Research projects

Governance & Democracy

1.    Project: “Decentring the West: Russia’s Counter-Hegemonic Representations of Democracy in Comparative Perspective.” Research grant by the Estonian Science Foundation (grant holder: Prof. Viatcheslav Morozov)

Time: 2010-2013

Abstract: The objective of the project is to examine the existing counter-hegemonic interpretations of democracy and to demonstrate the urgent need to revisit the foundations of the global democratic consensus. The global debate about democracy between the West and the non-West represents one of the defining conflicts of our time. Democracy today is almost universally accepted as the only legitimate form of government. At the same time, the appeal of the democratic values is weakened both by an ever greater degree of alienation between the population and the democratic institutions in the quintessentially democratic societies of Europe and North America and by the fact that in the countries like Russia, the pro-democracy rhetoric is often cynically used to justify some of the most undemocratic decisions and practices. Moreover, the legitimacy of the western monopoly to define what democracy means in political practice is vigorously challenged by non-western leaders in many parts of the world. These attempts to de-Centre the West by exposing the Eurocentric nature of democracy promotion have to be taken seriously despite their underlying instrumental motives, because what makes them possible in the first place are genuine grassroots concerns about western unilateralism. The project will use discourse analysis to study Russian conceptualizations of democracy and to compare them with those existing in Turkey and South America. It is hoped that a careful examination of the tensions and similarities between the hegemonic and the counter-hegemonic discourses will open new ways of speaking about global democracy while keeping a critical distance from both the western project of democracy promotion and the cynical instrumental use of pro-democracy rhetoric by the non-western leaders.

2. Project: “Independent candidates in national and European elections.“
Research contract (responsible researcher: Piret Ehin)

Time: August 2012-February 2013

Abstract: The study is carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Tartu, including political scientists and lawyers, and funded by a research contract over the amount of 55.000 Euro with the Committee of Constitutional Affairs of the European Parliament. The study will contain the following major elements:

  1. Defining independence
  2. Electoral strength of independent candidates in EU-27
  3. Electoral system effects on the presence and performance of independents
    – Type of election (national, European, regional)
    – Age of the electoral system
    – Ballot access requirements
    – Seat allocation procedures
    – Campaign financing and advertising rules
  4. Electoral rules on independent candidates in EU-27
    – Empirical overview of relevant electoral rules in EU-27
    – Testing for electoral system effects in EU-27
  5. Other factors that affect the presence and performance of independent candidates
    – Robustness of the voter-party linkage
    – Political supply and gaps in representation
    – Information and communication technologies in electoral campaigns
  6. Voter profiles: individual-level correlates of voting for independent candidates
  7. Independent candidates in office

3. Project: “An analysis of voting dynamics in the European Parliament on issues involving the Russian Federation and EU-Russia relations” ERMOS Post-doctoral research grant by the Estonian Science Foundation
(grant holder: Dr. Stefano Braghiroli).

Time: September 2012- September 2014

Abstract: The research project examines the impact of Russia-related votes on the voting alignments in the European Parliament (EP) and the voting behaviour of the Members of the EP (MEPs). Although economically very intense, the relations between the European Union (EU) and Russia are still marked by mutual mistrust and ambivalence. On the other hand, EU-Russia relations present an evident divisive potential, given Member States’ (MS) different stances towards Moscow, primarily reflecting, but not limited to, the East-West divide.

The project has the ambition to analyse the change in MEPs’ legislative behaviour when voting on Russia and identify the factors that determine the changes, both in terms of individual MEPs and national delegations. The two levels of analysis will tell us more about the relative weight of MEPs’ individual attitudes and nationally-driven behaviours on potentially salient votes. It is assumed that, given the key national relevance of MS’ relations with Russia, national politics is likely to affect MEPs’ voting decisions and reduce the weight of individual attitudes on their voting choices. The analysis will empirically compare MEPs’ voting alignments on Russia-related votes with the full universe of votes held in the 6th and 7th EP, using the NOMINATE algorithm. The votes on Russia will be then categorized in terms of polarization and political salience to assess the impact of MEPs’ attitudes and MS’ stances towards Moscow on legislators’ voting choices.

