Camille Merlen, PhD student and lecturer of international relations, University of Kent (United Kingdom)
Anyone who is interested in art, history and politics surely cannot overlook Russia.
“Why Russia?” is a question that every foreigner who deals with the largest country in the world, as a student or in any other way, has undoubtedly been asked several times. For me the answer seemed obvious: anyone who is interested in art, history and politics surely cannot overlook Russia. In economic terms too Russia remains a global player, even if only because of its size and natural resources. Perhaps the question should actually be: why are not more people interested in Russia? What is certain is that Russians generally have much more interest in their Western neighbors than vice versa. It is true that in recent years Russia has been in the news again and has become a topic of discussion. In addition, Russia has always inspired a certain fascination on its European neighbors. Unfortunately, in public debate, Russian complexity often loses to simplistic representations, partly because of ignorance, partly because of laziness and old stereotypes. That is both unfortunate and dangerous.
In my own PhD research I tackle a part of this problem by looking at Russian views on the concept of sovereignty, which plays a key role in international politics. The prevailing picture is that Russia does not care much about supranational institutions and courts. Nonetheless is Russia a member of organizations such as the Council of Europe and the World Trade Organization, which carries important implications for national sovereignty. My stay at the NIP was extremely useful in the context of my research. Firstly, because it provided me with a good base for my interviews and meetings with, for example, other researchers in St. Petersburg. Secondly, I could use the excellent network available to the NIP. For example, I was able to give a lecture at the Institute of International Trade, Economics and Law, which among other things led to a stimulating exchange with students. Finally, the NIP itself is an excellent place to work in peace and quiet and the library has an impressive collection of contemporary professional literature.