to summarize the experience of our numerous events and activities but also to discuss critical issues in research training in the interdisciplinary field of Russian and Eurasian Studies. How may young scholars respond to major challenges, related to research, publishing, applications, and career prospects in a turbulent and ever-changing environment? To what extent these challenges and responses are region-specific and context-bound, and to what extent they reflect global trends in academia and beyond? How to improve the quality of research training in various disciplines and academic institutions? In which ways international collaboration may contribute to new developments in Russian and Eurasian Studies and open new prospects for young scholars? The roundtable will involve FRRESH organizers and alumni and will offer a forum for discussing these questions with the audience.

The system of maternity care in Russia has been perpetually changing during the last decades. The commercialisation of healthcare services, consumerisation of patients’ behaviour and increase of the state’ control over the reproductive healthcare are the processes which underlie this transformation. The state supports the development of high technology in medical centres in order to improve maternal health and implement demographic goals. Technologisation led to standardisation and bureaucratisation of health care. However, women desire more humanisation and personalisation in their treatment. Variable forms of maternity care appear: childbirth with a partner, with a doula, ‘natural childbirth’ approaches, vertical, water birth and many other services obtainable on a commercial basis.

State-funded facility-based maternity care also appears to be variable in terms of the different organizational arrangement, services provided, professional approaches and technical equipment. In general, it represents a spectrum of childbirth practices from the ones claiming to be considered as ‘natural’ to those extremely medicalised and assisted with the highly developed technologies. Such a variability predetermines the multiplicity of norms as well, in which the risk-oriented and organisation-dominated model competes with the model oriented on positive childbirth experience and patient-centeredness.

The papers of the panel address this variability of maternity care in Russia and investigate such issues as the changes in the infrastructure of the childbirth in Russia, the medicalisation of reproductive losses, how different technologies enable emotional work of healthcare practitioners, and in what way this kind of work becomes a basis for the new professional projects.

The research is funded by the Russian Science Foundation (Project № 19-78-10128).

Internet exists simultaneously on different level; it is a platform for media and content, a technology, a regulation object, etc. The panel is supposed to reveal the process of internet construction in social practices and uncover the conflicts surrounding this process. We treat the internet as a heterogeneous object consisting of infrastructure, web, data, knowledge and regulation policies. All these components are interconnected not in theory, but in everyday practices of those who co-construct the internet in its multiple dimensions. This co-construction in its turn includes, but is not limited to the following aspects: providing internet access to users, creation and moderation of web sites, algorithmic selection and data collection on platforms. The key question is whether this heterogeneity co-constructs the same objects or they are different “internets”?

In his research Dmitry Muravyov tries to contribute to the existing scholarship on new forms of datafied agency as well as provide some reflections that take into account the global economy of data production and Russia’s political and technological history. For this paper he has have gathered and analysed a number of semi-structured in-depth with data activists, i.e. NGOs representatives, individual developers-activists and members of social movements in Russia who use open data, technological tools and platforms to advance their agenda, mobilize support, contest the power in its various forms. Datafication is treated in this research as a new stage of mediatization and knowledge production has become an ubiquitous phenomena not only in the Western world, but in places far beyond it, including Russia (Mayer-Schönberger & Cukier, 2013; van Dijck, 2014, Milan & Treré, 2019).

Anya Schetwina focuses on “under construction” web sites. She follows Olya Lyalina (Lyalina 2005) supposition the the early web (1995-2005) was treated by the pioneer users as an object of co-construction, where each user was responsible for all the future internet. Anya studies the practices of verbalisation some missing websites elements on the same sites. Her research is based on the expeditions conducted in 2017-2018 by club for internet and society enthusiasts and Higher school of economics.

All the cases come from Russia, and one of them appeals to the city-scale network in Tomsk. Lenya Yuldashev researches the case of Tonet: internet in Tomsk. In 1998, ISPs agreed with each other to exchange traffiс and built an internet exchange point TSK-IX. Local network traffic was free for ISPs, so they didn’t take money from users for it. This is how Tonet (an internet in Tomsk) appeared. So there was free traffic inside tonet. But our interviews with Internet users from Tomsk show that in those years there were at least five ways to connect to an internet, and only one of them suggested a difference in the cost of traffic. This means that Tonet wasn’t only an infrastructure solution, as providers consider, but also something else. Leonid proposes to see the history of the Internet in Tomsk since the Time of the Tonet as a sequence of entaglements and disentaglements (Latour, 1996; Law, 2004; Law, 2012) of several "components" of the Internet — infrastructure solutions, websites and ideas related to an internet.

