The University of Eastern Finland’s Joensuu campus is located in the North Karelia region, less than 100 km from the Finnish-Russian border, at 1300 kilometres the longest border between the EU and Russia.

The University has therefore always had a strong tradition of border studies and multidisciplinary research on Russia. Themes such as cross-border cooperation, migration, Karelia, Finnic minorities, Russian and finno-ugric culture, and the history of the Russian-Swedish and Russian-Finnish borderlands have always featured high on the University’s research agenda.

Local and regional social, economic, and political transformation have also been priority research areas since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. UEF’s expertise in border studies is now applied well beyond the Finnish-Russian border, to the various internal and external borders of the European Union, the new borders of the former Soviet Union, and beyond to borders in Africa, Asia and North America.

The VERA Centre was founded in 2011 in order to coordinate, enhance and promote the activities of the various research groups working in these areas across the University. The name ‘VERA' comes from a combination of two Finnish words: ‘Venäjä' meaning Russia and 'raja' which means border, summing up the Centre's thematic focus. It acts as a hub for UEF researchers and their national and international collaborators to develop new research projects, explore links between existing projects, and to facilitate international participation and raise the impact of our research. The Centre organizes or supports regular events from small-scale workshops to large conferences.

For more information on the VERA Centre and its activities, please explore our website and Facebook page or contact Jeremy Smith (


VERA Centre for Russian and Border Studies Online Conference “Know Your Rights”: Marginalities, Minorities and the Travails of Democracy.
27-28 May 2020, Online via Zoom link

Keynote speaker for the conference will include Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova (Higher School of Economics, St Petersburg) on Disability in the Russian Public Sphere, and David Smith (Glasgow University) on Post-Soviet Minority Rights.

In order to be considered for inclusion in the conference, please send an abstract of your talk of no more than 300 words, together with a biographical statement of no more than 100 words which should include your current position and affiliation, no later than 4 pm on Wednesday 6th May 2020.

Applications should be sent by email, with the subject line ‘VERA Conference 2020’, to Matias Hänninen,