We are now moving towards the conclusion of the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Russian Studies “Choices of Russian Modernisation”. In the last phase, we have proceeded towards the synthesis concerning the major research results. It is, of course, evident that when focusing on modernisation we do not commit ourselves to the contemporary political project of Russian elite. Building on contemporary social science, we intend to go beyond the state of the art in Russian studies by creating a completely new paradigm in the field. The starting points of this new paradigm are based on argumentation at three levels:

(1) reflection concerning the prospects of social sciences in post-Cold War world;

(2) developing middle range theories based on Anthony Giddens’ structuration theory;

(3) showing the limitations of previous paradigms in the field.

Our endeavour, however, has not been only theoretical. Rather we have developed the new paradigm in the context of empirical analysis of five major macro-level challenges of Russian modernisation.

In the final book of the CoE we shall deal with previous paradigms showing their limitations as well as their relevance. Our argument is not that all previous efforts have been conceptually empty or empirically completely misleading. Rather we intend to show that structuration theory gives us instruments for methodological specifications broadening the horizon towards more comprehensive research programs.

For example, traditional theory of totalitarianism used to concentrate mainly on unintended results of the Bolshevik modernisation project, neglecting the relationship between unintended and intended results as well as concrete agencies. However, the contemporary analysis cannot exclude studying the legacy of shadows of Soviet modernisation in such institutions as FSB and the deep state in general. On the other hand, transition discourse used to take into account only the intentions that lead to exaggerating the suggested ideological turn and the incapability to explain real processes in Russia. Nowadays a strong new paradigm seems to have been established around concepts of informal networks, corruption and rent seeking. However, these issues do not cover all the institutions, structures and projects in Russian society. Rather the relationship between formal and informal rules must be studied as one of the structuration problems.

Our main result is to show the most fundamental antinomies of contemporary Russian modernisation process. These antinomies are not Hegelian contradictions and they cannot be eliminated by any agency in a short time scale. They are the empirically observable tensions defining the structural constrains and action frames of various agencies in contemporary Russia. Shortly presented they are the following:

  1. Hydrocarbons as a blessing and as a curse;
  2. Democracy versus authoritarianism;
  3. Rule of law versus deep state;
  4. Neoliberal withdrawal of the state versus state oriented expectations of the population;
  5. External vulnerability versus internal vulnerability in social policy;
  6. Elite and middle class versus working class;
  7. Working class versus marginal groups of society
  8. Global processes versus nationalistic closing;
  9. Military great powerness versus economic interdependency
  10. Conservative hegemonic project versus secular liberalism.

All of these antinomies comprise both several structural constrains and various agencies with varying power resources. For example, in the case of culture this means confrontation  of the  conservative turn with several other tendencies such as international neoliberalism, environmental movements, feminism, international mass culture, consumption world etc.

Markku Kivinen
is Professor of Sociology and the Director of the Aleksanteri Institute of the University of Helsinki.