Latour, B. (1996). On interobjectivity. Mind, culture, and activity, 3(4), 228-245.
Law, J. (2004). After method: Mess in social science research. Routledge.
Law, J. (2012) Technology and Heterogeneous Engineering: The Case of Portuguese Expansion // The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology / W. E. Bijker et al. (eds). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012. P. 105–127.
Lyalina, O. A Vernacular Web. (2005) The Indigenous and The Barbarians http://art.teleportacia.org/observation/vernacular/
Mayer-Schönberger, V., & Cukier, K. (2013). Big data: A revolution that will transform how we live, work, and think. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Milan, S., & Treré, E. (2019). Big Data from the South (s): Beyond Data Universalism. Television & New Media, 20(4), 319-335.
Milan, S., & Van der Velden, L. (2016). The alternative epistemologies of data activism. Digital Culture & Society, 2(2), 57-74.
Van Dijck, J. (2014). Datafication, dataism and dataveillance: Big Data between scientific paradigm and ideology. Surveillance & Society, 12(2), 197-208.

The aim of the panel is to discuss the influence of new technologies on the late Soviet society and late Soviet vernacular practices by focusing on experiences in rural-urban continuum in the Russian North-Western periphery.

After WWII, new technologies were introduced in various spheres of Soviet society. Mechanization, new technological design, including ‘izobretatelstvo’ (inventive do-it-yourself practices), and optimizing processes of all kinds in production – all these aimed primarily at increasing the overall labor productivity in Soviet economy. However, technological advancement affected not only industrial manufacturing and agricultural production but also the social fabric and everyday practices (Brian Larkin etc.), i.e. these technologies radically changed the vernacular practices of Soviet people. Gradual decline of manual production under the pressure of mechanization gave rise in the 1950s-70s, to new settlements attached to production sites outside the big Soviet industrial centers, as for example, to timber and other raw material manufacturing sites. Simultaneously however, this ‘modernizing pressure’ lead to an oversupply of labor and a rapid social and infrastructural decline of smaller production settlements which has profoundly changed the local rural landscapes of the late Soviet hinterland (‘glubinka’). The latter finally became a non-rural / non-urban interzone in which diverse and contradictory practices brought about specific social experiences and subjectivities that had been largely neglected by scholarly research.

Although the influence of technologies on vernacular practices became recently a vibrant field of research in Soviet studies, which include the spread of television (Kirsten Bönker), DIY-practicfes (Zinaida Vasiljeva, Alexey Golubev, Olga Smolyak), Soviet design (Serguei A. Oushakin, Yulia Karpova), mass housing (Christine Varga-Harris, Steven E. Harris) etc. These researches, however, mostly focusses on urban communities. The proposed panel will close this gap by discussing the influence of the technologies on the villagers and analyzing specific intermediate social groups which lead a peculiar semi-rural / semi-urban way of life outside the big industrial centers.

The analysis of the impact of new technologies on the everyday life and vernacular practices in rural areas will contribute to a more deep understanding of the late Soviet society, late Soviet village and the Soviet project in general.

The panel papers will address late Soviet rural peculiarities vis-à-vis techonological advancement from diverse methodological angles by using archival materials, oral-history interviews for their case studies. How the technologies of visual arts, such as photography and filmmaking, constructed the vision of rural society? How the TV broadcast changed village houses? And how the very villages were created under the influence of new production technologies? These are the case studies to be analyzed in the papers.

Policies aiming at fostering innovation and technological development are often associated, in Russia, with high profile political projects, be that Medvedev's modernization in 2008-2012 or the digitalization (cifrovizacija) nowadays. That context creates high expectations vis-à-vis technological entrepreneurs so that the outcomes of their activities is intensely scrutinized and is often jugged to be insufficient. The current panel proposes a nuanced understanding of factors influencing the activity of technological entrepreneurs in Russia and provides keys to more realistic assessment of what Russian technological entrepreneurs can and cannot achieve. Olga Bychkova presents the main conclusions of a recently published book from the book currently published by European University at St. Petersburg “Sc-fi worlds of Russian hi-tech”, explaining the impact of cultural factors on the development of technopreneurship in Russia. Entrepreneurs in Russia value creativity more that business-mindedness, that leads to priority given to invention but not the commercialization. Andrey Indukaev presents a book proposal, based on his PhD dissertation manuscript, aiming at explaining why Russian innovation policy reliance on technological entrepreneurship as a vehicle of economic modernization was doomed to not to achieve its goals, even though the policy implementation was not as dysfunctional as many analyst suggest. Anna Chernysh focuses on one of the tool of Russian innovation policy which functioning cannot be branded as a failure – business incubators. Building on multiple case studies, she outlines the pathways through which functional institutions are being built in Russian context.

