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Against the Odds: Short-Term Programme Internationalises Russian Studies

In early March, International Research School, a short-term online programme that was held for the first time in 2021, came to a close. Students from different countries met on MS Teams to study at the track ‘Russian politics and International Affairs’.

Against the Odds: Short-Term Programme Internationalises Russian Studies

© HSE University – St Petersburg

During the course of three weeks, from February 15 to March 5, the participants studied the complex relationship between political and economic transition in Russia and other post-communist countries, as well as discussed issues of Russian foreign policy and diplomacy.

Students with various backgrounds from different corners of the world – France, South Korea, Turkey, the Netherlands, and Venezuela – joined the International Research School to boost their expertise in a wide variety of topics including Russia-China and Russia-EU relations, Eurasian cooperation, nuclear cooperation image of the West in Russian political discourse, Russian speaking diaspora abroad.

The idea of offering the track about Russian politics and its role in international relations was brought up to provide some new insights into the field that often seems a riddle for many international students who carry out research on Russia-related topics.

‘One of the trickiest aspects of studying Russia for international students is the understanding of where “European looking surface” of Russian social life turns into “Eurasian substance, identity, and ontological security”,’ explains Sergei Akopov, the Academic Supervisor of the track.

The Research School covered three thematic sections taught by lecturers from the Department of Political Science and International Affairs: Dr Sergei Akopov introduced the concept of Russian identity in world politics, Dr Andrey Scherbak covered issues of the political economy of postcommunism transformation of Russia, and Dr Vera Ageeva discussed questions of the Russian foreign policy and security.

Sergei Akopov

Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs

'My teaching philosophy lies on two main principles — dialogism and commitment to student’s needs.

Dialogism, like in Mikhail Bakhtin’s work, suggests a dialogical communication rather than an authoritarian discourse of a professor over a student. The professor and the student are co-authors of the mutually constructed knowledge which is based on critical thinking and deconstruction of (political) propaganda. 

Teachers should try to as much as possible address the essential and existential needs of a particular student. Our teaching is tailored for the particular demands and uniqueness of every student’s life situation so that every student after every class should take something home that will make one’s life better or more promising.'

HSE International Research School aims to teach students to conduct full-fledged university-level research, develop their academic skills and critical thinking. For doing this, each participant was offered to put acquired knowledge into practice at the end of the course and write a comprehensive research proposal following one’s scientific interests under the guidance of HSE academic staff.

Marina Sannikova

Director of the Centre for International Education

'Experience in conducting a research project of one’s own seems to be extremely useful for those who are preparing their theses as well as intending to apply for master’s or PhD programmes.'

Having a status of a national research university, HSE contributes to scientific research. Against the odds of restricted international mobility in today’s twisted world, which has affected international education in many ways, HSE University – St Petersburg is maintaining and enhancing its research activity at the international level.

The strategic mission of a national research university is to produce knowledge, boost high-tech domains development by combining fundamental and applied research, contribute to transferring technologies to the economic sector. At HSE University – St Petersburg, four international laboratories and projects and ten International-level laboratories and projects honourably commit themselves to this objective.

Apart from this, high research performance has contributed to bringing HSE to high positions in international university rankings. Being a part of the 5-100 Russian Academic Excellence Project, the university has been climbing towards the top with unfailing persistence since its establishment.