UPTAKE Young Scholars’ Working Papers

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    Counter-hegemonic Struggles in Postsocialist Bulgaria: the 2013 Winter of Discontent
    (University of Tartu Press, 2018) Stoyanova, Veronika
    This paper attempts to contribute to an understanding of power struggles in the post-socialist context of Bulgaria by way of examining the language of protests, which took place in 2013 in Bulgaria. It offers a critical discourse analysis and draws on the theoretical work of Antonio Gramsci and Ernst Bloch to suggest that these protests represented a counter-hegemonic attempt on the part of subaltern classes to challenge the liberal-capitalist discourse of the post-1989 transition by articulating a radical popular-national political identity.
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    Perceptions of Germany in Russia: Evidence from Narrative Interviews with Moscow University Students
    (University of Tartu Press, 2018) Rohe, Maren
    This paper presents an analysis of focus groups and narrative interviews conducted with Moscow university students regarding their perceptions of Germany. It focuses on narratives about German culture, economic strength, history, Europeanness, migration, and Russian-German relations. The paper also discusses which sources participants draw on for their narrative construction, whether narratives converge or diverge among participants, and possible reasons for this convergence or divergence. In each case, the analysis focuses on the kind of image created of Germany and how this relates to the Russian self-image, thereby contributing to an understanding of the degree to which Germany constitutes an Other for Russian national identity. The paper argues that Russians see Germany as a positive Other with a close cultural connection to them, a status which is perceived as threatened by the recent refugee influx and Germany’s ties to the US, since both Muslim migrants and the US are strongly regarded as negative Others in Russia. It thereby contributes to the debate about both the dividing lines and the connections between East and West in Europe and the impact of political transformations and changing international relations on issues of national identity.
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    Managing regime stability: The 2018 presidential elections in authoritarian Russia
    (University of Tartu Press, 2018) Rogova, Vera
    On 18 March 2018, Vladimir Putin was reelected for a fourth term as president of Russia, receiving 77 per cent of the votes. He will remain in office for another six years, up to 2024. While this result did not come as a surprise, political events in the run-up to the election require more attention. Not only did protests take place in cities all over Russia; liberal elites were also strikingly present in both political and economic discussions, occasionally openly challenging the existing system. At the same time, the regime demonstrated a high level of tolerance vis-à-vis such challengers. These observations appear surprising in the context of Russia’s authoritarian political system. The paper analyzes two cases of political confrontation in the context of the 2018 elections: Xenia Sobchak’s presidential campaign and the competition between the economic groupings around the liberal Kudrin and the statist “Stolypin Club”. It can be shown that in both cases, the roots of the seemingly independent political debates can be traced back to initiatives of the existing regime. On the basis of this observation, the paper comes to the following two conclusions: First, a certain level of political controversy is regarded as important for legitimizing the regime. This shows, secondly, that the “electoral authoritarian” regime in Russia has to respond to expectations of its citizens, which include the demand for political options. Overall, this paper suggests that despite its turn to increased authoritarianism and repression in the last years, the Russian government attempts to manage political stability by applying a mix of certain freedoms as well as restrictions.
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    Conflict between Russia and its Neighbors since 1992: The Cases of Belarus and Ukraine
    (University of Tartu Press, 2018) Driedger, Jonas J.
    Russia’s recent aggressions against Georgia and Ukraine have sparked intense discussions among journalists, scholars, and policymakers. However, these debates have not produced a universally accepted, theoretically grounded and empirically reliable explanation for the recurrence of conflict between Russia and its post-Soviet neighbors. While many studies have dealt with the causes of great power expansionism and the security policies of less powerful states, no theory has yet been developed to capture the intrinsically interactive nature underlying conflict behavior of unequal neighbors. To make a first step into this direction, this paper develops and tests two competing positions on variance in conflict between unequal neighbors: Autocratic Imperialism and Geopolitics. The paper develops these two positions by first conceptualizing unequal neighbors as a theoretically distinct form of state dyad, and, second, applying on unequal neighbors existing paradigms of international relations theory. The paper then derives hypotheses from these positions, which it then tests by using structured and focused comparison as well as congruence analysis on two cases of unequal neighbors: Russia and Belarus as well as Russia and Ukraine, both from 1992 to 2014. The paper finds that both positions fail these tests, albeit Autocratic Imperialism more so than Geopolitics. The concluding discussion of the conceptual and empirical problems that each position encountered yields some important hints towards the construction of a middle-range theory that would explain the conflict behavior of unequal neighbors in a more valid and reliable way.
