A Broad Spectrum of International Relations Topics Explored in Student Research

International Relations students enrolled in the Cross-Border International Relations (CBIR) in the University of Tampere, have completed a set of interesting research projects for their Master’s Theses. The theses are original pieces of research exploring a broad spectrum of topics in International Relations, European Studies and World Politics.

Iuliia Gataulina’s Master’s Thesis Translating Gender Equality: Nordic Initiatives in the Russian Context examines the domestication of Nordic gender equality models in the Russian context. Gataulina examines two specific cases in her research: Firstly, cooperation between the Nordic Council of Ministers and St. Petersburg city authorities and, secondly, a project called Eve’s Ribs where Russian activists cooperate with Nordic (in this case Finnish) participants. Gataulina’s research question is whether and how policy transfer and domestication of transnational models takes place. The question stems from a dual theoretical background of a postcolonial critique of universality of knowledge and the concept of domestication. The theoretical model suggests that policies coming from the ‘outside’ are never adopted as such. Thus, the sometimes implicit understanding of ‘Western’ models as being better or ‘universally applicable’ needs to give way to contextualization.

Gataulina finds out that a transfer of ideas on gender equality does indeed take place in the examined cases. Yet, such transfer is more difficult when it comes to the methods of activism due to the different contexts. Gataulina also argues that policy transfer should not be examined only nationally but also regionally. There are notable differences especially between St. Petersburg and other parts of Russia, not to mention Russia in general.

Futa Ito’s Master’s Thesis Everlasting Struggles to Articulate the Arctic is a discourse analysis of speeches by the representatives of the governments of Finland, Russia and Singapore. As the Arctic is one of the hotspots of contemporary world politics, the topic of Ito’s thesis is very interesting. The point of departure of the research is the recognition that the Arctic is a contested concept. This motivates Ito to deconstruct the way in which the representatives of the examined states actualize the term “Arctic” for their purposes.

Ito shows how the examined state actors have tried – and partly succeeded – in constructing the Arctic so that the states that they represent can benefit from it. He identifies the key discursive nodal points in the examined discourses. This permits him to make comparisons concerning the Arctic discourses of Finland, Russia and Singapore. Although all the analyzed speeches presumably have the same reference point, the Arctic that they each talk about appears quite different.

Anna Leonova analyzes cross-border cooperation in the context of human mobility in Northwestern Russia. Her thesis is titled Human Mobility and Visa Policies. Leonova wants to find out what kinds of visa policies and practices could foster cooperation between the regions of Russia and their neighboring European countries. The research is based on a survey among almost 300 university students and schoolchildren in St. Petersburg and Pskov. Leonova shows that an increase in the number of border-crossings per person has a positive influence on international relations: The more an individual travels, the more likely she or he is to establish constructive relations with the inhabitants of other countries. Moreover, Leonova identifies the factors that negatively influence the number of visits that the youth of St. Petersburg and Pskov make to Finland and the Baltic States. On this basis, she also identifies a set of areas of improvement in the practices of border-crossing process.

Finnish foreign policy is the topic of Joshua Rose’s thesis From Finland to Ukraine: Foreign Policy Sharing Across Time and Space. The thesis deals with the Finnish foreign policy expert community’s views of the “Finnish model”, i.e. a specific kind of security solution vis-à-vis external threats. Influential figures such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski have suggested that “Finlandization” would offer a solution to the war in Ukraine. Prompted by this, Rose poses questions about the transferability and applicability of the model to other countries. On the basis of a sample of interviews, he discusses the stories of Finland’s successes and failures during the Cold War as told by the foreign policy expert community. The conclusion of Rose’s thesis is that the interviewed Finnish foreign policy experts agree that a Finnish foreign policy model existed during the Cold War. The experts also concur that any direct applicability of the model to other countries would be difficult. As to whether the Finnish model might offer some solutions for other states, Rose identifies diverging views among the Finnish foreign policy elite.

Anastasia Strakevich has written her thesis on the identity formation among Russian speakers in Germany focusing on the effects of the Ukraine conflict. The thesis is titled Process of identity formation among the Russophonic community of Germany during the mid-2010s conflict in Ukraine. Strakevich’s research is motivated by allegations that the Kremlin uses the Russian speaking communities abroad as an instrument of influence and destabilization. Her research question is whether the conflict has led to increasing group cohesion and identification with one of the sides or whether it has brought about internal divisions and growing marginalization.

The key conclusion of the research is that the Russian speaking community has remained divided and that the Ukrainian crisis has not changed the previous identity conceptions. The empirical part of Strakevich’s research is based on a rich material consisting of diverse media sources covering German, Russian as well as German Russian journals and TV channels and 15 interviews with German Russians of different backgrounds including those from Ukraine. Theoretically, the research leans on a poststructuralist understanding of identity as socially constructed and unstable. As her research method, Strakevich uses discourse analysis.

A celebration for the completion of Futa Ito’s and Josh Rose’s master’s theses was organized in May in the University of Tampere. In addition to Ito and Rose, pictured here are students Anna Laitinen, Evelina Khonkanen, Yuliya Trubachyova and Francesco Durante together with Jean Monnet Professor Hanna Ojanen.

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