Researchers affiliated to the VERA Centre

Janet Anand, Professor of International Social Work, Department of Social Sciences, UEF

Contact:, +358 505967995

Janet Anand works on family and youth migration (internal and international), refugee integration and service design.


Laura Assmuth, Professor of Social and Public Policy, Department of Social Sciences, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4421179

Laura Assmuth’s background is in social anthropology and sociology. She works on issues of mobility, migration and borders, currently on family migration in the Baltic Sea region, and on the transnational space between Estonia and Finland. She also collaborates with the arts and journalism.


Ismo Björn, Senior Researcher, Adjunct Professor, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 442 1337

Historian Ismo Björn has studied history of Karelia and Russian-Finnish border. His current research concentrates on nationalism, rebordering and black tourism.


Dawid Bunikowski, Doctor of Law, Senior Lecturer, University of Applied Sciences in Wloclawek (Poland) and part-time Lecturer in the UEF Law School (ExpREES programme).


Dawid Bunikowski works on the rule of law in East Central Europe; indigenous rights in the Arctic; law and morality in East Central Europe; law, religion, constitutional law, political philosophy and politics in Russia; customary law, migration and multiculturalism in the North.


Olga Davydova-Minguet, Assistant Professor, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 433 3735

Olga Davydova-Minguet has studied ethnicities, identities, gender and transnational media- and memoryscapes in the context of Post-Soviet migrations. Currently, she is interested in memory politics in border areas. Her methodological expertise lies in the everyday border ethnography / netnography.


Patrick Dillon, Visiting Professor, UEF; Adjunct Professor, University of Helsinki; Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter, UK

Patrick Dillon’s research is in cultural ecology, how people shape the environments in which they live and, in turn, are shaped by those environments.

Henrik Dorf Nielsen M.Soc.Sci, Doctoral candidate, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies


Henrik’s work focuses on perceptions of borders and cross-border perceptions in different contexts. He applies the concept of (un)familiarity and he works on Finnish-Russian, US-Mexican and Danish borders.

Alicja Fajfer, PhD, School of Humanities, Philosophical Faculty, UEF


Alicja Fajfer’s research concerns migration to Poland from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.


Matti Fritsch, Dr, Project Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4422264

Matti Fritsch works on cross-border co-operation, and cross-border regional development.


Paul Fryer, University Lecturer and Docent in Human Geography, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 372 8521

Paul Fryer writes on ethnic minorities, borders and migration in Russia and the post-Soviet space. He currently works on Central Asian labour migrants in Russia and changing perceptions of the Tajik-Kyrgyz border in the Pamir mountains.


Driss Habti, Postdoctoral Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF


Driss Habti carries out research on migration and mobility of high-skilled professionals from Russia, currently with a focus on Russian physicians.


Olga Hannonen, Post-doctoral researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 5772006

Olga Hannonen's research focusses on trans-border mobility and tourism across the Finnish-Russian border.


Heta Hurskainen, Dr.  Senior researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 3834158

Heta Hurskainen conducts research on contacts and conflicts in Eastern and Western Christianity; the Russian Orthodox Church and its ecclesiastical and national identities; Orthodoxy, democracy and freedom.


Virpi Kaisto, PhD Researcher, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF


Virpi Kaisto studies local people’s lives and perceptions in the Finnish-Russian borderland. She is interested in how borders and borderlands are socially constructed in the everyday life of ordinary people. She has also done research on children and young people, twin cities and border area development.


Ritva Kantelinen, Professor, Education, especially language pedagogy (PhD), School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher Education, UEF, Joensuu

Contact:, +358 50 542 0434

Ritva Kantelinen has been collaborating with the researchers and teacher educators at the Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia, St Petersburg, especially in the field of Early Language Education. The collaboration has been implemented through joint international projects, research work, as well as jointly designed and organized Intensive courses and study programmes of teacher education aiming to develop early language education in both countries.


Kimmo Katajala, Professor, Department of Historical and Geographical Studies, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 549 3058

Kimmo Katajala works on the history of Karelia, the history of the Russian-Swedish border, and recently completed a project on Vyborg as a border city.


Parhad Keyim Idikut, Project Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 3362897

Parhad Keyim Idikut is a specialist in tourism, governance, rural community development, Central Asia, and western China.


Saara Koikkalainen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF


Saara Koikkalainen's research focuses on intra-European migration, highly-skilled mobility, cognitive migration and various processes of bordering.  She has studied e.g. Finns working abroad, Iraqi asylum seekers in Finland and the experiences of Nordic migrants in London during the Brexit process.


Jukka Korpela, Professor of General History, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 372 8665

Jukka Korpela works on state building, church-ruler relations, the legitimation of princely power, Islam in Russia, and the use of history in modern political rhetoric. He currently researches the formation of the Russian economic system based on the bazaar economy of clan societies.


Jarmo Kortelainen, Professor, Human Geography, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies.

Contact:  +358 50 3728061.

Jarmo works on transformation of industrial and resource localities as well as natural resource governance in border areas.


Juha Kotilainen, Professor, Environmental Policy and Geography, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, University Lecturer, Environmental Policy, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 372 7426

Juha Kotilainen’s research specialisms are in mining politics, industrial town transformations, environmental politics, resource politics, and nature conservation politics.


Evgeniya Kurvinen, Project Researcher, Karelian Institute and Law School, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 336 3762

Evgeniya Kurvinen’s doctoral dissertation concerns the exchange of information between Finnish and Russian authorities. It has connections to Russian law, especially to personal data protection legislation in Russia.


Jussi P. Laine, Associate Professor, Docent, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 433 8252, Twitter: @JussiPLaine

Jussi P. Laine is a human geographer exploring the multiscalar production of borders, migration and cross-border mobility, and the ethics of borders and ontological (in)security.


