Virtual panel “Extractive Geopolitics”

Last weekend Professor Tynkkynen participated in the virtual panel “Extractive Geopolitics” at EMC Human Rights Education and Monitoring Center Extractive Encounters forum in Tbilisi.

Extractivism unites the state, capital, society, and natural resource governance as governments use resource extraction to boost national economies. Yet these industries’ political drivers and consequences exist across multiple scales, uniting personal experience with international politics and relations. This panel explores the relations among extractive industries and geopolitics, and how power flows through spaces and networks of extraction. Cases come from across Eurasia and illustrate diverse ways of theorizing and implementing critical approaches to extractive politics. Three presentations will be followed by a moderated conversation and questions to the panelists.
More information can be found on the EMC website.

Grant from Kone Foundation

On the 3d of December, Kone Foundation announced the recipients of its 2020 grant call, and our research group received its largest grant for our new project FLOWISION.

“In the Changing “neighbournesses” of Finland funding programme’s now-ending, last thematic grant call, Sustainable Development, Russia, and Finland, the biggest grant went to Associate Professor in Russian Environmental Studies Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen and the FLOWISION consortium’s project. The project’s researchers, journalists, and documentary filmmakers are aiming to make the flows of energy and waste visible. In so doing, they say, it is possible to reveal the political dimension of resource flows and to compare practices in Finland, Russia and elsewhere.

“In the project we have also wanted to listen intently to petrocultures that are seen as detrimental for mitigating climate change, i.e. to the ways that using oil is part of society and of our way of living. Trump’s USA and Russia are examples of what, from a European viewpoint, are often seen as petrocultures. And yet 75% of EU energy consumption involves fossil fuels, i.e. is based on oil, gas and coal.

In energy-poor countries such as Finland imported energy is not visible in the same way as it is, for example, in Russia, where fossil-fuel energy is indigenous and where oil in many senses greases the wheels of society. Energy-related materialities are more visible there, and it is thus possible to view them from the perspective of political power, too.

Once the project has begun, we will carry one trying to listen to these positive signals in what is generally considered the ‘dark side’ of the energy sector. Such listening offers a possibility for making the dark side of petroculture brighter. We believe that listening to these signals can help us as we aim for an energy transition, i.e. when we try to replace fossil energy with renewables.”

Besides Tynkkynen, also involved in the project are: doctoral researchers Elena Gorbacheva, Sakari Höysniemi, Sohvi Kangasluoma, and Teemu Oivo, along with postdoc researchers Olga Dovbysh, Dmitry Yagodin, and Margarita Zavadskaya. Providing the artistic-journalistic component are photojournalist Touko Hujanen, journalist Johannes Roviomaa and documentary film director Niko Väistö. From the Russian side, the project will be joined by Dr. Olga Bychkova, Head of STS Center at the EU SPb, and a doctoral student.

Helsingin telakan suurtilaus on pienen piirin junailema kauppa – ”brittiläinen” varustamo on telakan venäläisten omistajien pikavauhtia pystyttämä luomus

Yle published a large article “Helsingin telakan suurtilaus on pienen piirin junailema kauppa – ”brittiläinen” varustamo on telakan venäläisten omistajien pikavauhtia pystyttämä luomus” (Behind the Helsinki Shipyard’s large order stands a small business – a “British” shipping company is a creation set up by the shipyard’s Russian owners at a rapid pace.), unrevelling the corruption behind the shipyard and its owners.

Professor Tynkkynen was interviewed for the article, and he stated that:

– Of course, one starts to ponder whether the orders are related to stealing of money from Russian state budget. There is corruption in every sector in Russia. In areas with significant state strategic interests, the biggest jackpots are usually available.

“In addition to cruise ships, Helsinki Shipyard specializes in making, for example, icebreaking tankers heading to the Northeast Passage, support vessels for oil drilling in the Arctic, and a new generation of icebreakers.

This makes the shipyard important for Russia. According to Tynkkynen, the Arctic is part of the “Russian story” that Putin wants to use to create a picture of Russia as a further expanding superpower.”