By connecting the field of international relations with the European parliamentary studies, the project fills a relevant gap in the literature, given the lack of studies on EU-Russia relations adopting an EP perspective. Given the EP’s increased powers and its growing activism within external relations, this neglect seems no longer justified. Moreover, the EP’s multinational and politically diverse nature facilitates cross-country comparisons and grants a satisfactory degree of generalizability.

4. Project: “Varieties of Democracy” (V-Dem)
(Responsible: Andrey Makarychev, country coordinator for Russia)

Time: 2013 –

Abstract: The international project “Varieties of Democracy” (V-Dem) is a global expert survey comparing nearly 200 nations or territories on over 350 variables of democratic development. The framework involves 12 different dimensions of democracy including gender participation, the structure of party politics, the state of minority rights, legal provisions for direct democracy (such as referenda), distribution of competences within the executive, mechanisms of checks-and-balances, and the media. The time frame of the survey will span from 1900 to the present. CEURUS associated scholar and visiting professor at the UT Institute of Government and Politics, Andrey Makarychev, has been appointed  Russia country coordinator for the project.

5. Project:Patterns and management of ethnic relations in the Western Balkans and the Baltic States” (Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship)
Vassilis Petsinis

Time: 2017-2019

Abstract: This study will compare the management of ethnic relations in two Western Balkan states (Serbia and Croatia) with the management of ethnic relations in two Baltic republics (Latvia and Estonia). It will concentrate on: (a) the legal and institutional infrastructures on minority rights; (b) the impact of domestic and external actors on the management of ethnic relations. This research is placed inside the framework of the EU’s enlargement. Latvia and Estonia have been EU member-states since 2004. Croatia joined the EU in 2013 whereas accession negotiations with Serbia commenced in October 2011. By conducting research on two different post-Communist settings (two post-Yugoslav and two post-Soviet states) this comparative project will provide new insights in conflict resolution and the management of ethnic relations in the new and the aspiring EU member-states.

Borders Regions & Neighborhood

1. Project: “Religion as Soft Power in the South Caucasus”
Supported by Swiss National Science Foundation
(Responsible: Andrey Makarychev)

Time: 2014-2016

2. Project: “People, Borders, Institutions: New Trends in the Baltic Sea region”
Supported by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
(Grant holder: Andrey Makarychev)

Time: 2014-2015

Project 3: “Controlling Frontiers and Mapping the field of European ‘Freedom, Justice and Security’” MOBILITAS post-doctoral research grant (grant holder: Dr. Matthieu Chillaud)

Time: 2009-2012

Abstract: From the 1990s and particularly since the 9/11, European countries have accelerated the pool of some traditional state prerogatives such as police, justice and border management. The EU, as well as European countries, introduced policies that impacted on traditional freedom rights central to liberal democracies, border management being the archetypical tool for regulating immigration. The securitisation – i.e. the legitimisation of emergency measures by reference to an existential threat – of the freedom of movement played an important role in developing these policies. The project emphasises that the evaluation of the activities conducted by the EU’s external borders and police cooperation focus above all on technical issues and overall efficiency. Conceptually, this project is to combine two schools: the so-called ‘Paris school’ and the ‘Copenhagen school’. They shared a broad sociological and political approach and were all based on a reflectivist and constructivist epistemology. Their research interests ranged from the discursive construction of security issues (securitisation) to the merging of internal and external security, and emancipation from the concept of national security. Empirically, it investigates the role of securitization of free movement in the selection and legitimisation of policy-responses to 9/11; assesses the relative power of actors in this process; analyses the process of securitisation itself and its effects for civil society and democratic politics; investigates how emergency measures have become normalised by translating them into bureaucratic routine; clarifies potential policy alternatives and whether their neglect has been due to securitisation, assesses the possibilities for desecuritising freedom of movement; and locates the analysis of securitisation in a comparative and sociological framework.

Memory and History

1.    Project/Network: “Memory at War: Cultural Dynamics in Poland, Russia, Ukraine”, initiated and headed by Dr Alexander Etkind, Reader in Russian Literature and Cultural History at the of Slavonic Studies, University of Cambridge. The project includes cross-European networking and is funded by the HERA Consortium (Humanities in the European Research Area) for 2010-2013.

