New Perspectives on Russia and Eurasia

New Perspectives on Russia and Eurasia


This series of research seminars and open lectures sheds light on the recent and current phenomena related to Russia, Eastern Europe and Eurasia. It provides deep scholarly information on social, political and cultural issues of today, but also about their background and the processes leading to them.  The scholars presenting their research are members of the Aleksanteri Institute's staff and researchers from its network from PhD students to renowned international academics. 

NB! The NPR research seminar is, for the time being, collaborating with  the ElMaRB (Electoral Malpractice, Cyber Security and Political Consequences in Russia and Beyond) seminar series. The seminar remains open and free for everyone interested. 


Abstract:  The seminar will discuss applicability and chronological limits of the term “bureaucracy” in the context of 18th Century Russian Empire. The paper suggests considering Russian apparatus of governance as an extremely heterogeneous structure, that should be analyzed “in action” from the micro-historical perspective. Therefore, we cannot describe it by one term. The author supports his claims by empirical inquiry of the integration of the Belorussian lands into the Empire between 1772 and 1792. Catherine the Great decided to keep in action the Polish-Lithuanian civil law in the Belorussian gubernias. The local law is an extremely useful point to trace disagreements inside the imperial apparatus of governance. The study analyzes court trials where local law was involved. How did different bodies of imperial apparatus use, interpret and reinterpret Polish-Lithuanian set of legal norms? Did they prefer imperial law or local and why? How did they fit together two different legal systems? Stable patterns of mobilization of local law are a focal point to reconstruct different sets of practices and values that existed inside the imperial system of governance, of which, bureaucratic practices were only one of them.

Chair: Dr. Kaarina Aitamurto, head of training, Aleksanteri Institute, Docent and Lecturer at the University of Helsinki

DiscussantDr. Marianna Muravyeva, Professor of Russian Law and Administration For Legal and Peaceful Conflict Resolution Faculty of Law / Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki


Aleksanteri institute staff welcome to Aleksander room. 

For others, join via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 623 1077 6203 | Passcode: 355338

Speaker: Polina Kislitsyna, a Ph.D. candidate; she graduated from the Ph.D. program in Cultural Anthropology at the European University at St Petersburg in 2020, and is currently an INREES visiting fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute.

Talking about their lives, most non-heterosexual men and women explain their sexuality one way or another. They do it explicitly in answering the relevant question of the interviewer. Also, they do it implicitly by constructing their stories in a certain way. For instance, some participants highlight that they were “born this way,” and their non-heterosexuality was evident from a very early age, while others describe different events in their lives that could determine or affect their sexualities. The paper seeks to systematize modes of explanations for sexuality used implicitly and explicitly by the participants. The corpus of materials for this study consists of 49 interviews and 37 written life stories collected from gays, lesbians, and bisexuals aged 18 to 64. The main framework is the biographical method (Bourdieu 1986, Roos 1997) and narrative analysis (Bruner 1991, Linde 1993, Riessman 2015).

The essentialist view on sexuality and its biologization is the most popular explanation mode. Most participants believe that their sexuality is immutable and predetermined and talk about themselves from an according perspective. Another frequency explanatory mode is psychoanalysis and its popular versions. Some participants mix different explanation modes in their narratives, sometimes in a controversial manner. A few participants refuse to formulate any reasons or explanations for their sexualities, emphasizing the unimportance of causality in this matter. However, the explicit denial may not be in line with the narration modes chosen by these participants. Each of these explanatory modes ensures the coherence of life stories; it is a kind of glue that holds the particular elements of the story together. Besides, these modes have social conditioning and consequences that the presentation seeks to demonstrate.

Discussant: Dr. Radzhana Buyantueva

Join the seminar via Zoom:
Meeting ID: 686 0243 8366 | Passcode: 277660


Speaker: Andrei Yakovlev is senior researcher at the Institute for Industrial and Market Studies (IIMS) at the National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Moscow, Russia). Since November 2022 he is visiting scholar at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. He was awarded his PhD in economics and statistics at Moscow Lomonosow-University in 1992. His research interests include comparative studies in corporate governance, industrial policy, public procurement and political economy of reforms in economies in transition. In 2015–2019, he was President of Association of Russian Economic Think Tanks (ARETT), and in 2017, he was awarded Yegor Gaigar Memorial Prize in Economics.

Abstract: The paper considers the concept of variety of capitalism and its evolution during the last 20 years. It shows how the focus of this theory moved from discussion of competition between liberal (LME) and coordinated (CME) market economies to the analysis of dependent market economies (DME) and later to the study of patrimonial market economies (PME) and state-permeated market economies (SME). From the point of view of this theoretical framework the paper considers the changes in the approaches to the development of a market economy in Russia. It explains why the attempts undertaken in 1990s and 2000s to introduce LME and SME in Russia failed and why the economic model formed after all institutional changes should be classified as a mix of PME and DME. The paper describes a new direction in the transformation of the Russian economy after 2012, provides analogies with ‘resistance economy’ in Iran (with critical assessment of long-term prospects of such economic model) and argues that war with Ukraine initiated by Vladimir Putin in February 2022 is сonsequential outcome of such model. 

