Research projects

Poverty in Small Town Russia - A Follow-up Research 2011 - 2021

Duration: 2021-2022

Project leader: Dr. Ann-Mari Sätre | Project page

The research question is how poverty as a social phenomenon and poverty politics have changed during the 2010s in small town Russia. This topic was studied by the same research team since 2010. The methods are repeated, that is the data will be collected with a household survey and complemented with semi-structured interviews in one town in Nizhny Novgorod region in 2021-22.

Poverty has been a hot issue in Russia ever since the beginning of transition of Soviet economy.  In 2019 poverty returned also to the priority list of Russian politics, when the President of Russia had taken up the topic in his inauguration speech, having the message to cut poverty to a half. On the other hand, it is known that enforcement of political goals is a weak point in Russian politics. Therefore, this local study can give valuable information about the relation of political statements and local reality in small towns, which is a most typical living environment for Russians, and how state subsidies are channelling down to local population, what kind of strategies are used by poor families to get out of poverty and how attitudes are changing.

JustNorth: Toward Just, Ethical and Sustainable Arctic Economies, Environments and Societies

Duration: 2020-2023

Project leaders: Dr. Corine Wood-Donnelly (IRES) and Dr. Roman Sidortsov (University of Sussex) | Project page

From fossil fuel and mineral extraction to transport, the Arctic is experiencing a marked increase in human activity. Currently, it is also experiencing an unprecedented level of economic prosperity. The EU-funded JUSTNORTH project will study the viability of Arctic economic activities in view of the area’s social, economic and environmental complexities. Bringing together 18 partners from 7 disciplines, it will evaluate 18 case studies using innovative research methodology based on interviews, comparisons and correlations. The project will draw from its findings to develop a framework that can help determine whether the viability of economic activities in the Arctic is in line with Sustainable Development Goals. It will promote the insights and views tabled by indigenous stakeholders, local businesses, state officials and NGOs.

Justice, Sustainability and Arctic Futures Network

Duration: 2020-2022

Project leader: Dr. Corine Wood-Donnelly | Project page

The Justice, Sustainability & Arctic Futures Network investigates the diverse approaches to justice and how these can influence how we think about sustainable development of the Arctic. Building on existing discourse of normative and applied theories of justice, the research network seeks to  develop a framework that conceptualises the role of justice in sustainability agendas as well as find ways to assist the transition from current modes of economic development and consumption towards futures that are ethical and sustainable in the context of global climate agendas. A central focus is in overcoming the divisions in different representations and valuing of stakeholder perspectives, drawing on insights from justice theory in understanding and interpreting these positions in varying temporal and spatial contexts. The scope includes approaches from different disciplinary perspectives present within the network’s scholars and draws on conceptual tools, such as landscape, human rights and sovereignty, in framing the ontology of the spatial and temporal relationships inherent in transitions to sustainability.

Pivot to Eurasia: Geopolitics & Sustainability in the Development of Kazakhstan’s Arctic Logistics Hub

Duration: 2020-2022

Project leader: Dr. Corine Wood-Donnelly | Project page

Strategic interests of Russia and China are redefining the geopolitical map of Eurasia through the Arctic Northern Sea Route (NSR) and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).  Situated between these major economic initiatives is Kazakhstan, which is connecting these two projects through development of an Arctic logistics hub. This development raises critical questions of geopolitics and security, alongside issues of environmental impact and sustainability. This research agenda seeks to identify the key risks that Kazakhstan’s Ob’-Irtysh sea-river project bring to geopolitical relations between Europe, China and Russia and the barriers these risks pose for a sustainably developed infrastructural pivot.

Siberia’s role in Russia

Duration: 2020-2024  

Project leader: Dr. Leo Granberg

Siberia has ever since the 17th century offered huge natural resources to develop Russian Empire. The goal of this project is to analyse the role of Siberia for contemporary Russia. The wide topic is narrowed down by doing case studies to analyse and highlight some essential processes and interaction between European Russia and Siberia.  

Moving and mobilizing meaning. Competitive influence through international communication in a multipolar digitalized global environment

Duration: 2020-ongoing

Project leader: Dr. Greg Simons

Digitalisation of communicative-cultural memory and problames of its intergenerational transmission

Duration: 2019-ongoing

Project leader: Dr. Greg Simons

Visions of Empire in Russia’s Western Periphery

Duration: 2017 - ongoing

Project leader: Susanna Rabow-Edling | Project page

When the Finnish part of the Swedish realm was ceded to Russia in 1809, the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland was formed. This meant that Finland became part of a vast empire, stretching from the Åland Islands to Alaska, which had important implications for the development of the country and for the opportunities and imaginings of its inhabitants. In fact, the Russian era was to become a very important century in Finnish history when the conditions for modern Finland were created.