The article is available online in both Finnish and Russian.

Russia’s perspective on energy and climate change in the Arctic

Yesterday Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen gave a talk “Russia’s perspective on energy and climate change in the Arctic” at the panel “Sectors and projects of connectivity: opportunities and risks” during the meeting of the “Nordic-Baltic connectivity with Asia via the Arctic” project. The project is conducted by the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute/ International Centre for Defence and Security in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of International Affairs and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

The Arctic region is of increasing strategic importance for the Nordic-Baltic countries. It is also becoming more and more an area of great power competition, involving Russia, the US, and the growing role of China. Furthermore, it is becoming more important as a region that connects Northern Europe with Asia. The project will focus on the risks and opportunities involved in increased connectivity and interdependence between the Nordic-Baltic countries and Asia via the Arctic region. It will analyze the interests of the Nordic-Baltic states and other major stakeholders in the region, looking especially at the (potential) connectivity projects in different sectors and the related security risks. Conceptually, it will build on the theories of geoeconomics and liberal interdependence as alternative approaches to connectivity. The topic is highly timely, as the Nordic-Baltic cooperation format (Nordic-Baltic 8 or NB8), chaired by Estonia in 2020, has made connectivity, including regional energy and transport projects, a key priority. Finland will take over the chair in 2021. The project will involve experts from the Nordic and Baltic states and Japan with knowledge of the Arctic region and the interests of Russia, China, US, EU, Japan and Nordic-Baltic states in the region. The main outcome will be an edited report/book including articles on different aspects of Nordic-Baltic connectivity with Asia and the role of the Arctic region.

More information is available online.


ASEEES Convention takes place online this year, and our team participated in it this weekend virtually.

On Friday, the 6th of November, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen was a discussant at the “Evaluating Energy Development in the Russian Arctic” panel. The aim of the panel was to evaluate energy development in the Russian Arctic from various viewpoints, including those of indigenous societies, businesses, governments, and foreign companies.

The next day, he and Elena Gorbacheva participated in the “Environment and Contemporary Culture IV: Discourses of Energy/Waste” panel. Professor Tynkkynen presented a paper “The ‘Visibility of Energy’ and Energy/Hydrocarbon Culture in Petrostates, and What We Can Learn from it in the Era of Climate Change“:

Oil and gas dependent countries tend to fortify the regime in power by several direct means that can be characterized as ‘naked’ power. Despite the fact that many regimes in Petrostates are highly authoritarian, and have the means and will to control the people by force, this form of power, however, is not sufficient nor efficient enough to maintain power. Therefore, oil and gas dependent countries, such as Russia, Nigeria and UAE, lean on a large spectrum of biopolitical objectives that are entangled with the narrative and practices concerning energy. The outcome is a specific form of geo-governmentality where the materialities and spatialities of oil and gas are utilized to produce a comprehensive narrative including economic, political, and identity-related justifications. Thus, a hydrocarbon culture is being constructed to produce loyal citizens that do not question the economic, political or environmental rational of the Petrostate.
Therefore, the era of climate change is a major challenge to the Petrostates’ regimes to maintain power, as the global energy transition ultimately aims at leaving the fossil era behind. Stitching oil and gas to the nationalistic narratives of Petrostates, aiming to build a hydrocarbon-culture identity, is a process that can, however, teach on a broader front how to combat climate change. The key is that within hydrocarbon cultures the materialities and spatialities – the geology, chemistry, geography and engineering – are made visible for the citizens: people in Russia and United Arab Emirates know, as they are taught by the national energy companies and ministries, how oil and gas is produced, refined and transported, and how these forms of energy are interwoven in the social, political and economic fabric of the society.

Elena Gorbacheva presented a paper “Environmental Mobilization in Russia: Case-study of Protests Against the Shies Landfill Construction”. The paper aimed to understand the dynamic of protest mobilisation against the Shies landfill construction (Arkhangelsk region, Russia) through the frames the protesters utilised.