Technology requires people to apply it, share and create with it. This places a spotlight on social policy. Effective social policy goes beyond social provision by the state. It relies on structures – even technologies – of modern governance and includes multiple societal actors from the business and civil society. This panel is devoted to the contemporary approaches to the making and implementation of social policy in Russia considering ideas and discourses that shape policy in this sphere and assist its implementation; new understandings of social policy as a way to build the country’s social capital by leveraging housing development to help with the country’s demographic problems; and the role of business actors’ involvement in welfare provision. Specifically,

Paper I:
Sabine Kropp

The social responsibility of Russian enterprises is deeply rooted in the Soviet tradition. Still, companies invest an unusually high share of their turnover into social activities. Social investments, which are frequently framed as ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR), not only respond to the expectations of the citizens, but also react to explicit demands of the federal and regional governments in that they signal the willingness to cooperate ‘constructively’ with the authorities. Regional incumbents, for their part, are inclined to exploit the resources of companies in order to compensate insufficient state capacity and in deficit budgets. Since profits of enterprises often result from investments made in the Soviet era, but not from increased efficiency, authorities regard it legitimate to withhold revenues from private and semi-private enterprises. In this regard, CSR appears as a quasi-natural way to raise a ‘hidden tax’ and force enterprises to partake in providing social welfare. At the same time, however, the collaboration of state and business in social policy seems to reflect the emergence of ‘mixed’ governance modes.

The paper examines the motivation of state and business actors to establish state-business collaboration in social policy. It discusses to what extent social activities of Russian enterprises can be explained by theories of path dependence. Distinguishing between rules and ideas, the paper shows that actors restore traditional notions of social responsibility, but at the same time recombine it with ‘modern’ ideas of CSR, while in the regulatory pillar of institutions extensive changes have taken place. Empirically, the paper draws on more than 100 semi-structures interviews with representatives of administrations, enterprises, NGOs, and with experts. The data was gathered in Kemerovo, Volgograd, and Tyumen, and covers three branches (oil and gas, retailers, metallurgy).

Paper II:
Ulla Pape and Marina Khmelnitskaya

This paper examines how ideas and discourses, an essential element of the policy process, affect social policy making and governance of the social sphere in the context of Russia’s hybrid political system. Adopting a lens of discursive institutionalism, which follows Vivien Schmidt’s work on policy ideas as discourses (2008), this study distinguishes between the communicative discourse addressed at public at large and coordinative discourse aimed at the political coordination between political actors. The authors examine discursive practices involved in policy deliberation and implementation at three administrative levels: top leadership, government and ministerial officials and the local level. The analysis is based on examples of social policy making and implementation in the spheres of housing and health, and relies on such sources as media reports, official documents and interview data. The methods employed are discourse analysis and process tracing. The argument demonstrates a flexibility that characterizes the ‘discursive landscape’ in a hybrid environment. It involves a vague but popular coordinative discourse at the top leadership level which also contains ‘signals’ to bureaucratic policy officials; an intensive coordinative discourse involving government and associated non-state actors at the middle level; and an elaborate joint coordinative-communicative discourse at the local level of policy implementation. Here pressing local concerns necessitate the involvement of civil society actors and adoption of unconventional – from the view point of the leadership discourse – policy solutions, which helps resolve awkward local issues as well as communicate to the public the openness of the policy process to the input from the local communities.

Paper III:
Aleksandra Burdyak and Marina Khmelnitskaya

This paper applies a capabilities-based approach to viewing the social policy agenda in Russia that links housing policies with the country’s challenges in the sphere of demography. Recent social policy research has identified a trend toward the expansion rather than shrinkage of social welfare programmes particularly in the context of emerging economies, eg. Brazil, China, India and South Africa (e.g. Tillin and Duckett 2017). Such programmes are aimed at poverty reduction by promoting human capabilities and often involve linkages with areas of healthcare and education. In Russia, the problem of the population decline has been identified by the policy-makers as the most pressing challenge along with the problem of poverty. Since the mid-2000s the government has adopted a series of measures connecting its housing and social assistance programmes – including federal and regional programmes of “Maternity capital” – to increase the birth rates and support families with children by helping them to improve their housing conditions. Near 9 million households had received the federal Maternity Capital certificate by 2018. This research examines the origins and the bureaucratic dynamics surrounding such initiatives, as well as evaluating their results.

The study is based on the analysis of documentary sources, the existing academic research in the field and statistical data. Specifically, we use a recent survey of 15,000 households, the ‘Survey of Reproductive Plans of the Population’ conducted by the Russian statistical agency, Rosstat, in 2017. We consider the extent to which policy motivates further births and leads to the improvement of housing conditions of families with children. By analysing households with different income levels and housing conditions, the paper demonstrates the spillover policy effects on poverty, generally, and housing poverty, in particular.