Join via Zoom: 
Meeting ID: 650 6222 2940 | Passcode: 470440 


Speaker: Radzhana Buyantueva is a postdoctoral researcher of Le Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (F.R.S.-FNRS) affiliated with the Center for the Study of Politics (Cevipol) at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. She has a Ph.D. in Politics from Newcastle University, UK. Her research interests include political sociology, social movements, East European politics, and LGBT rights. Her book The emergence and development of LGBT protest activity in Russia is about to be released in November 2022 with Palgrave McMillan. Radzhana joined the Aleksanteri Institute as a visiting researcher in September-October 2022.

The dynamics of LGBT protest activity in Russia
Abstract: The fall of the Soviet Union and the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993 facilitated the development of LGBT activism in Russia. LGBT groups and organizations started to emerge, providing psychological support and a safe environment for LGBT people as well as organizing various events from cultural festivals to street protests. While same-sex relations are not exactly legally banned in Russia, the LGBT community faces increasing negative public attitudes, following the state’s promotion of ‘traditional values’ and the adoption of the notorious anti-LGBT propaganda law. State repression and homophobia that have intensified in the country in recent years make the work of LGBT activists increasingly more complicated. In comparison to their colleagues in liberal democracies, Russian LGBT activists struggle with stronger constraints on political access and ability to realize their civic and political rights and freedoms. The seminar will focus on LGBT Russians protesting for their rights. Drawing on social movement theories, I suggest that LGBT protest activity in authoritarian states such as Russia emerges, develops, and declines through a combination of certain factors (e.g., political opportunities and resources). My research is built on a mixed-method approach, including interviews with Russian LGBT activists.

Register to join:
Meeting ID: 612 0225 8025
Passcode: 893663


Speaker: Olga Nikolayeva, a postdoctoral researcher at Swedish Performing Arts Agency and visiting researcher at Aleksanteri Institute as well as a lecturer in Visual Communication at Linnaeus University, Sweden

Abstract: This paper explores the scenographic rendering of trauma and traumatic experience in the theatre production 872 day. Voices of the besieged city. Staged by a small theatre, Subbota, in Sankt Peterburg, Russia, the production presents a tangle of unfinished stories of the inhabitants of Leningrad during the eight hundred seventy-two days of the siege. Performed only a few days a year, it delves into the complex issues of private narratives of traumatic experiences, which, for decades, were deemed unimportant and even disruptive within the context of victory and glory of The Great Patriotic War. The production is based on memoirs and dairies of witnesses of the Leningrad siege (1941–1944) and on the collection of testimonies Leningrad Under Siege: First-hand Accounts of the Ordeal, gathered by Ales Adamovich and Daniil Granin. This study explores the connection between the scenographic ecology of the production and the possibility of empathic unsettlement, which is understood as a tool of approaching trauma through the visceral experience of the spectator. In this context, empathic unsettlement is explored not through effects of verbal narrative but through material interactions between human and non-human agents of the production. The paper analyses how the scenographic approach to trauma in 872 days. Voices of the besieged city deviates from the narrative of greatness and selfless sacrifice that for decades hindered alternative narratives of the siege of Leningrad. It further looks at a theatre space as a place for mourning and reflexivity that allows the possibility of working through past trauma to better understand the present. This paper is a part of the three years long postdoctoral research “Women Practitioners and Scenography of Trauma in Contemporary Russian Theatre”.  

Speaker: Marina Simakova, doctoral student at the European University Institute, Department of history and Civilisation and INREES visiting fellow at the Aleksanteri Institute

In his lectures of 1895-1896, Emile Durkheim responds to the omnipresent confusion between socialism and communism, presenting the intellectual genesis of the two. Focusing on Saint-Simon as a constitutive figure for both socialist thinking and future social science, he defines socialism as a specific nineteenth century historical phenomenon, in which politics and theory are indivisible. In contemporary historiography, however, socialism as an object of inquiry is seen through multiple lens, from the history of particular individuals living under the socialist regimes to the history of the political doctrine and its conceptual apparatus. While offering a broad methodological reflection, this paper turns to the three particular figures (Georges Sorel, Anatoly Lunacharsky, and Antonio Gramsci) associated with Marxian socialism in France, Russia and Italy respectively. Loosely following the path taken by Durkheim, it approaches socialism as a specific variation of transnational social thinking, sensitive to political conjunctures of the time. According to the study, in the early twentieth century, such thinking gives rise to anti-determinist reflection on the social world, which revolves around the problem of popular religiosity as a means of political subjectivation and socialist politics.

Discussant: Dr. Kaarina Aitamurto, head of training, Aleksanteri Institute, Docent and Lecturer at the University of Helsinki