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    The Social Psychological Barriers of Social Norm Contestation: The EU, Russia and Crimea
    (University of Tartu Press, 2018) Callesen, Camilla
    This paper focuses on the social psychological barriers underpinning the EU and Russia’s social norm contestation in the context of Ukraine. Through a frame analysis, I analyse how the two actors perceive the Crimean annexation, their own foreign policy behaviour in this context, the foreign policy behaviour of the other, and the general state of the international normative system. My findings indicate that the social psychological barrier which underpins the social norm contestation between the EU and Russia is related to the cognitive processes the actors apply in their construction of the international normative system and the type of norms which constitute it. Whereas the EU points to a stable international normative system based on injunctive norms and their clear-cut application, Russia emphasises that the normative system also consists of descriptive norms and that the presence of this type of social norm makes social norm application a matter of contextual interpretation. What the actors do agree on is the purpose of social norms and the motivation states have for complying with them. The analysis hence finds that the social norm contestation between the EU and Russia is not based on differing perceptions and interpretations on why norms are relevant or why states should comply with them. Rather, it is based on differing perceptions and interpretations of the common knowledge that is to guide state behaviour. What the analysis also suggests is that Russia’s foreign policy behaviour in Ukraine was not necessarily influenced by a lack of moral compass or a wish to disrupt the international normative system. Instead, it may have been based on a subjective interpretation of what has been done before in perceived similar contexts.
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    “Christian Stalin” – The Paradox of Contemporary Georgian Politics
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Kakabadze, Shota
    The following study sets as the starting point of analysis the paradox which one can observe in contemporary Georgian public space. Religious discourse refers to Stalin as a believer and even talks of his contribution to the revival of Christianity in the Soviet Union, despite the vast historical evidence suggesting otherwise. A considerable part of the Georgian population expresses respect or sympathy towards this historical figure. In this research, it is argued that explanations stemming from memory politics, nationalism or from the attempts of turning the image of Stalin into a commodity, fail to substantially address the puzzle and shed light on the phenomenon. Hence, the following study proposes a chain of signification developed within the discourse theory as a theoretical and methodological tool for looking at these developments. The discourse on national identity with Orthodox Christianity as a nodal point explains the possibility of such an image, religious Stalin, coming into existence.
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    Victims to villains: Internal displacement and nation-building in Ukraine
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Rimpiläinen, Emma
    The war in Donbas has created large-scale displacement within Ukraine, an issue the impoverished state has struggled to manage. Internally displaced people (IDPs) have suffered from prejudice at the hands of host communities and from legal ambiguities caused by the state’s incoherent attempts at limiting the threat of mass displacement. This paper examines how the Ukrainian government-owned newspaper Uriadovyi Kurier represents the IDPs from Donbas and analyses what the publication’s attitudes towards internal displacement mean. Over time, a distinction appears in the newspaper’s reporting between real IDPs in need of help, and people posing as IDPs, guilty of siphoning Ukrainian tax payers’ money to the rebel-held areas. Also, the paper eagerly discusses how the European Union (EU) and foreign states can be engaged in providing support for the IDPs, relieving pressure from regional budgets and simultaneously binding Ukraine to the West. These tropes serve to construct Ukrainian national unity by excluding politically suspicious migrants from Donbas. They also excuse the state from making any structural adjustments or battling corruption as inadequate social protection can be replaced with foreign aid.
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    Russians, Refugees and Europeans: What shapes the discourse of the Conservative People’s Party of Estonia?
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Wierenga, Louis
    The Conservative Peoples’ Party of Estonia (EKRE) presents a unique case in the study of far-right parties for two reasons. First, the ‘others’ to which they juxtapose Estonians are the Russian-speaking minority, who are white, historically Christian, and to a large extent, share many of the socially conservative values of EKRE. Second, there has been a trend for European far-right parties to look towards the Russian Federation for ideological support due to shared socially conservative ideological positions, and an opposition to the EU and NATO. EKRE takes a different stance towards the Russian Federation than many other far-right parties in Europe. Interviews were conducted with members of EKRE, as well as members of other political parties in Estonia, primarily focusing on the post-migrant crisis relationship between EKRE and the Russian-speaking population in Estonia, as well as other core issues related to EKRE. The aim of this article is twofold: first, it serves as an introductory piece, introducing EKRE to the broader literature on populist, radical right parties. Secondly, this article asks the questions “is the presence, or the possibility of the presence of a foreign, racially and religiously different ‘other’ enough to attract a significant portion of a national minority to vote for and become members of a PRR party?” and “is the presence, or the possibility of the presence of a foreign, racially and religiously different ‘other’ enough to entice a PRR party to cooperate with a national minority which was previously their target?” This article argues that EKRE is open to Russian-speakers becoming party members, but will not extend their reach to them as Russian-speakers. Rather, they would welcome Russian-speakers as party members provided they are Estonian nationalists who adhere to the party constitution and see Estonia as a sovereign nation which they seek to protect.