Dr Maria Mälksoo, serves as Principal Investigator from Estonia for this multi-national project. Her activities include a.o. the organization of an international workshop in Tartu in December 2011. For the period 07/2011-07/2012 she is on maternity leave and is replaced by Dr. Heiko Pääbo, who continues to represent CEURUS/UT in the research network.

2. Project: “In search of transcultural memory in Europe” (ISTME), ISCH COST Action IS1203

This Action aims to go beyond the nationally oriented memory studies that tend to reify the bond between culture, nation and memory. Instead we investigate the transcultural dynamics of memory in Europe today. Studying how memories of the troubled twentieth century are transmitted and received across Europe, the Action explores the tension between attempts to create a common European memory, or a unitary memory ethics, on the one hand and numerous memory conflicts stemming from Europe’s fragmentation into countless memory communities on the other.

CEURUS associated scholars Dr. Heiko Pääbo and Dr. Eva-Clarita Pettai serve as members of the Managing Committee. Their activities include the organisation of research cooperation in the field of memory agency and European memory politics.

Duration: 2012-2015

For more information see here

3.    Project: “The Power Politics of Memory in Eastern Europe: Securitising the Legacy of Communism in the Baltic states, Poland, Ukraine, and Russia.” MOBILITAS post-doctoral research grant (grant holder: Dr Maria Mälksoo)

Time: 2010- 2014

Abstract: The objective of the project is to illuminate the intersection between culture of memory and the politics of security in twenty-first century Baltic states, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine by examining the shifting social frames of the collective European remembrance of World War II and the Soviet communism. The project traces the asymmetrical patterns of recognition-seeking, ignorance and denial of this twentieth-century legacy, mediated by different historical experiences and political interests in these countries. Building upon the burgeoning work on formerly neglected countries in the study of World War II memory, this project intends to undertake a broad investigation of the respective memory cultures. The focus is on the ongoing attempts of Poland, Ukraine and the Baltic states to criminalize the Soviet communist legacy in Europe, on one hand, and Russia’s counter-attempts to condemn these efforts as ‘falsifications’ of history, on the other. The variegated assessments of the Soviet legacy are assumed to have a particular relevance for the ontological security – or the security of identity – of these East European countries and Russia. While they all share memories of World War II and Soviet communism, Poland, the Baltic Three, Russia, and Ukraine are actualizing their post-traumatic energies in remarkably different ways. The project investigates the specific national, ideological, and regional movements and factors that compete for moral, political, and legal institutionalization as the six target countries conduct this ‘call to memory,’ each in their own way. The project seeks to provide a rich illustration to the suggestion that the way communities address the past and work through historical grievances is crucial to the prospects for the formation of communicative civil societies that are able to learn and mediate diversity.

Sovereignty, Security & Order

1.  Project: “Political Community in Flux: Identity, Sovereignty and Democracy in a Transforming World“ (grant holder: Prof Eiki Berg)

Institutional research grant (IUT 20-39) from the Estonian Research Council

Time: 2014-2019

Abstract: This research theme examines the reconfiguration of the constructs of sovereignty, identity and democracy (SID), both in discourse and political practice, in the context of the transformation of political community. It deconstructs the SID nexus while revealing its embeddedness in particular forms of political community; shows how discursive constructions of SID are used to legitimize specific political realities; explores conflict between codified norms and contemporary political practice; demonstrates how ambiguity surrounding SID gives rise to instrumental use of legal norms; and proposes solutions to dilemmas arising from regional integration. This research provides insights into a range of controversial issues including secession, humanitarian intervention, democracy promotion, clashes over history and memory, policies aiming at transitional justice, the functioning of representative institutions, and global debates about democracy.

2.    Project: “De Facto States in International System: Legality vs. Legitimacy.” Research grant from the Estonian Science Foundation (grant holder: Prof. Eiki Berg)

Time: 2009-2011

Abstract: Today, the so-called de facto states share an uncertain political status and non-recognition by other countries, that cause them difficulties to fit into the international legal framework. At the same time, internationally recognized quasi-federations often consist of several political entities that are only loosely connected with each other, carrying separate identities and different raisons d’étre. As partition and power-sharing continue to be at the core of conflict management, the purpose of this research is to examine their applications in frozen conflicts and to demonstrate the dilemma of preferring legal but illegitimate entities to illegal political units with more credibility. The central hypotheses are as follows:

H1. Legality and legitimacy are equally important and morally justified criteria to treat individual recognition bids in the face of international community.

