Monthly Archives: March 2019

ISA’s 60th Annual Convention

Today, on 29th of March, Sanna Kopra took part in the “Take Me to Your Leader(s)! International Society and the Problem Of Leadership in a Fragmenting World” panel at the ISA’s 60th Annual Convention, held in Toronto, Canada. She presented a paper “Great Power Climate Leadership”.


Learn more about the conference at its website.

Hiilitieto ry, Kolfakta rf:n talviseminaari

Yesterday Hiilitieto ry and Kolfakta rf winter seminar was organised in Helsinki. The seminar concentrated on the issues of energy transition, waste incineration, banning coal, Energy and Russia, energy consumption during winter and other topics. Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen gave a talk on Energy and Russia, the slides of the presentation can be found online.

Alla Bolotova’s field trip to Kovdor

From 17th of February to 2nd of March this year our postdoctoral researcher Alla Bolotova was on her second field trip within the Wollie project to Kovdor. Kovdor is a small industrial town with 16 thousand inhabitants, located in Murmansk Oblast of Russia, some 20 kilometres away to the East from the Finnish border. Previous fieldwork was conducted in an urban-type settlement Revda, which is also in Murmansk Oblast, but this trip was a special one – Alla Bolotova herself was born and grew up in Kovdor. Now, returning to the town after many years, Alla was interviewing young people aged 15-30 that are facing same dilemma that she had – stay, leave, or return to Kovdor after getting higher education elsewhere?

Education is one of the important factors determining youth’s motivation to leave the town – school graduates can only get vocational training in Kovdor with very limited choice of professions available. Most professions are men-oriented, preparing for work at the mining industry, so girls and boys with different interests are pushed to leave the town. Lack of education, relevant for modern youth, is a general problem for most northern single industry towns, and Kovdor is no exception here.

Kovdor indeed resembles many other industrial towns in the Russian North: a large carbonatite mine is located next to the town, and Kovdorians are employed at the “Kovdor’s Mining Plant” (Kovdorsky gorno-obogatitelny kombinat, or Kovdorsky GOK), currently owned by the EuroChem, a large nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer company headquartered in Zug, Switzerland. The enterprise is quite successful, but still the population of Kovdor is rapidly decreasing every year. According to Alla Bolotova, most school pupils, interviewed for the Wollie project, are eager to leave the town after finishing school. However, there are also some young people returning to the town after getting education elsewhere and starting the families: Kovdor is a rather compact safe town, with cheap apartments, while salaries in mining sector are relatively high. Also, help of grandparents and other relatives becomes quite important when young families get children.

But what is in Kovdor for the youth? There are several state sport clubs and schools, associations at the vocational training college and schools, various dance and other interest clubs at the local House of culture and libraries, however, many of them encounter problems trying to attract young people to their formalized activities. There is a youth club formed as a grassroots initiative called “Prityazhenie”. It appeared in 2015 as result of cooperation of several young workers wishing to create an alternative leisure place for working youth, and later got registered as an NGO. This independent youth centre organises variety of events, such as music concerts, film screenings, language clubs, meetings for playing board games, etc. The centre and its activities are funded mainly by the young working people themselves, but for several activities they also got small-scale support from the Eurochem company and from the Federal Agency for Youth Affairs. 

Alla Bolotova at the open discussion about Kovdor and its attraction for youth.

As was mentioned earlier, Kovdor is situated indeed very close to the border with Finland, but there is no border checkpoint, therefore Kovdorians have to take a long bypass route to the East to Kandalaksha and then to the South and back to the West to Allakurti and Salla border crossing point, which adds extra 300 kilometres to the ride. Many residents of Kovdor believe, that creating a new border crossing would significantly change the life in the town, releasing it from the plight of the dead-end location. At the moment Kovdor is also not so inviting for local tourism because it is one of the most distant towns from the regional center Murmansk: it takes 4 hours to drive from Murmansk to Kovdor by car, while very attractive Khibiny mountains with well developed tourist infrastructure are situated twice closer to Murmansk.