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    Discursive reconstructions of boundaries in the South Caucasus countries vis-à-vis the EU and Russia and the crux of securitization
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Szkola, Susanne
    This paper explores the intersection of social images and perceptions of security in the countries of the South Caucasus to scrutinize contested patterns of belonging amid continued talk of a “new Cold War”. These case studies – embedded within the broader EU-Russia context – shed light onto particular securitization practices and their constitutive motivations. To decode these ontological security rationales and divisions – around yet eerily familiar lines – is important in order to make sense of how and why the countries of the South Caucasus conceive of their surroundings as they do and what spaces for political manoeuvres emerge.
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    Belarus’s Asymmetric Relations with Russia: the Case of Strategic Hedging?
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Preiherman, Yauheni
    Belarus is a country with a commonly misunderstood foreign policy, which cannot be grasped by the classic bandwagoning-balancing dichotomy. The paper argues that under the conditions of deeply embedded geostrategic asymmetries and with a view to by-passing structural restrictions of its foreign policy, Belarus pursues strategic hedging, in particular in its relations with Russia.
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    Power structures and normative environment: limits to the rule of law and the EU’s normative power in Ukraine
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Králiková, Marta
    This paper explores the nexus between efforts of the European Union in promotion of the rule of law in Ukraine and the domestic factors limiting the successful introduction and consolidation of this democratic norm. By moving beyond legalistic understanding of the rule of law and highlighting the political and cultural nature of reform, it examines the domestic root causes and outlines the power structures and existing norms as under-studied, yet crucial building stones for the successful implementation of the rule of law. Firstly, it argues that incomplete consolidation of democratic institutions resulting in predominance of power vertical and alternative power structures of oligarchic clans undermine the authority of the rule of law. Secondly, it highlights the role of normative friction between the rule of law and domestic normative environment in Ukraine, influenced by the Soviet legacy and neo-patrimonial values. This has broad implications not only for understanding the limits of progress in the rule of law in Ukraine, but also of the efforts of external actors, such as the EU, to advance the rule-of law reform in this region.
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    The security dilemma and the rise of nationalism in Ukraine
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Josticova, Hana
    In 1991 nationalism was at its peak in the Soviet space and the sense of independence mobilised the masses and elites alike. In Ukraine, the long sought-after independence did not, however, result in a strong, united state. Subsequent attempts at ‘Ukrainisation’ weakened Ukraine’s socio-political composition to the levels of a potential civic strife. However, it was not until 2014 that this internal disunity resulted in bloodshed. This paper aims to establish how the relationship between Ukraine's internal socio-political weaknesses and Russian intervention impacted the activation of nationalism in Western and Eastern Ukraine and a micro-level ‘security dilemma’ within Ukraine whereby the policies and actions employed by one group are perceived as threatening to the preservation/ survival of the other. This has resulted in a protracted spiralling perception of insecurity. This paper will outline the logic of the security dilemma and its application to civil conflict, then proceed to explore how domestic and external dynamics impacted the rise of aggressive nationalism in Ukraine and lastly, explore how nationalism responds to a security dilemma by developing a model of its activation.
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    The Global Mobilities of Russian Museums: The State Russian Museum Goes to Málaga
    (University of Tartu Press, 2017) Bethwaite, Julia
    Museums are establishing foreign branches and satellite museums abroad, illustrating a growing trend among both public and private museums. Guggenheim, Louvre, Centre Pompidou, The State Hermitage Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum are a few of the cultural institutions that have presence abroad in the form of physical exhibition sites. In addition to creating permanent venues in foreign countries, many museums also cooperate internationally through temporary circulating exhibitions that engage expert exchanges and diplomatic relations. This article frames the discussion about the role of art museums as practitioners and actors of international cultural diplomacy and cultural relations. It delves into the interplay between the state actors and non-state actors that are involved in the museums’ trajectories, further extending the understanding of constituent and influential actors in international relations. In particular, the focus is on the State Russian Museum’s first foreign branch that was opened in Málaga, Spain in March 2015. First, the paper identifies the key actors, who contributed to the project, paying attention to both the state actors and non-state actors. Second, the paper reviews the purpose of establishing the museum in Málaga in the context of the interests of each of the selected actors. The paper concludes with a brief discussion on how the analysis of foreign branches and satellite museums could be deepened and what methodological instruments would be beneficial for further research.