The origins of the Russia Research Group stem from the National Defence University’s (NDU) strategy workshop, held in 2015. The Head of the Department of Warfare at the time, Colonel Kari Nisula, suggested and formulated a proposal to create a research group that would specialize on academic research on Russia, teaching and interaction with the Finnish and International research community and public at large.
With the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel Petteri Lalu as the military professor in 1 February 2017, and before that, an assignment of Lieutenant Colonel Juhani Pihlajamaa into the group, actual research work started. By the end of 2018, the group had two special researchers working with their Military Science dissertation projects (Lieutenant Colonel Pentti Forsström and Major Vladimir Panschin), a special researcher, Lieutenant Colonel Simo Pesu, and assistant professor Katri Pynnöniemi, who joined the group in August 2017.
The Russia Research Group researchers have acquired external funding for several research projects. In 2018, the Research Group acquired funding from Maanpuolustuksen Kannatussäätiö for a Russia-related dissertation project. Jonna Alava joined the Research Group in August 2019 and prepares her dissertation for the University of Helsinki. Other external funded research projects include the VNTEAS NORDIC, and a project (2017-2020) on Russia’s Patriotism and Militarism funded by the Finnish Military Science Research Foundation. In addition, the group participated in the Finnish Ministry of Defence’s Power of Russia project published in 2019.
The Russia Research Group provides also opportunities for young researchers. The university interns are an important part of the group, assisting in organizing the Russia seminar, collecting the data and preparing research analysis individually or together with the senior researchers. Currently, the Russia Research Group has a total of five doctoral researchers.
In addition to cooperation with the Finnish research community, the Research Group strives to network with foreign research institutes and individual researchers. The Research Group meets regularly with the Swedish Defence Research Agency’s (FOI) Russian Studies Group, and with researchers working at the CNA, RAND, and the FMSO. The group will continue building cooperation ties in the future as well.
The Russia Seminar is organized annually at the National Defence University (Santahamina) and it provides a forum to share insights on recent research, discuss new research topics and exchange opinions on current affairs. The first Russia seminar was held in 2018. The 2020 seminar was postponed due to the Covid19-Pandemic and was organized online in January 2021. The next seminar will take place in February 2022.