And yet, there have been positive changes in the town recently, which many Kovdorians attribute to the change of the city leader: according to their opinion, in a short period of time the new head of Kovdor district Sergei Somov succeeded to get streets regularly cleaned from snow, to renovate and decorate the parks, to make public events and celebrations more interesting. In 2019 an agreement was made to create a “Territory of advanced socio-economic development” in Kovdor. In the future that will make the town more attractive for new investors, who can get tax benefits, if they locate their business in Kovdor and provide work places for locals.

In cooperation with Eurochem Sergei Somov also supports the initiative “Kovdor – the capital of Hyperborea” (Kovdor – stolitsa Giperborei). The project is aimed at developing tourism in the Kovdorskii district, where several megaliths were found. Supporters of this project suggest that the megalithes and other artifacts indicate that Kovdor is located in the centre of the mythical land Hyperborea. Many young Kovdorians are in favour of the project too; however, for some locals it is unclear what actually Hyperborea means and how can young people relate to it. Alla Bolotova thinks that EuroChem should pay more attention to make this project understandable and attractive for the local population instead of focusing predominantly on the external PR. Another challenge for “Kovdor – the capital of Hyperborea” is Russian Orthodox Church’s condemnation of the initiative, as it belongs to pagan culture.

Kovdor, like all other single industry northern towns, has its own ups and downs. For now it seems that both the young people and the administration are doing their best to bring more diversity to the activities in the town, and their efforts can be seen.

“Competing institutional logics in Soviet industrial location policy”

A member of our research seminar group “Russian and Post-socialist environment and energy”, PhD candidate Nooa Nykänen published an article “Competing institutional logics in Soviet industrial location policy” in Eurasian Geography and Economics journal.

The Soviet legacy has been widely demonstrated to have had negative impacts on the regional and economic development of Russia. This article studies the mechanisms of competing institutional logics in Soviet industrial location policies as a source of this adverse heritage. The results indicate that prolonged competition between three institutional logics complicated the adoption and practice of consistent industrial location strategies and contributed to structural problems in economic geography. An analysis of Soviet institutional logics demonstrates parallel forms of competition and coexistence with findings from other institutional environments, paving the way for a broader theoretical analysis of Soviet organizations and institutions.

The article can be found on Taylor&Francis Online.


Voiko ilmastonmuutoksen torjuminen olla turvallisuusuhka? asked our researcher Sakari Höysniemi, Emma Hakala from Finnish Institute of International affairs and Tero T. Toivanen from VTT if the means of combating climate change increase the instability of societies and cause conflicts. In the piece “Voiko ilmastonmuutoksen torjuminen olla turvallisuusuhka?” (Can combating climate change be a security threat?), Sakari Höysniemi addressed the energy side of the issue and was arguing, that energy security is more than energy supply.

Although Finland is partly an island in terms of security of supply, it could be a promoter of a more sustainable and safer society and take sustainable practices, ways of thinking and technologies elsewhere. If we were able to create a model where the foundation of our well-being and security is not in securing the supply of fossil energy, this model would surely be in demand outside our borders.

Read full version of Sakari Höysniemi’s and other researchers’ texts at

Finnish Peace Research Association’s spring seminar ”Ilmasto – Politiikka – Rauha?” (“Climate-Politics-Peace?”)

Finnish Peace Research Association’s spring seminar ”Ilmasto – Politiikka – Rauha?” (“Climate-Politics-Peace?”) is taking place today at the University of Turku from 18 till 19.30. Sanna Kopra will moderate the event.
The seminar will discuss what should be done with peace research within the climate debate and how climate change is reflected in security policy. Senior researcher Emma Hakala (Finnish Institute of International Affairs) and Postdoctoral researcher Miina Kaarkoski (University of Jyväskylä) will start the discussion. In her speech, Hakala will discuss how climate change affects security, and particularly conflicts. She will also consider if environmental issues can sometimes act as a stimulus for peace building. Kaarkoski, in turn, will examine how climate change has influenced the perceptions of Finland’s security environment and national defense. Is the security dimension of climate change strengthening in Finland?