From the 1830s, Finnish people started to benefit from this vast realm. They played a major role in the colonization of Alaska, in the Russian-American company, and in the whale fishery in the Pacific. This experience influenced notions of Finland’s relationship to the Empire and to the rest of the world. This project investigates how these imperial experiences, which were linked to Finland’s self-image and to conceptions of modernization, were expressed in Finnish culture from 1809 to 1867, when Alaska was sold to the United States. I am interested in the dreams and visions that this colony sparked in Finland and its impact on the creation of an imperial identity. What image of the colony and the empire was conveyed in its western periphery? How was Finland’s own role in relation to the colony and the empire’s civilizing mission in the new world portrayed?

The Forgotten War Propaganda - Comics in Sweden during World War

Project leader: Prof. Michael Scholz

Comics provide a rich historical and sociological archive of national behaviours, values and attitudes; they give cultural identity Comics are mostly associated with entertainment; to a lesser extent, they are seen as a social mirror and, to an even lesser extent, as effective propaganda weapons. This was the case during the Second World War, when comics in Sweden spread propaganda with images of hate and racism. But the comics of these years also conveyed a new image of a modern independent woman and they established a lasting positive image of the USA and their allies. Although academic research in recent years has given rise to a growing interest in the comic’s critical investigation, we lack studies of the comics’ messages and ideology in the Nordic region in the war years. In this project, I will link results from my previous research and end with a case study of comics as part of the propaganda war in Sweden during World War II. The comics will be studied as artefacts of the war, examining both images and stories. Inspired by Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas about the field of cultural production, the study will include the social relationships of the comics, in terms of their production, distribution, and consumption. One purpose of the project is to strengthen the status of comic scholarship in Sweden by demonstrating that comics as part of the popular culture are an important source, and how these artefacts can be studied.

Longing for Tsargrad: 1920s Istanbul as a source of artistic and geopolitical imagination

Project leader: Dr. Igor Torbakov

This research project focuses on early 1920s Constantinople/Istanbul and involves two prominent figures of the Russian pre-revolutionary artistic avant-garde -- Aleksei Grishchenko and Ilia Zdanevich -- who fled the political turmoil in Russia following the 1917 revolution. While their brief sojourn on the Bosphorus is significant, it has been poorly researched so far. The significance lies in the fascinating intermingling of the artistic and the political in their high-quality literary works devoted to their stay in postwar Constantinople. These works, ranging from travel journal to autobiographic prose to literary fiction, and until very recently being largely unknown to the broader public, have creatively addressed both the past and the present of this city, so richly endowed by history and living through turbulent times in the immediate aftermath of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I. They portray Constantinople/Istanbul as both a principal cultural locus inspiring "modernist Byzantinism" (a desire to revive contemporary arts through the reevaluation of Byzantine tradition) and a wounded Ottoman metropolis that was "living dangerously" – a demoralized capital of the defeated empire, a bone of contention in the international arena, and a target of multiple political conspiracies. As a result, a fascinating image of Constantinople/Istanbul emerges whereby the city acts as a source of both artistic and geopolitical imagination.

Funding: Partially funded by the fellowship at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul.

Visions of the "Land of Black Christians": Ethiopia in Russian imagination of the late imperial period

Project leader: Dr. Igor Torbakov

This research project intends to investigate the visions of Ethiopia that circulated in late imperial Russia. Here a researcher is confronted with a veritable historical enigma. Why all of a sudden did Russian mass circulation newspapers start focusing their attention on “our black co-religionists”? Why did all things Ethiopian become such a popular issue of discussion in late imperial Russia? What lay behind the interest of Russian conservative statesmen, churchmen, and political thinkers in Ethiopia? And why did this keen interest in the far-away African country prove rather ephemeral and fade away during the twilight decade of the Russian Empire? This project argues that to make sense of the Russians’ fascination with their “religious kin” in Africa one has to appreciate the extent to which this interest in Ethiopia was intertwined with the larger political and ideological issues of the late imperial era. Thus, the Russians’ visions of Ethiopia is going to be explored against the backdrop of the Russians’ growing sense of geopolitical isolation, the rise of anti-Western sentiment, and the emergence of a peculiar version of Russian universal mission that contrasted Russia’s supposedly benign role in Africa to the aggressive colonial practices of Western Europeans. 

Funding: partially funded by the fellowship at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study.

Last modified: 2021-03-29