Joining the Indigenous Studies research community in Helsinki

9.12.2021
Anna Kuznetsova is a visiting doctoral student in the Faculty of Arts. Her research on ethnopolitics is concerned with the loss of minority languages among Indigenous peoples in Russia.
Anna Kuznetsova

Anna Kuznetsova is doing doctoral research in Indigenous studies, and she is a visiting PhD researcher at the University of Helsinki.

In her doctoral research, Anna focuses on the inclusion of Russian Finno-Ugric minorities. She examines three kinds of organizations: governmental, educational, and local non-governmental organizations. Her goal is to recognize legislative programmes and successful practises, which support minority peoples and their cultural heritage. Anna comes from the Komi Republic and is part of the Komi community. She is currently doing her doctoral research in Tartu and is a Finnish National Agency for Education (EDUFI) fellow in Indigenous Studies at the University of Helsinki. Anna had followed the Indigenous Studies research group on the internet and became interested in the research that was being done in Helsinki. She came to Helsinki to learn more about Indigenous research methodologies and to connect with Finnish academics and Sámi people living in Finland.

“I wanted to be a part of this research community, to share my knowledge and to get more information and knowledge necessary for my dissertation.”

Anna’s background among Komi people inspired her to implement an Indigenous studies perspective in her own research. She had noticed how the Komi people’s lack of official status as Indigenous people affected their ability to produce their identity and cultural heritage. Anna described the situation as difficult due to the lack of support in legislation and education. That is why she asks in her research how legislative programmes and their implementation on different organizational levels can better support ethnic minorities and their needs.

Anna’s work has enabled her to see the importance of ethical considerations in Indigenous research, especially when dealing with sensitive questions and traumatizing experiences. She says it is extremely important to recognize these topics when conducting interviews with vulnerable groups and to pay careful attention to how to present these kinds of questions. Anna also remarks how the differences in values and ethical ideals between Indigenous cultures and Western scientific conventions become evident in Indigenous research. In addition, Anna has learned from Sámi people that there are quite many research interests towards them, and thus research has become a burden to some individuals and communities. To avoid burdening Indigenous peoples with excessive research, earlier and archival research can be reviewed first.

Anna has done research with the Komi, Sámi, and Karelian peoples, and has gained perspectives from diverse communities living in different circumstances. Furthermore, Anna has become an interlocutor herself through her doctoral research; she shares information with communities while conducting her own research and becoming familiar with the difficulties, successful practices, and situations of different groups and regions. This is a very concrete way for her to implement reciprocity in her research. Giving back is an inherent part of her practices, and it is a source of motivation for productive research.

Komi culture corner at the kindergarten in Syktyvkar

Komi culture corner at the kindergarten in Syktyvkar. Photo: Anna Kuznetsova.