More information on the seminar can be read in Finnish here.

The re­birth of news me­dia as a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion in Rus­sia

The latest issue of the Aleksanteri Insight is written by Dr. Dmitry Yagodin, who is also working as an editor of the issue series of expert opinions, published by the Aleksanteri Institute quarterly.  The publication is titled “The re­birth of news me­dia as a pub­lic in­sti­tu­tion in Rus­sia” and focuses on the role the news media play in Russia these days – whether it is “the institution of public accountability or a publicity tool”.

International conflicts trigger propaganda, but they also generate demand for change. Journalism history hints at the ways in which the rebirth of the Russian media may begin, writes Dmitry Yagodin.

Read the issue online on the Aleksanteri Institute’s website.

The Geopolitics of Renewables in Kazakhstan and Russia

“The Geopolitics of Renewables in Kazakhstan and Russia” article written by Professor Natalie Koch and Professor Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen has been published in “Geopolitics” journal in March.

This article examines recent renewable energy initiatives in two hydrocarbon rich states of Eurasia: Kazakhstan and Russia. The global nature of challenges surrounding energy and natural resource use demand that sustainability and “energy transition” policies be understood as geopolitical issues, which are increasingly (re)defining political relations among and within states. Existing research and media coverage of international energy politics in Eurasia is overwhelmingly dominated by a focus on oil and gas extraction, especially in Kazakhstan and Russia, due to their central place in traditional hydrocarbon fuels markets. As elsewhere in the world, however, political and economic leaders in both countries have started to adopt the language of promoting environmental sustainability, the “green economy,” and renewable energy infrastructures. Taking a critical geopolitics lens to recent developments, this article considers who is involved in advancing renewable energy in contexts that have traditionally been dependent on traditional energy sources, and what this may portend for the shifting energy landscape of Eurasia.

The article can be accessed at Taylor&Francis Online website.

Ilmastonmuutos muuttaa Euroopan suhdetta ydinvoimaan, ja se kelpaa venäläisjätti Rosatomille

Yle published an article “Ilmastonmuutos muuttaa Euroopan suhdetta ydinvoimaan, ja se kelpaa venäläisjätti Rosatomille” (“Climate change is changing Europe’s attitude towards nuclear power, and it is good for the Russian giant Rosatom”) on 3d of March. The article contents an interview with Rosatom’s First Deputy Director General for Corporate Development and International Business Kirill Komarov and Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen’s comments given to the Ulkopopolitiikka in 2015. Professor Tynkkynen

estimates that Rosatom’s trump card is its status as a state-owned company.

“Rosatom can even sell nuclear power at a loss. Economically, such an actor is, of course, in the best interests of its private-owned competitors”

The new article can be read at Yle website.

Interview with the authors of the “China in the Arctic; and the Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese-Finnish Arctic Co-operation” report.

The authors of the report “China in the Arctic; and the Opportunities and Challenges for Chinese-Finnish Arctic Co-operation” discussed their work in an interview with Kathrin Stephen From “High North News”. Sanna Kopra, one of the authors, talked, among other things, about what she thinks of the China’s role as a climate leader:

After President Trump announced to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement, the world has hoped for China to step up and fulfill the leadership vacuum in international climate politics left by the US. Although President Xi Jinping has responded positively to these expectations and China has strong domestic incentives to take the findings of the recent IPCC report very seriously, it has not demonstrated any kind of climate leadership role in the Arctic. In my view, taking a stronger leadership role in international efforts to tackle climate change would not be a big sacrifice for China. Conversely, such a leadership role would support China’s national interests and alleviate various China threat theories at the global level. When it comes to the Arctic, China’s stronger commitment to tackle climate change would probably improve the state’s image and generate trust amongst the Arctic states. This would, in turn, help China to legitimize its stronger engagement in Arctic regional affairs.

The full interview can be read at the “High North News” website.