The next day, on the 8th of November, Alla Bolotova gave a talk  “Soviet Mining Villages and Their Afterlife: From Rural to Urban and Back” at the panel “Late Soviet Village II: Things and Infrastructures between Rural and Urban“:

Mining industrialisation played a key role in formation of the structure of settlements in the Soviet Union. While mining cities attracted some attention among researchers, smaller mining villages were almost not studied yet. This paper deals with histories of several small mining settlements in the Soviet Arctic (Murmansk region), focusing on sense of place and interaction with the environment among residents.

Russian attitudes towards environmental issues

Margarita Zavadskaya and our team member Elena Gorbacheva wrote a piece on the changing attitudes of Russians towards environmental issues for RBC Trends section “Eco-nomica”. In their article, the researchers analysed the results of the World Values Survey and European Values Study over the past 20 years and outlined how Russians’ perceptions of certain environmental questions have been shifting. The researches addressed issues such as the importance of environmental protection over economic growth, the trust in environmental organisations, and the attitudes towards climate change. One of the interesting findings was that during 1994-2014, environmental protection was seen as an issue with more priority compared to economic growth.

The full version of the article is available in Russian.

Sanna Kopra & Matti Nojonen for HS

Our team member Sanna Kopra together with Matti Nojonen, Professor of Chinese Culture and Society, University of Lapland, wrote a guest column in the Helsingin Sanomat “Uuden Silkkitien investoinnit vesittävät Kiinan ilmastotavoitteet” (Investments in the new Silk Road will water down China’s climate goals). In the column, Kopra and Nojonen argue, that in order to become the climate leader that China wants to be, its Silk Road project should break away from the fossil economy.

Read the full column in Finnish online.

What mobilises people in Russia?

Today our team representatives, Veli-Pekka Tynkkynen and Meri Kulmala took part together with journalist Jussi Konttinen in the Tiedekulma event “Mikä lii­kut­taa kan­saa Ve­nä­jäl­lä?” (What mobilises people in Russia?). The discussion was led by Ville Blåfield and focused on the politicization of local and social issues in Russia. Svetlana Erpyleva from Public Sociology Laboratory provided video comments.

When Moscow wanted to take its waste more than a thousand miles to Arkhangelsk region, the locals rose up to oppose the project. In addition to the widespread environmental protests, Russia has seen the mobilisation of citizens around other local issues that strongly affect people’s daily lives, such as construction and day care. What is everyday social and political activity in Russia like? Does the change in the system arise from everyday issues and protest-ready people? What is political in Russia?

The speakers discussed the concrete local problems and how sometimes they trespass regional borders and get politicised, like in Shiyes case, how local grievances can reveal problems on structural level, and how the people mobilise against them and what affects it. The discussion covered a broad range of issues and Russian areas from an expert point of view.

The recording of the discussion is available below:


EXALT Symposium 2020

Today Sohvi Kangasluoma participated in the Doctoral Students’ Conference 2020: (De)nat­ur­al­ising Ex­tract­iv­ism: In­vest­ig­at­ing its So­cial Or­ders and Res­ist­ances. She presented her paper “Narratives of Emotion and Extractivism in the framework of Global Capitalism” at the session “Extractivism and local identity negotiations: cases from the Arctic and the Baltics“.

Photo by Juho Karhu

In the talk, Sohvi presented her current work, focusing on Northern Norway. She explored the question of how does local oil and gas production impact peoples human security, and what kind of role do emotions have in that.  She concluded that the security narratives are complex as the local production is both the source of security and insecurity, and notes that the global capitalist/extractivist framework sets certain limits for crafting the narratives. In addition, she argued that the role of emotions should be crucial within the human security approach.

Interview for Czech media

Professor Tynkkynen gave an interview to the Czech media Seznam Zprávy, which was published in the article “Buď bude EU vůči Rusku jednotná, nebo slabší, říká finský expert na energetiku” (roughly translated as “The EU will either unite with Russia or will get weaker, says Finnish energy expert“). The interview covered a wide scope of issues, from Nord Stream 2 to Olkiluoto 3 nuclear power station and Fennovoima.

The full article in Czech can be read online.