H2. Whereas de facto states are illegal entities in international system their political regimes are more legitimate in the eyes of their demos comparing with partitioned metropolitan states.

H3. Despite of the precedent created by the recognition of Kosovo independence, the other de facto states do not follow the suit, and instead attempt to accustom with the new situation accordingly.


International Law & Human Rights

1.    Project: 7FP “International Law and non-Liberal States. The Doctrine and Practice of International Law in the Russian Federation.” Grant by the European Research Council (grant holder: Prof Lauri Mälksoo)

Time: 2009-2014

Abstract: The main goal of the project is to find out whether and in what ways the doctrine and practice of international law in the Russian Federation differs from the European mainstream. Theoretically, the central question is whether the increasingly illiberal domestic order in Russia has an impact on her understanding of international law, and what this says about international law and non-liberal States more generally.

2.    Project: “The Doctrine and Practice of International Law and Human Rights in the Russian Federation.” Research grant by the Estonian Science Foundation (grant holder Prof L. Mälksoo)

Time: 2009-2011

Abstract: The research project shares an insight of the Harvard law professor David Kennedy: international law is different in different places. While in Europe the main attention has been turned to the question how does the US interpret, apply and also violate international law and human rights law (as part of the former), this project aims at asking the same type of questions vis-a-vis the Russian Federation and Russia’s international and human rights scholarship. (Thus, both the scholarly doctrine and the state practice will be taken into account.) Quite an impressive quantity of the relevant literature is published on international law and human rights in post-Communist Russia. However, this literature is mostly not accessible to the researchers in the West due to the language barrier. As Estonians, we have a natural geographical-cultural advantage – and necessity – for studying these topics. It must be established whether and to what extent both the Russian scholars and the Russian state understand international law and human rights law in the same way as the Western mainstream does. Are there behind the same concepts substantially different insights and preferences? On the one hand the Presidents of the Russian Federation have repeatedly emphasized that Moscow stands for the respect of international law and the UN; on the other hand, there is an increasing tendency, at least vis-à-vis some countries formerly dominated by Russia, to interpret international law on the basis of interests of Realpolitik. In human rights, a tendency has developed to speak of a distinct “Russian (Eurasian) civilization”, opposing it to the West and doubting whether for example the European Court of Human Rights is capable of relating to Russia in an unbiased manner and without Russophobia. The project will produce a monograph on the topic (in English). In addition, two doctoral theses will be finalized and published, one on the regulation of ‘information warfare’ in international law, particularly in the context of European-Russian affairs (A. Sinisalu) and the other on the development and application of the concept of human rights in post-Communist Russia (K. Zhurakovskaja).

Energy & Environment

1. Project: Policies in natural resources (Polinares) project within the European Commission’s Framework Programme 7;  international consortium led by the Centre for Energy, Petroleum, Mineral Law and Policy of the University of Dundee (UK), website:

Andrei V Belyi participates as an expert and coordinates part of the Work Package 5 on international relations, is responsible for a chapter entitled „EU’s role in the multipolar world“ and the „EU’s external energy policies“.

2. Project: “Transparency in extractive industries in Russia”
Funded by the Revenue Watch Institute

A co-authored project, led by S. Green from Russian Economic School and Carnegie Moscow, within Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative and Revenue Watch Institute, which aims at outlining issues of transparency of Russian extractive industry companies.

3. Project: International inter-University network on energy and sustainable development
Funded by the British Council.

Project coordinator:  Andrei V Belyi (University of Tartu) and Sergei Vinogradov (University of Dundee)

4. Project: “Political economy of energy in Europe and Russia (PEEER)”

Research framework established by the University of Warwick (UK) and the Higher School of Economics (Russia) aimed at regular seminars and publications, website:

PEEER is an ESRC funded energy network which brings together an inter-disciplinary group of academics from across Europe and Russia to research energy with an emphasis on energy governance, relations and issues associated with energy transition within Europe and Russia, and beyond. The network aims to produce research which is both policy relevant and theoretically informed. Andrei V Belyi is a co-foundator of the project and a member of the steering committee.