The Aleksanteri Institute is often identified by a photo of its beautiful facade on Unioninkatu 33. What makes the Institute so great are not the grand premises though, but the amazing people who work here.
Since 2008, Aleksanteri News has been publishing a series of profiles called Face of the Month. To date, over 30 Aleksanterians have been interviewed in the series. As part of our 20thanniversary celebrations we decided to re-publish some of those stories. Take a free ride in our time machine during the following weeks to see what Russia and Eastern Europe looked like to our researchers in 2008, 2009, 2010… and how those same people see it today.
A lot has changed as you will see, but most questions that we’ve brought onto the agenda over the years still seem relevant now – maybe even more so. Did we manage to predict any of the developments? Would it have been possible? Where should Russian and Eastern European Studies be looking now?
The series begins with a 2008 interview with Mikko Palonkorpi about the aftermath of the war in Georgia…
Mikko Palonkorpi was the very first researcher introduced in the Face of the Month series of Aleksanteri News. In the autumn of 2008 he, as the primary Finnish expert on Caucasus region, had just survived an extremely intensive period in the media. The war in Georgia had ended in mid-August, but the aftermath was just beginning. Here’s what Anna-Maria Salmi wrote in 2008 after interviewing Mikko:
(Aleksanteri News 1/2008)
What is the situation in Georgia now?
“Relations with Russia have improved since the Georgian Dream coalition rose to power: the Georgia-Russia border is now open and trade embargo has been lifted. On the other hand, Russia has implemented “borderization policy” in South Ossetia and Abkhazia by unilaterally re-labelling the administrative borderlines between Georgia and two of its breakaway regions as state borders In fact, Russia has been slowly expanding these “borders” for its own advantage and thereby occupying more Georgian territory in a process of creeping annexation. Russia has also signed treaties with separatist entities in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, thus making prospects for Georgia regaining its control over these two territories in a near future seem unlikely.
Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic integration has made steady process in eight years, milestones being an Association Agreement with the EU and European Commission’s proposal of visa-free travel to the Schengen area for Georgian citizens, which could be achieved already later on this year. NATO membership for Georgia however, is not much closer now than it was in 2008,” says Palonkorpi.
Renewed heavy fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh, Iranian nuclear deal and deteriorating Turkish-Russian relations over Syria have all affected Georgia. On a more positive note, tourism industry in Georgia has witnessed a spectacular growth in recent years.
Supporters of the Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia celebrate the election victory of the coalition in Tbilisi in 2012. Photo by Mikko Palonkorpi.
Mikko Palonkorpi is currently running his own company Mikko Palonkorpi Photography that offers consulting and photography services (contact: firstname.lastname@example.org).