Skip to main content

Knowledge on International Relations in Russia

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - RuKNOW (Knowledge on International Relations in Russia)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Russia is the EU’s third biggest trading partner and key energy supplier but since 2014 it has been placed at the forefront of European security debates. The relationship with Russia is among the EU’s most important, influencing security and prosperity of Europe and its citizens. For these reasons, it is crucial to understand how the relationship with the EU is perceived, explained and acted upon in Russia. This project tackled this task by analysing the links between academic knowledge and the world of policymaking in Russia. In my research I want to understand how these two worlds interact with each other and how people and ideas travel between them. The project’s original objectives included the identification of major concepts in the study of Russia-EU relations and dominant narratives on this bilateral relationship produced by the policy world in Russia. I also asked about the structures and frameworks of knowledge exchange between the academic and policy-making worlds in Russia.
The original scope of the project had to be broadened. In the course of my research, I understood that relations between academia and the policy world depend to a large extent on the socio-political context within which they are placed. Unlike in China or Turkey, the Russian government has not openly stepped up its efforts to control research. However, specific limitations to academic freedom shape attitudes of many scholars towards knowledge production and knowledge sharing with the wider public and policy practitioners. This prompted me to analyse the elements of this broader socio-political setting and their effects on knowledge-making and dissemination.
I have identified the key concepts, theoretical frameworks and empirical concerns in the Russian academic studies on Russia-EU relations. The analyses have evolved from optimism and positive descriptions of the EU towards exposing problem areas of the EU and in Russia-EU relations. Contemporary political discourse of the Russian authorities on the European Union generally downplays the role of Russia-EU economic and political ties and portrays the European Union as determined to deny Russia an equal standing in international affairs. The Russian discourse emphasised growing instability and chaos inside the EU, cast doubts on the viability of the integration project and focused primarily on the fragility and instability of the EU.
I presented the project’s results in several publications, some of which are forthcoming or under review. My peer reviewed article ‘Academic community and policymaking in Russia: impact or detachment?’, Problems of Post-Communism, analysed scholars’ attitudes to policy impact and the Russian government’s efforts to maintain a monopoly on producing foreign policy narratives. Empirical research conducted in Russia within the project’s framework served as the basis for writing a monograph titled Making Global Knowledge in Local Contexts: The Politics of International Relations and Policy Advice in Russia (forthcoming with Routledge in 2020). The monograph shows how socio-political context affects epistemic and disciplinary practices in IR in Russia and engages with the evolution of EU studies in Russia.
I published two analytical pieces with research results stemming from the research project in Times Higher Education. I further publicised the results with an interview for Research EU. Drawing on my research, I designed and taught an entirely new undergraduate module ‘Russia in World Politics: Propaganda, Strategic Narrative and Soft Power’. The module introduced students to issues in and instruments of Russia’s foreign policy.
The dissemination of research results to academic communities took place through panel and paper presentations at a number of international conferences.
In 2019, I co-convened a panel at the ISA Annual Convention in Toronto and presented a paper titled ‘International Relations – a view from somewhere or a view from nowhere?’. I delivered a guest lecture titled The politics of expertise in international studies at the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow. I was invited by BISA Post Graduate Network to share my experiences of a post-doctoral fellowship at a Workshop for PhD students and early-career scholars at the University of Portsmouth.
In 2018, I convened a panel ‘IR knowledge contextualized’ at the ISA Annual Convention in San Francisco. I presented tentative results of my project at three conferences. A paper titled ‘IR knowledge and the importance of the socio-political context of its production’ (EISA Annual Conference) discussed the theoretical aspects of my research project. Another conference paper titled ‘The European Union and Russia: the visions of other in academic discourse’ (delivered at the BISA Annual Conference) presented the empirical part of research conducted in Russia. A paper titled ‘Representations of the international in Russia contextualized: a case for situated IR knowledge’ (the ISA Annual Convention) focused on broader implications of my project for knowledge production in the discipline of International Relations.
In 2017, I discussed preliminary results of my research in a paper titled ‘Whose knowledge? The knowledge-power nexus in contemporary International Relations scholarship beyond the West’ (the EISA Annual Conference).
The most important result of my research concerns the role of the socio-political context in shaping relations between academia and the policy world. This aspect has largely been omitted in literature dedicated to the policy relevance of academic knowledge. Empirical research in Russia allowed me to delineate and analyse the elements of this context and elaborated on how the sociopolitical milieu affects knowledge production and use. I have shown that the broader sociopolitical context not only influences how and what knowledge is made, and how it is validated, but also has a bearing on what is ignored and how knowledge is (or is not) transmitted to and utilized in the policy world.
My research shed light on how the context shapes scholars’ perceptions of societal impact and their attitudes towards sharing knowledge with policymakers. Contrasting my research results with those presented in existing studies on Foreign Policy Analysis, I concluded that certain requirements for gaining access to policy practitioners are similar in the US and Russia. These include an accessible format, the right timing, the ability to provide quick responses to unexpected events and the readiness to address policy failures. Several specific obstacles are also comparable, in particular scholars’ lack of familiarity with the particular needs of foreign policy bureaucracy and the government’s vested interest in a policy it has initiated. However, due to a specific socio-political context in Russia, there are a number of obstacles to the exchange of knowledge between scholars and policy practitioners. Only those who are able to present their arguments in a way that does not directly criticise Russia’s existing foreign policy course are interested in taking their arguments out into the world of public debate. Others are content with burying their insights in niche outlets or journals that the non-academic community has little access to, or ‘exporting’ them abroad by publishing in English-language journals.