Visiting Fellows Research Seminars

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Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminar Series features the work of the outstanding scholars who have been invited to conduct their research within the Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Programme. The scholars’ topics cover a wide range both geographically, and with regard to methodology, discipline, and focus. The seminars are a platform for advancing and sharing knowledge of the present, past, and future of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, and Eurasia, and each session has ample time for questions and discussion. All students, scholars, and other interested audiences are warmly welcome to attend!

We are delighted to be able to host Visiting Fellows at long last, and the seminars are starting in September. You can follow updates to the seminar programme on this page, on our Facebook page and in our monthly Newsletter.  The online  Aleksanteri Alumni Talks with Visiting Fellow alumni will also continue in August.

Most of our online seminars are recorded, and you can watch the videos on our YouTube channel. Most recordings are available for the time being while some may be available only for a two-week period

LGBTQ Persons’ Religious Identities in Lithuania: from Denial to the Search for Reconciliation and Inclusion

There is a certain paradox, the more I become religious the more I recognize myself as I am. Religion did not matter much to me earlier but now with its help I can see myself as the picture of God with dignity, I can accept myself and want to talk about it”. These are the words of 26 years old female Ieva who reflected on religiosity and sexuality after having realized that she was bisexual. Ieva attended Roman Catholic Church weekly and considered herself Roman Catholic, although in the Church she needed to be cautious not to disclose her sexuality. What strategies of reconciliation between their religious and sexual identities are applied by LGBTQ persons in Catholic dominated Lithuania? This main research question will be followed by others in searching for the answers based on empirical data – semi-structured interviews (n=12) and survey (n=266) conducted with LGTBQ persons in Lithuania in 2017-2018.

The presentation will start with analysis of social history of homosexuality in Lithuania, followed by insights into the role of religion in Lithuanian society and trends of religious individualization.  Data from the fieldwork will be presented and analyzed with the aim of answering the main research question and further research directions will be discussed.

Speaker: Milda Ališauskienė Professor, Professor, Department of Political Sciences at Vytautas Magnus University. Read more.

Chair: Marianna Muravyeva, Professor of Russian Law and Administration, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

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Morality on trial. Public shaming meetings in the late Soviet Union

The paper presents an analysis of public shaming meetings dedicated to condemnation of moral misconduct (prorabotka) in the late USSR. Public shaming was applied to a wide range of behaviours, including ideological deviations and moral misdemeanours such as public drunkenness, marital infidelity by party members, planned emigration to Israel, etc. The paper questions the interpretation of late Soviet “criticism and self-criticism” rituals as events of moral re-education. It shows that these socially traumatic events did not create moral agreement about the norms of public behaviour, but instead reinforced the power of political and institutional authorities. The paper concludes by drawing some parallels between the Soviet public shaming rituals and public shaming that takes place within the modern cancel culture.

Speaker: Svetlana Stephenson (Professor of Sociology, London Metropolitan University). Read more.

Chair: Kaarina Aitamurto, Senior Researcher, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

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Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Fellows Research Seminars Stephenson

Continuities, Persistencies and Legacies in Russian and Soviet Foreign Policy

This paper will examine modes of understanding patterns in Russian and Soviet foreign policy from the Tsars to the Putin Era. ‘Essentialists’ view these patterns – usually seen as aggressive, expansionist, messianic and/or exceptionalist - as an expression of one or more immutable characteristics of Russian history, tradition, character, mentality or geopolitics. ‘Factoralists’ focus on the interaction between human agency and key material realities such as economic and cultural ‘backwardness’ and the multinational character the Russian/Soviet state. Their aim is to explain change as well as continuity in the history of Russian and Soviet foreign policy. ‘Legacyists’ emphasises the particularities of the continuities in personnel, ideas and institutions that underpin – or undermine – persistent policy patterns.
The paper will consider continuity and change between Tsarist and Soviet foreign policy as well as Soviet and contemporary Russian foreign policy. It will reflect on the purpose as well as the utility of such broad-based thinking.

Particular attention will be paid to three key texts: Alfred J. Rieber’s ‘How Persistent are Persistent Factors?’ (2007); Sergey Lavrov’s ‘Russia’s Foreign Policy: Historical Background’ (2016); and Mark Kramer’s ‘The Soviet Legacy in Russian Foreign Policy (2019).

Speaker: Professor Emeritus Geoffrey Roberts (University College Cork; Royal Irish Academy)

Chair: Katri Pynnöniemi, Assistant Professor, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki

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Linking People Through Fish, Climate and Environment: Transnational Connections of Russian / Soviet Science and Their Mediators

The main objectives of the project are to analyse which individual strategies scientists have employed to build relationships within scientific institutions, with the state, and with national and international scientific communities; what were their predispositions to become brokers on international scene or to take part in science diplomacy; what price did they pay for maintaining such positions. I propose to study these general questions in a particular context: chronologically the project covers several distinct periods of Russian history: the late-Imperial period, 1890s to 1917; the early Soviet period, 1917 to 1929; the 1930s, a formative period in the Soviet exploration of the Arctic; and the Cold War period, with an emphasis on the late 1950s to mid-1970s. The periods differ not only with regard to political power in Russia and relations between the authorities and academic communities, but also in terms of different stages of knowledge development pertaining to the Arctic environment and its importance for military activities, resource use, etc. In addition, I intend to show how actors like fish, oceanic currents, marine ice, and atmospheric phenomena were formative for linking people across the boundaries of countries and disciplines. Environmental sciences in general are situated between two unpredictable realms: the natural and the political. Questions of power in the practice of science include power over nature––who speaks for nature and who could and should be responsible for nature’s unpredictable changes? 

Speaker: Associate Professor Julia Lajus (Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg)

Chair: Sari Autio-Sarasmo, University Lecturer, Vice-Director, Aleksanteri Institute, University of Helsinki
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Creating the Discipline, Reinventing the Society: Sociology of Music in Post-Revolutionary Russia

In the cultural heritage of post-revolutionary Russia, one of the bright pages is represented by musicological research – a field that was institutionalized as an academic discipline in the 1920th. One of the original features of Russian musicology during this decade was a keen interest in various social aspects of musical practice. Attention to them was largely determined by post-revolutionary culture with its focus on mentality of broad proletarian masses and orientation on radical cultural transformations in which arts were supposed to play a significant role. Having been deliberately aimed at making their discipline an important factor of the state cultural policy, musicologists saw in sociological knowledge a key to understanding the cultural realities of the past and the present. In turn, systemic mastering sociological “optics” affected profound algorithms of research thinking in musicology having made it one of the innovative “revolutionary” disciplines of the early Soviet period.

In the presentation, I will consider some obvious and ulterior (political, cultural) motives behind the appeal of the musicological community to the sociological viewpoint. It will be also revealed on several examples how it transformed methodology in traditional areas of musicology – theory and history of music. And how mastering sociological approaches allowed the musicologists to develop technologies of using music for applied purposes (cultural policy, educating of the mass proletarian audience, upbringing of children, etc.) in order to contribute to the national mega-project of creating a new anthropological type – the “Soviet Man”.

Speaker: Associate Professor Tatiana Bukina, Vaganova Ballet Academy, St. Petersburg

Chair: Elina Viljanen, Postdoctoral Researcher, Aleksanteri Institute

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