Teuvo Laitila, Senior Lecturer (Orthodox Church History, Comparative Religion), School of Theology, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 414 0631

Teuvo Laitila is an expert in Orthodox Church History in Russia and Ukraine, and carries out research on relations between state, nation and religion.


Larisa Leisiö, Professor of Russian language, Chair of Russian, UEF

Contact:, +358 45 1237966

Larisa Leisiö's research focusses on Russian in contacts: Russian in Finland, Russian in Estonia; Russian Arctics, Samoyedic peoples and languages, especially Nganasans.


Ilkka Liikanen, Professor of Border and Russian Studies, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4394477

Ilkka Liikanen’s main research interests include borders and bordering, nationalism and integration, political movements and political language. He is currently the PI for the Academy of Finland project Grand Duchy of Finland as Political Space.


Pauliina Lukinmaa, Early stage researcher, M.Soc.Sci., School of Humanities, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 512 5482

Using ethnographic research methods, Pauliina Lukinmaa studies the everyday activities in transnationally networked St Petersburg LGBTQI+ activist collectives. She is interested in what methods of activism and symbolic meaning-making these activists construct.


Evgeny Manzhurin, Project Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 324 7648

Evgeny Manzhurin works on history of Soviet ethnic policy as well as history, anthropology, and representations of space and place in Russia and the Soviet Union making use of both traditional and digital methods.


Nikolay Mitrokhin, Senior Researcher, PhD, Karelian Institute, UEF


Nikolay Mitrokhin specialises in contemporary Russian nationalism, particularly radical groups and the political activity of Russian-speaking minorities in Ukraine and Latvia, as well as the activity of the Russian Orthodox Church in the post-Soviet space.


Kati Parppei, Academy Research Fellow, Docent (Russian History), Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF; Life Member, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge

Contact:, +358 50 5313543

Kati Parppei specialises in historical image studies, representations of the past, competed histories, and the history of ideas and mentalities, all with Russian case studies.


Minna Piipponen, Researcher, DSc. (Human Geography), Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4423347

Minna Piipponen works on local and regional development, resource sector communities, cross-border cooperation, international migration, Russia.


Pirjo Pöllänen, Senior Researcher, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 442 3384

Pirjo Pöllänen is a scholar of social policy. She has studied Post-Soviet migration from Russia to Finland in the context of welfare states and rural border areas. Her methodological expertise lies in the everyday border ethnography.


Leyla Sayfutdinova, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 3598958

Leyla Sayfutdinova is a sociologist with interest in postsocialist transformation, center-periphery relations, and nationalism. Her current research is on national identities and minority relations in Eurasia, with particular focus on transborder minorities in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.


Jeremy Smith, Professor of Russian History and Politics, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4423665

Jeremy Smith conducts research on the Soviet Union and the organisation of post-Soviet space. His current research projects dealing with the break-up of the Soviet Union and its consequences for borders, minority rights, and Russian regional policy.


Marja Sorvari, Associate Professor (tenure track, Russian Language and Culture), Philosophical Faculty, School of Humanities, UEF

Contact:, +358 40 5723920

Marja Sorvari specializes in contemporary Russian literature and gender studies and her current research interests include transcultural and translingual literature, migrant writing, transnational reception of women's literature, childhood studies.


Tiina Sotkasiira, Senior Research Fellow, PhD, Department of Social Sciences, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4423770

Tiina Sotkasiira conducts research on international migration, integration, migrant settlement in rural and peripheral communities, creative and innovative research methods, and Russian studies. She currently has a project in the field of multidisciplinary migration studies.


Karli Storm, Doctoral Candidate, Junior Researcher, Dept. of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF


Karli Storm's areas of specialty include the formation and negotiation of 'national' identities in the South Caucasus and in Georgia in particular. The subject of Storm's doctoral research is the subject of identity negotiation among the Georgian Azeri-Turk minority in the Kvemo Kartli border region. She is particularly interested in the intersection of memory, history, politics, and territory in the South Caucasus.


Pekka Suutari, Professor, Karelian Institute, UEF


Pekka Suutari is an ethnomusicologist who has studied identity and minority issues from the 19th century to the present day.


Natalia Taksami,  Postdoctoral Researcher, PhD, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 4006274

Natalia Taksami conducts research on indigenous groups of Russia, mainly its Northern and North-West territories. She is interested in the transformation of indigenous everyday life and culture, caused by Soviet and post-Soviet modernisation.


Pasi Tuunainen, Senior Lecturer, Adjunct Professor, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 523 5514

Pasi Tuunainen’s main research interests is in warfare in the Finnish-Russian border regions and the Arctic (from a historical perspective).


Joni Virkkunen,  Research Manager, DSc (Admin), Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 40 8469825

Joni Virkkunen has been involved with Russian and border studies since the 1990s. His research has related to identity politics, nationalism, ethnic and border conflicts, ethnosexuality, migration and regional/cross-border cooperation in Russian, Central Asian and Baltic contexts.


Gleb Yarovoy, Researcher, Department of Geographical and Historical Studies, UEF; Project Manager at ENI CBC “Karelia” project “WasteLess Karelias”

Contact:, +358 41 7978453

Gleb Yarovoy's research interest is in EU-Russian cross-border cooperation, regions and programmes. A specific interest is in participatory governance practices in EU-Russian CBC. He also works as a journalist on Russian issues including Arctic policy, human rights, and prisons.


Dmitry Zimin, Project researcher, PhD, Karelian Institute, UEF

Contact:, +358 50 442 4550

Dmitry Zimin specialises in Russian regional social and economic development, particularly Russian Karelia, Northwest Russia and Crimea, as well as Finnish-Russian cross-border cooperation projects.