Monthly Archives: May 2016

Katja Lehtisaari

In an interview with Hanna Ruutu for Aleksanteri News 2/2015  Katja Lehtisaari spoke about ongoing research projects related not only to changes in Russian media business environment but also to the role of media in the semi-authoritarian transitional regimes of Central Asia. At that time, she was a visiting research fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford. Now she’s back, so we asked her for an update.


Katja is one of the members of the new Russian Media Lab team coordinated by the Aleksanteri Institute. In that context, her research has been increasingly focusing towards the questions of media regulation and formation of media policy.

“Russian media market has continued to go through changes in regulation. Together with economic constraints like falling advertising figures, these changes seem to lean towards the concentration of ownership on the hands of wealthy Russian owners while the role of non-instrumental commercial publishers, especially foreign investors, is diminishing.”

Katja is one of the few Finnish scholars experienced also in Central Asian questions. She visited Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan  together with the Central Asian media research group last winter and is now preparing for a teacher exchange trip to Kazakhstan in November. “The visit to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan gave an excellent overview of the media landscape as well as societal developments in these countries, and we are working on analysis based on the interviews with Kyrgyz editor-in-chiefs and media experts.”

In media studies, comparative method is a fruitful way to understand global changes in news media. “I have lately also worked on another comparative project, on the business models of Nordic news media companies. This project has helped to contextualize many ongoing changes that are common to news media around the world mainly due to rapid development in digital technology and online environment”, concludes Katja.


Vladimir Gel’man

Study of politics in the time of major political changes is both a blessing and a curse, especially if one’s project is devoted to Russian politics. Vladimir Gel’man began Finland Distinguished Professorship at the Aleksanteri Institute in 2012, soon after the wave of anti-regime political protests, which swept Russia during the elections. After that, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, aggravating conflict with the West, and repressive turn in domestic politics, dramatically shifted the landscape of research on Russian politics.

Below  you can read the Face of the Month interview by Anna-Maria Salmi, published in Aleksanteri News 3/2012 (p.2) – a lot has certainly happened since then!

Vladimir Gelman 2012

“In many parts of the world, Russia is perceived now as a source of instability and multiple threats, and discussions on the “new Cold War” turned into a mainstream of Western media. On the one hand, there is a high policy and societal demand on analyses of ongoing political developments in Russia. On the other hand, many recent changes were so unpredictable and their consequences so unintended that many analyses are at risk to be outdated even before publication”, says Vladimir in 2016, and gives a telling example: “I finished the manuscript of my book, Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes just one day before the end of Yanukovych’s rule in Ukraine, I got comments of reviewers just hours before the crash of Malaysian Boeing over Donbass, and received proofs of the volume exactly at the day when leader of the Russian opposition Boris Nemtsov was shot dead nearby the Kremlin. Still, the book has not lost its relevance.”

That being said, he would not consider ongoing political processes in Russia as a complete deviation from its post-Soviet political trajectory. Recent changes are a rather logical extension of authoritarian tendencies in Russia since the Soviet collapse. Thus, a scholarly analysis of Russian politics and governance in comparative perspective is still relevant.

“Indeed, present-day Russia is a kind of El Dorado for experts on the study of clientelism, corruption, and institutional decay as can be read in our forthcoming volume  Authoritarian Modernization in Russia: Ideas, Institutions, and Policies. Russian realities offer a rich evidence for both testing of existing theories and development of new approaches. The articles in the volume seek answers to important questions such as why did Russia opt for authoritarian governance after the Soviet collapse, what are the mechanisms of political governance maintaining this project and why, despite so many shortcomings and flaws, has this project remained attractive in the eyes of a large proportion of the Russian elite and ordinary citizens. ”

To Vladimir Gel’man and his team, questions of the logic and mechanisms of the authoritarian governance in Russia and its effects on Russia’s politics, economy, and society appear crucial. “Comprehensive analysis of these issues require systematic collective research efforts. Our aim is to promote these issues on the research agenda and encourage further discussions among specialists in the field”.

Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik

Jelena Obradovic-Wochnik, a recurrent visitor at the Aleksanteri Institute, was introduced as Face of the Month in Aleksanteri News 2/2008 as the first scholar to participate in the now well-established Aleksanteri Institute Visiting Scholars Programme. In 2008 she had just defended her PhD thesis on victimhood discourse and denial of war crimes in Serbia.


“When I first came to the Aleksanteri Institute, Serbia was in a very dark place: it still hadn’t met all of its obligations to the International Criminal Court for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and its EU integration prospects looked very poor. There was little political progress, unemployment was high and young people had few opportunities”, says Jelena. “Today things look different: Serbia is an EU candidate, there is increased investment and lots of economic activity. On the other hand, the old networks still dominate both in politics and business, unemployment is extremely high and people have little faith in the government.“

Jelena has found her academic home at the Aston University, where she holds the positions of Lecturer in Politics and International Relations and Deputy Director of Aston Centre for Europe. Happily, she also maintains close ties with the Aleksanteri Institute. “Each time it has been absolutely fantastic to work here. The institute provides a rich intellectual environment, as there are people here working on cutting-edge projects”. Jelena can next be seen in Helsinki at the end of May, discussing new collaboration with Aleksanteri researchers on the idea of civil society in the Western Balkans.

Go for a free ride in our time machine – read the Face of the Month story by Anna-Maria Salmi first published in Aleksanteri News 2/2008!

Saara Ratilainen

Saara Ratilainen shared her thoughts as Face of the Month in Aleksanteri News 2/2013 just before her PhD defence on women’s print media and consumer culture in Russia. Read the interview written by Niina Into (on page 2).


Today, Saara coordinates a budding new research project called Russian Media Lab at the Aleksanteri Institute. The project focuses on Russian media and freedom of expression and at the same time aims at deepening the Russian expertise of Finnish journalists.

“As a member of the research team my main interest at the moment is to examine, how popular culture, online fan communities, and different amateur-based media projects respond to the question about freedom of expression in contemporary Russia”, she explains.  Can they provide mmedialabroundedodels for alternative voices to be heard more broadly in society and what kind of citizenship do these spheres of culture support?”

“Consumerism and cultural identity remain central reference points also when considering the freedoms and limitations to express oneself, one’s identity and relationship to the predominant ideologies, values and cultural ideals. My study of online fan communities, for instance, shows that brand-conscious everyday consumption functions as an important background, against which Russian young internet users define themselves as participants in creative communities and users of interactive media.”

Russian Media Lab held an open seminar, Russian Media Today,  as part of the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day festivities on May 2, 2016 in Helsinki.